The voracity of capitalism brought Covid-19

                                    Leonardo Boff

I have been supporting the thesis that Covid-19 is a counterattack of Mother Earth against the system of capital and its political expression, neoliberalism. It brought to its knees, humiliated, the militaristic powers that with their weapons of mass destruction could destroy life on the planet. If the war against the planet continues, it may no longer want us. A more lethal virus, immune to any vaccine, could lead a large part of the human species to its end.

Such an eventuality is not impossible because this system of death of beings of nature and human beings, in the words of Pope Francis, has a suicidal tendency. It would rather risk death than renounce its voracity.

This short story, taken from Len Tolstoy (1828-1910), told to the peasants of his farm Isnaya Poliana with the title How much earth does a man need, may make us reflect.

“There was a peasant who worked on a piece of land that was not very fertile. He worked hard but without much fruit. He envied his neighbors who had bigger land and more abundant harvests. He was extremely annoyed by the heavy taxes he still had to pay on the little land and the meager earnings.

One day he thought a lot and decided: “I will go with my companion, far away from here, in search of better lands.  He learned that many leagues from his home, there were gypsies who sold land very cheaply and even for ridiculously low prices when they saw someone more needy and willing to work.

This peasant, eager to own more and more land to farm and become rich, thought: “I’m going to make a pact with the devil. This one will bring me luck,” he said to his wife, who wrinkled her nose. He warned her:

“My husband, beware of the devil, no good ever comes of making a pact with him.

 But, at her husband’s insistence, she decided to accompany him to carry out his ambitious project. With that they set off, taking few belongings with them.

When they arrived at the gypsies’ land, the devil was already there, all dressed up, giving the impression of an influential land merchant. The peasant and his wife politely greeted the gypsies. When they were about to express their desire to acquire land, the devil, unceremoniously, immediately stepped forward and said:

“Good sir, I see that you have come a long way and are seized by a great desire to own good land to plant and make some fortune. I have an excellent proposal for you. The land is cheap, within reach of your pocket. I make you the following proposal: you leave a reasonable amount of money in a bag here beside me. If you walk through a territory for a whole day, from sunrise to sunset, and are back before the sun sets, all the land you walk through will be yours. Otherwise you will lose the money in the bag.

The peasant’s eyes, shone with emotion and he said:

“I think it’s an excellent proposal. I have strong legs and I accept. Early tomorrow morning, at sunrise, I will run, and all the territory that my legs can reach will be mine.

 The devil, always malicious, smiled all smiles.

In fact, very early in the morning, as soon as the sun broke through the horizon, the peasant started to run. He jumped over fences, crossed streams and, not satisfied, didn’t even stop to rest. He saw before him a laughing green plain and immediately thought: “here I will plant wheat in abundance. Looking to the left, a very flat valley opened up, and he thought: “here I can make a whole plantation of linen for fine clothes.

 A little breathless, he climbed a small hill, and behold, a field of virgin land appeared at the bottom. Then he thought: “I want that land too. There I will raise cattle and sheep and fill my donkey with money.

And so he traveled many kilometers, not satisfied with what he had conquered, because the places he saw were attractive and fertile and fed his unrestrained desire to own them too.

Suddenly he looked up at the sky and realized that the sun was setting behind the mountain. He said from himself to himself:

“There is no time to lose. I have to hurry back, otherwise I will lose all the land I have covered, and the money on top of that. One day of pain, one life of love,” he thought as his grandfather used to say.

He started running at a speed too fast for his tired legs, but he had to run without noticing the limits of his strained muscles. He even took off his shirt and dropped the bag with some food in it. He kept looking at the position of the sun, already near the horizon, huge and red as blood. But it had not yet fully set.  Even though he was very tired, he ran more and more and could no longer feel his legs from so much effort. Sadly, he thought: “maybe I have run too far and might lose everything. But let’s go ahead”.

But when he saw the devil standing solemnly in the distance, with his bag of money beside him, he took heart again, certain that he would arrive before the sun went down. He gathered all the energy he had and made a last effort. He ran, without thinking about the limits of his legs, as if he were flying. Not far from the finish line, he threw himself forward, almost losing his balance.

Then, exhausted and without any strength, he collapsed on the ground. And he died. His mouth was bleeding and his whole body was covered with scratches and sweat.

 The devil, maliciously, just smiled. Indifferent to the dead man and greedy, he looked at the bag of money. He even took the trouble to make a grave the size of the peasant’s and tucked him inside. It was only seven palms of earth, the smallest part that fit him of all the land he walked. He didn’t need more than that. The woman, as if petrified, watched the whole thing, weeping copiously.

