The coronavirus pandemic forces us all to think: what really counts, life or material goods? The individualism of each on his own, without concern for the other, or the solidarity of one with the other? Can we continue exploiting, thoughtlessly, the natural goods and services, in order to live every more comfortably, or can we take care of nature, the vitality of Mother Earth and good living, namely, harmony among and with all of nature’s beings? Has it ever been worthwhile for the war loving countries to accumulate ever more weapons of mass destruction, now that they are brought to their knees before an invisible virus, revealing the inefficacy of all that deadly apparatus? Can we continue with our consumerist life style, accumulating unlimited wealth in only a few hands, at the expense of millions of poor and miserable human beings? Is it still meaningful that each country affirms its sovereignty, in opposition to that of other countries, when we need a global government to solve global problems? Why have we still not discovered the unique Common Home, Mother Earth, and our duty to care for her, so that we all, nature included, may fit within her?
These are question that can not be avoided. No one has the answers. However, one saying, attributed to Einstein, is true: “the world vision that created the crisis cannot be the same as the one that leads us out of the crisis”. We must drastically change. The worst thing would be if everything ended up as before, with the same consumerist and speculative logic, perhaps with greater fury now. Then, maybe because we learned nothing, the Earth would send us another virus that perhaps could put an end to the disastrous human project.
But we can look at the war the coronavirus is producing all over the planet, from another, positive, angle. The virus forces us to discover our deepest and most authentic human nature. Our nature is ambiguous, good and bad. Let’s look at the good dimension.
In the first place, we are beings of relationships. We are, as I have repeated numerous times, a knot of total relationships in all directions. Consequently, no one is an island. We tend to build bridges in all directions.
In the second place, as a result, we all depend on one another. The African expression, “Ubuntu”, says it well: “I am myself through you”.Consequently, all individualism, the soul of capitalist culture, is false and anti-human. The coronavirus proves it. The health of one depends of the health of the other. This mutual dependency, consciously assumed, is called solidarity. In another time, solidarity enabled us to leave the anthropoid world and allowed us to become human, living together and helping each other. These weeks we have seen moving gestures of true solidarity, giving not just our left overs, but sharing what we have.
In the third place, we are essentially caring beings. Without caring, from our conception and throughout life, no one could subsist. We must care for everything: for ourselves, otherwise we could get sick and die; we must care for the others, those who could save me or I could save them; I must take care of nature: otherwise, she will come at us with a dreadful virus, devastating droughts and floods, extreme weather events; caring for Mother Earth so that she continues giving us all that we need to live, and so that she still wants us on her soil, even though for centuries we have wounded her pitilessly. Especially now, under attack by the coronavirus, we all must be caring, caring for the most vulnerable, staying home, maintaining social distance, and take care of the sanitation infrastructure, without which we could witness a humanitarian catastrophe of Biblical proportions.
In the fourth place, we discover that we all must be co-responsible, this is, to be conscious of the beneficial or malefic consequences of our acts. Life and death are in our hands, human lives, social, economic and cultural lives. That the State or a few people show responsibility is not enough; it must be everyone’s responsibility, because we are all affected and each of us can affect the others. We must all accept confinement.
Finally, we are spiritual beings. We discover the strength of the spiritual world that constitutes our Profound, where great dreams are created, where the ultimate questions about the meaning of our lives are born, and where we feel that a loving and powerful Energy that impregnates everything must exist; Energy that sustains the starry heavens and our own lives, over which we do not have full control. We can open up to that Energy, welcome her as in a wager, trust that this Energy holds us in the palm of her hand and, in spite of all the contradictions, that she guarantees a good end for all the universe, for our history, both wise and demented, and for each and everyone of us. Cultivating this spiritual world we feel stronger, more caring, loving, and in the end, more human.
With these values we are given the ability to dream and to build a different type of world, bio-centered, in which the economy, with a different rationality, sustains a globally integrated society, strengthened more by affective alliances that by legal pacts. It will be the society of caring, gentleness and the joy of living.
Leonardo Boff Eco-Theologian-Philosopher of the Earthcharter Commission