The gates of hell have been opened

Brazil is experiencing something that is undeniable: the rise of hatred, offenses, gross words of every type, distortions, prejudices and thousands and thousands of instances of fake news is evident in many sectors. In large part, this was responsible for the victory of the current President. There are also youtubers who falsify reality, mixing harsh words with cruel jokes and coarse morals, susceptible to judicial processes.

The words “Communist” and “Socialist” have been turned into accusations. Their real meaning is not even defined, as if we were still in the Cold War of thirty years ago. Many of the perpetrators, including a rather dim-witted minister, say their critics are beholding to Cuba, North Korea or Venezuela… Most have not read even one page about the Theology of Liberation, which they consider to be Marxist. They ignore its basic purpose: the option for the poor and for their liberation, that is, in favor of the great majorities of humanity, who are poor. In fact, the air we breathe is now toxic.

Many of them are mentally degraded and display a complete lack of education. In the electoral campaign their latent rage remained hidden. The preexisting violence was reinforced, giving legitimacy to a culture of violence against the indigenous people, the quilombolas, the Blacks, and especially against the LGBTQ community… and the opposition.

We need to understand the reason for this demented absurdity. We are illuminated by two interpreters of Brazil: Paulo Prado, Portrait of Brazil: essay on the Brazilian sadness, (Retrato de Brasil; ensayo sobre la tristeza brasilera, 1928) and Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Roots of Brazil, (Raíces de Brasil, 1936) in his V chapter: “The cordial man”.

Both writers have something in common, as Ronaldo Vainfas says, because they both «attempt to decipher the Brazilian character starting from their emotions» Interpreters of Brazil, Vol. II, 2002, Page 16 (Intérpretes de Brasil, vol. II, 2002 p.16). But they do so in different forms. Paulo Prado is profoundly pessimistic, characterizing the Brazilian as driven by lust, greed and sadness. Buarque de Holanda, on the other hand, differs, with respect to cordiality.

«The Brazilian contribution to civilization will be cordiality, we will give to the world the “cordial man”. Openness in the treatment, hospitality, generosity, virtues so praised by foreigners who visit us, represent, in fact, a defining trait of the Brazilian character» (p. 106). But then he observes: «It would be a lie to suppose that these virtues mean “good manners, civility” (107). As he continues: «Enmity can be as cordial as friendship, because both are born in the heart» (107, note 157). We know that from the heart emerge both love and hatred. The psychoanalytic tradition confirms that the heart is the kingdom of feelings. I think that we would better define the character of the Brazilian if we said that his basic design is not one of reason, but feelings . And feeling are contradictory: they can express themselves as love and also as virulent hatred.

But this ambiguous dual facet of the Brazilian, of “cordiality”, or, better said, “of feelings,” has now acquired wings and occupied minds and hearts: The”lack of good manners and civility”. One need only check the web sites, the tweets, facebooks and youtubes to see that the gates of hell are wide open. From there emerged the demons dividing people, insulting such distinguished figures as Dráuzio Varela and the world renowned and appreciated Paulo Freire. The word of the uncivilized occupies the same space as the word of Pope Francis or of the Dalai Lama. But this is only the dark side of the of the Brazilian feeling. There is also the side of light, previously expressed by Buarque de Holanda and by Cassiano Ricardo. We must rescue it, so that we need not live in a barbarian society where no one can enjoy a civilized and humane life.

There is no need to despair. The very condition of the universe consists of order and disorder (cosmos and chaos). Cultures possess their sim-bolic and dia-bolic side, and each human being is inhabited by the great pulse of life (eros) and that of death (thanatos). That is not a defect of creation: it is the natural order of things. Religions, ethics and civilizations were born to give hegemony to light over darkness, so that we do not devour one another. The pessimist Pablo Prado ends with: «the trust in the future cannot be worse than in the past» (p. 98). We agree.

We are inspired by this verse of Agustin Neto, leader of the liberation of Angola: «Is not enough that our Cause is Pure and Just. Purity and Justice must exist within ourselves» (The Angola Poems, 1976, 50).

Leonardo Boff Eco-Theologian-Philosopher Earthcharter Commission

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,

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