This tale reverberates the words of João Cabral de Melo Neto (1920-1999) in his work Morte e Vida Severina (1995). At the farmer’s funeral, the poet says: “This grave you are in, measured by inches, is the smallest bill you took in life; it is your share of this latifundium”.

Of all the attractive plots of land that he saw and wanted to own, in the end, the avid peasant was left with only the seven palms for his grave.

Is this not the fate of capitalism and neoliberalism?

Leonardo Boff wrote: Covid-19: Mother Earth Strikes Back at Humanity: Warnings from the Pandemic, Vozes 2020. 


A voracidade do capitalismo trouxe o Covid-19

Leonardo Boff

Tenho sustentado a tese de que o Covid-19 é um contra-ataque da Mãe-Terra contra o sistema do capital e de sua expressão política, neoliberalismo.Ela foi agredida e devastada de tal maneira que nos enviou uma arma sua, invisível, o coronavírus, como um alerta e um lição. A se perpetuar a guerra contra o planeta, este poderá não nos querer mais. Um vírus mais letal, imune a qualquer vacina pode,eventualmente, exterminar grande parte da humanidade.

Tal singularidade não é impossível pois este sistema de morte de seres da natureza e de seres humanos, no dizer do Papa Francisco, possui uma tendência suicidaria. Prefere correr o risco de morrer a de renunciar à sua voracidade.

Este conto, tirado de Len Tolstói (1828-1910), narrado aos peões de sua fazena Isnaya Poliana com o título De quanta Terra precisa um homem, nos poderá fazer refletir.

“Hávia um camponês que trabalhava num pedaço de terra não muito fértil. Labutava muito mas sem muito fruto. Invejava os vizinhos que tinham terras maiores e  safras mais abundantes. Aborrecia-se sobremaneira pelos pesados tributos que devia ainda  pagar sobre o pouco de terra e dos parcos ganhos.

Um dia pensou muito e resolveu: “vou com minha companheira, para longe daqui, em busca de terras melhores”.  Soube que a muitas léguas de sua casa, havia ciganos que vendiam terras muito baratas e até por preços irrisórios quando viam alguém mais necessitado e disposto a trabalhar.

Esse camponês, desejoso de possuir mais a mais terra para  cultivar e ficar rico, pensou: “vou fazer um pacto com o diabo .Este vai me dar sorte”, disse ele à mulher, que torceu o nariz. Advertiu ela:

“Meu marido, cuidado com o diabo, nunca sai coisa boa fazendo um pacto com ele; essa sua cobiça,vai ainda pô-lo a perder”.

 Mas, por insistência do marido, resolveu acompanhá-lo para realizar o seu ambicioso projeto.Com tal que partiram, levando poucos pertences.

Chegando nas terras dos ciganos, eis que o diabo já estava lá, todo apessoado, dando a impressão de um influente mercador de terras. O camponês e sua mulher cumprimentaram educadamente os ciganos. Quando iam expressar seu desejo de adquirir  terras,  o diabo, sem cerimônias, logo se antecipou e disse:

“Bom senhor, vejo que veio de longe e é tomado por um grande desejo de possuir boas terras para plantar e fazer alguma fortuna. Tenho uma excelente proposta para você. As terras são baratas, ao alcance de seu bolso. Faço-lhe a seguinte proposta: você deixa uma quantia razoável numa bolsa aqui ao meu lado. Se você percorrer um território durante todo um dia, do nascer ao pôr do sol, e estiver de volta antes de o sol s pôr, toda a terra percorrida será sua. Caso contrário perderá o dinheiro da bolsa”.

Os olhos do camponês, brilharam de  emoção e disse:

“Acho uma excelente proposta. Tenho pernas fortes e aceito. Amanhã bem cedo, ao nascer do sol, ponho-me a correr e todo o território que minhas pernas puderem alcançar, será meu”.

 O diabo,sempre,malicioso, sorriu todo faceiro.

De fato, bem cedo, mal o sol rompeu a fímbria do horizonte, o camponês, se pôs a correr. Pulou cercas, atravessou  riachos e e não satisfeito, sequer  parou para descansar. Via diante de si uma ridente planície verde e logo pensou: “aqui vou plantar trigo em abundância”. Olhando à esquerda, se descortinava um vale muito plano e pensou: “aqui posso fazer toda uma plantação de linho para roupas finas”.

 Subiu, um pouco ofegante, uma pequena colina e eis, que lá em baixo, surgiu um campo de terra virgem. Logo pensou:”quero também aquela terra. Aí vou criar gado e ovelhas e vou encher as burras com dinheiro a mais não poder”.

E assim percorreu muitos quilômetros, não satisfeito com o que tinha conquistado, pois os lugares que via, eram atraentes e férteis e alimentavam seu desejo incontido de também possui-los.

De repente olhou para o céu e se deu conta de que o sol estava se pondo atrás da montanha. Disse de si para consigo mesmo:

”Não há tempo a perder. Tenho que voltar correndo, senão perco todos os terrenos percorridos e, por cima, ainda o dinheiro. Um dia de dor, uma vida de amor”, pensou como dizia seu avô.

Pôs-se a correr com uma velocidade desmedida para suas pernas cansadas.Mas tinha que correr sem reparar os limites dos músculos retesados. Chegou a tirar a camisa e largar  a sacola com um pouco de comida. Sempre olhava a posição do sol, já perto do horizonte, enorme e vermelho como sangue. Mas não se havia ainda  posto totalmente.  Mesmo cansadíssimo, corria  mais e mais e já nem sentia as pernas de tanto se esforçar. Pesaroso pensou: “talvez abarquei demais e posso perder tudo. Mas vamos em frente”.

Vendo, porém, ao longe o diabo, solenemente, de pé e ao  seu lado a sacola de dinheiro, recobrou mais ânimo, certo de que iria chegar antes de o sol se pôr. Reuniu todas as energias que possuía e fez um derradeiro esforço. Corria, sem pensar nos limites das pernas, quase voando. Não muito longe da chegada, atirou-se para frente, quase perdendo o equilíbrio.Refeito, deu ainda alguns passos longos.

Foi então que, extenuado e  já sem nenhuma força, se estatelou no chão. E morreu. A boca sangrava e todo o corpo estava coberto de arranhões e de suor.

 O diabo, maldosamente, apenas sorriu. Indiferente ao morto e ganancioso, olhava para a bolsa de dinheiro. Deu-se ainda ao trabalho de fazer  uma cova do tamanho do camponês  e ajeitou-o lá dentro. Eram apenas sete palmos de terra, a parte menor que lhe cabia de todos os terrenos andados. Não precisava mais que isso. A mulher, como que petrificada, assistia a tudo, chorando copiosamente”.

Esse conto reverbera as palavras de  João Cabral de Melo Neto (1920-1999) em sua obra Morte e Vida Severina (1995). No funeral do lavrador diz o poeta:”Esta cova em que estás, com palmos medida, é a conta menor que tiraste em vida; é a parte que te cabe deste latifúndio”.

De todos os terrenos atraentes que via e desejava possuir, ao  ávido camponês, no final, só lhe restou os sete palmos para a sua sepultura.

Não seria este o destino do capitalismo e do neoliberalismo?

Leonardo Boff escreveu:Covid-19: A Mãe-Terra contra-ataca a humanidade: advertências da pandemia, Vozes 2020.  

Current government’s Bolsonaro has brought death to indigenous people

                                                      Leonardo Boff

The contempt that the current president shows towards the indigenous people is notorious. He considers them sub-people and on December 1, 2018 he stated quite clearly: “our project for the Indio is to make them equal to us”. And he advanced further: “there is not going to be a centimeter demarcated for indigenous reserve or for quilombolas”.

The most perverse thing was not to approve the Proposal of Constitutional Amendment (PEC) that should bring them drinking water, the basic inputs against the Covid-19. It is a purpose of death. Days ago, in this month of June, in a peaceful demonstration of several ethnic groups, they were received in Brasilia with repression, rubber bullets and tear gas. There is a total abandonment of them, to the point that 163 villages of different ethnicities have been contaminated and there have been 1,070 deaths.

A connoisseur of the history of the Amazon, Evaristo Miranda, whose title is a revelation: Cuando el Amazonas corría hacia el Pacífico, (Vozes 2007) tells us: “one thing is certain: the oldest and most permanent human presence in Brazil is in the Amazon. Some 400 generations ago diverse human groups occupied, disputed, explored and transformed the Amazonian territories and their food resources” (op.cit.p.47). They developed a great management of the forest, respecting its uniqueness, while modifying its habitat to stimulate those plants useful for human use. The indigenous and the forest evolved together in a profound reciprocity.

The anthropologist Viveiros de Castro said it well: “The Amazon we see today is the result of centuries of social intervention, just as the societies that live there are the result of centuries of coexistence with the Amazon” (in Tempo e Presença 1992, p.26).

It is also relevant to note that in the interior of the jungle, with its hundreds of ethnic groups, an immense space (almost an empire) of the Tupi-Guarani tribe was formed from 1100, before the arrival of the Portuguese invaders. It occupied territories ranging from the Andean foothills, forming the Amazon River, to the basins of the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, some of them reaching as far as the Gaucho pampas and the Brazilian northeast. “In this way,” states Miranda, “practically all of jungle Brazil was conquered by Tupi-Guarani peoples” (op.cit.92-93).

In pre-Cabralian Brazil there were about 1,400 tribes, 60% of them in the Amazonian part. They spoke languages of 40 trunks subdivided into 94 different families, which led anthropologist Berta Ribeiro to affirm “that nowhere on Earth has a linguistic variety similar to that observed in tropical South America been found” (Amazônia urgente, 1990 p.75). Today, unfortunately, given the decimation of indigenous peoples perpetrated in the course of history and recently by garimpeiros, miners, extractivists (mostly illegal), there are only 274 languages left. This means that more than a thousand languages have been lost (85%) and with them ancestral knowledge, worldviews and unique communications. It has been an irreparable impoverishment for the cultural heritage of humanity.

Among the many tragedies that led to the disappearance of entire ethnic groups, it is worth remembering one that few know about. Don Juan VI, admired by some, in a royal letter of May 13, 1808, ordered an official war against the Krenak Indians of the Rio Dulce Valley, in the states of Minas and Espírito Santo. To the military commanders he ordered “an offensive war that will have no end but when you have the happiness of lording it over their habitations and making them feel the superiority of my weapons… until the total reduction of a similar and atrocious anthropophagous race” (L.Boff, O casamento do céu com a terra, 2014, p.140).

Why do we remember all this? So that we realize that these exterminating actions continue even today, and we must resist, criticize and fight the criminal policies of the current government, genocidal of indigenous people and of the Brazilian people itself, which has left more than 510 thousand people to die.

The main perpetrators and their accomplices will hardly escape facing the International Tribunal for Crimes against Humanity in The Hague. The outcry is not only Brazilian but international. For such crimes there is no time limit. Wherever they are and at whatever time, they will not escape their severity, zealous, as they have proven to be, of the sacred dignity of the human being.

These native peoples are our masters and doctors when it comes to the relationship with nature of which they feel part and great caretakers. Now that with Covid-19 we are perplexed and lost, not knowing how to move forward, we must consult them. As an indigenous leader, survivor of the criminal war of Don Juan VI, Ailton Krenak, says, they will help us to avert or postpone the end of the world

If we follow the path of destruction of our common home, exploiting it limitlessly and without any scruple, that destiny could be the tragedy of the human species. But we have the hope that made the indigenous people survive to this day. We also hope to survive, transformed by the lessons that Mother Earth has been giving us.

*Leonardo Boff has written El casamiento del cielo y la tierra: cuentos de los pueblos indígenas de Brasil, Mar de Ideias, Rio de Janeiro 2014; El doloroso parto de la Madre Tierra: una sociedad de fraternidad sin fronteras y de amistad social, Vozes 2020.

El gobierno actual ha llevado muerte a los indígenas

Leonardo Boff*

Es notorio el desprecio que el actual presidente muestra hacia los indígenas. Los considera sub-gente y el 1 de diciembre de 2018 declaró con toda claridad: “nuestro proyecto para el índio es hacerlo igual a nosotros”. Y avanzó más: “no va a haber un centímetro demarcado para reserva indígena o para quilombolas”.

Lo más perverso fue no aprobar la Propuesta de Enmienda Constitucional (PEC) que debía llevarles agua potable, los insumos básicos contra la Covid-19. Es un propósito de muerte. Hace días, en este mes de junio, en una manifestación pacífica de varias etnias, fueron recibidos en Brasilia con represión, balas de goma y gases lacrimógenos. Hay un total abandono de ellos, hasta el punto de que 163 pueblos de diferentes etnias han sido contaminados y ha habido 1.070 muertes.

Un conocedor de la historia de la Amazonia, Evaristo Miranda, cuyo título es una revelación: Cuando el Amazonas corría hacia el Pacífico, (Vozes 2007) nos dice: “una cosa es segura: la más antigua y permanente presencia humana en Brasil está en la Amazonia. Hace unas 400 generaciones diversos grupos humanos ocuparon, disputaron, exploraron y transformaron los territorios amazónicos y sus recursos alimentarios” (op.cit.p.47). Desarrollaron un gran manejo de la selva, respetando su singularidad, modificando al mismo tiempo su hábitat para estimular aquellos vegetales útiles para el uso humano. El indígena y la selva evolucionaron juntos en una profunda reciprocidad.

Bien lo dijo el antropólogo Viveiros de Castro: “La Amazonia que vemos hoy es la que ha resultado de siglos de intervención social, así como las sociedades que viven allí son el resultado de siglos de convivencia con la Amazonia” (en Tempo e Presença 1992, p.26).

También es relevante observar que en el interior de la selva con sus cientos de etnias se formó a partir de 1.100, antes de las llegadas de los invasores portugueses, un espacio inmenso (casi un imperio) de la tribu tupí-guaraní. Ella ocupó territorios que iban desde los contrafuertes andinos, formadores del río Amazonas, hasta las cuencas de los ríos Paraguay y Paraná, llegando algunos hasta las pampas gauchas y al nordeste brasilero. “De esta forma”, afirma Miranda, “prácticamente todo el Brasil selvático fue conquistado por pueblos tupí-guaraní” (op.cit.92-93).

En el Brasil pre-cabralino había cerca de 1.400 tribus, el 60% de ellas en la parte amazónica. Hablaban lenguas de 40 troncos subdivididos en 94 familias diferentes, lo que llevó a la antropóloga Berta Ribeiro a afirmar “que en ninguna parte de la Tierra se ha encontrado una variedad linguística semejante a la observada en la América del Sur tropical” (Amazônia urgente, 1990 p.75). Hoy, lamentablemente, dada la diezmación de los pueblos indígenas perpetrada en el transcurrir de la historia y recientemente por los garimpeiros, mineros, extractivistas (la mayoría ilegales), quedan solamente 274 lenguas. Esto significa que se han perdido más de mil lenguas (85%) y con ellas conocimientos ancestrales, visiones de mundo y comunicaciones singulares. Ha sido un empobrecimiento irreparable para el patrimonio cultural de la humanidad.

Entre las muchas tragedias que llevaron a la desaparición de etnias enteras, cabe recordar una que pocos conocen. Don Juan VI, que algunos admiran, en carta regia del 13 de mayo de 1808, mandó llevar a cabo una guerra oficial contra los índios Krenak del Valle del Río Dulce, en los estados de Minas y Espíritu Santo. A los comandantes militares les ordenó “una guerra ofensiva que no tendrá fin sino cuando tengais la felicidad de enseñorearos de sus habitaciones y hacerles sentir la superioridad de mis armas… hasta la total reducción de una semejante y atroz raza antropógafa” (L.Boff, O casamento do céu com a terra, 2014, p.140).

¿Por qué recordamos todo esto? Para que nos demos cuenta de que estas acciones exterminadoras continúan todavía hoy, y hay que resistir, criticar y combatir las criminales políticas del actual gobierno, genocida de indígenas y del propio pueblo brasilero, que ha dejado morir a más de 510 mil personas.

Los principales responsables y sus cómplices difícilmente escaparán de enfrentarse al Tribunal Internacional de Crímenes contra la Humanidad en La Haya. El clamor no es solo brasileño sino internacional. Para tales crímenes no hay límite de tiempo. Dondequiera que estén y en cualquier tiempo no escaparán su severidad, celosos, como han demostrado ser, de la sagrada dignidad del ser humano.

Estos pueblos originarios son nuestros maestros y doctores en lo que refiere a la relación con la naturaleza de la cual se sienten parte y grandes cuidadores. Ahora que con la Covid-19 andamos perplejos y perdidos sin saber cómo seguir adelante, debemos consultarlos. Como dice un líder indígena, sobreviviente de la guerra criminal de Don Juan VI, Ailton Krenak, ellos nos ayudarán a alejar o posponer el fin del mundo. 

Si seguimos la ruta de destrucción de nuestro habitar la Casa Común, explotándola ilimitadamente y sin ningún escrúpulo, ese destino podrá ser la tragedia de la especie humana. Pero tenemos la esperanza que hizo a los indígenas sobrevivir hasta el día de hoy. También nosotros esperamos sobrevivir, transformados por las lecciones que la Madre Tierra nos viene dando.

*Leonardo Boff ha escrito El casamiento del cielo y la tierra: cuentos de los pueblos indígenas de Brasil, Mar de Ideias, Rio de Janeiro 2014; El doloroso parto de la Madre Tierra: una sociedad de fraternidad sin fronteras y de amistad social, Vozes 2020.

Traducción de Mª José Gavito Milano