The next election as a plebiscite: biophilia (love for life) versus necrophilia (love for death )

                                    Leonardo Boff

At Easter Mass, one of the most beautiful hymns of the Gregorian is sung in which it is said: “death and life, looking at each other, fought a duel” (mors et vita duello conflixere mirando). And it concludes: “the lord of life, reigns alive” (dux vitae, regnat vivus).

I refer to this liturgical text as a metaphor of what I see taking place in the next elections: a plebiscite in which a political duel is effectively fought between two projects for Brazil and two models of President. I don’t want to say it, but one of the most brilliant legal intelligences in our country, ex-governor of Rio Grande do Sul, ex-minister of justice, Tarso Genro, affirms it:

“For Jair Bolsonaro there are no opponents, there are only enemies to be slaughtered by weapons. As a politician who defends the execution of suspects, the shooting of “30,000 compatriots”, the assassination of a peaceful and democratic president, torture as an inquisitorial method, the end of political democracy, who maintains that the dictatorship’s mistake was not to torture , but it was “not to kill”, which publicly expresses its admiration for Hitler and mocks the torture suffered by a worthy woman – who was being removed from the Presidency –, as this politician was cowardly naturalized by the neoliberal “establishment” and by the large chains of communication, after having committed and repeated many barbaric crimes and still having made a conscious genocidal propaganda against vaccination?”

Here it is clear a project of death that, if Bolsonaro is reelected, will implement it. It is the domain of necrophilia, the promotion of death and its derivatives such as hatred and lies.

On the other side of the duel, there is another representative, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. I don’t want to be a manicist who only considers the good on one side and the bad on the other. Good and evil mix. But it must be recognized that in Lula the good gains more expression. It presents a project whose centrality lies in life, starting with those who have the least life: the 30 million hungry, the 110 million with food insufficiency, the millions of unemployed or underemployed, workers and retirees who have seen their rights diminish. the frozen minimum wage.

To summarize, the first thing to do is to guarantee the minimum: food, health, work, education, housing, land to produce food for the people, security and opportunity for those who are historically the descendants of the slave quarters (54% of the population) to be able to enter higher, university or technical education.

To govern is to take care of everyone, but always starting from the humiliated and offended. The inspiration comes from Gandhi who said: doing politics is having a loving gesture towards the people and taking care of common goods. Or in the words of Pope Francis in his Fratelli tutti: politics has to be done with tenderness “which is love if it makes close and concrete, a movement that comes from the heart and reaches the eyes, ears and hands”(n.196). It is the realm of biophilia, of love for life.

These two projects, like a duel, are facing each other in this election. It is up to the citizens to make their discernment: finally which country do we want? Which President is the most bearer of life, means of livelihood, hope and a taste for living? We are not stones that just exist. We don’t just want to exist, we want to live and live in peace with each other.

What we have experienced in the government of the current President was the downgrading of our humanity, the abandonment of thousands surrendered to the virulence of Covid-19 and who died when they could have been saved if it were not for the tenacious official denialism.

What hurts and embarrasses us the most is the lack of composure of the highest authority in the nation, who should live the virtues that he would like to see carried out in the people, such as solidarity, care for one another and for our natural wealth and the promotion of of our science and culture, attacked by him in a vexing way. On the contrary, the spread of hate, fake news, stupidity, profanity and all kinds of discrimination against Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, quilombolas, women, the poor and LGBT+ among others predominated.

We will only be able to overcome this political-social and necrophilic scourge if, in the duel, we opt for the biophilia project. Here I still use the ex-governor Tarso Genro: “A week before the election, a great political agreement on governance and governability must be made, defeating Jair Bolsonaro in the first round, united around the strongest name to win and lead the nation to the democratic and social destiny that our people deserve”.

That name is emerging as a voter favourite, Lula da Silva. He is a survivor of the great national tribulation, he showed that he was able to humanize politics, taking Brazil off the hunger map and creating social and popular policies that created opportunities for the excluded, for many others and, above all, restored dignity to the impoverished.

The fate of our nation is in our hands. It depends on the option for what takes Brazil out of the ditch into which it was thrown and allows us to reduce the harmful social inequality and, finally, grant us the joyful celebration of life. The next duel election on October 2nd will mean the great test: which Brazil and which President we really want. May the project of biophilia, of love of life, triumph, especially that suffered by the great majority.

Leonardo Boff is a theologian, philosopher and writer and published: Brazil: concluding the refoundation or prolonging dependency, Vozes 2018.


The Earth in labor pains: will the great saving leap come?

With a little more, a collapse of the bases that ecologically sustain life on the planet could occur. Which of the heads of state and big managers (CEOs) of the mega-corporations reflect and make decisions in the face of such a limit-situation of our Common Home? Perhaps they are aware of the real situation, but they do not give it importance, because if they were given it they would have to completely change the mode of production, give up the fabulous economic gains, change their relationship with nature and get used to a more frugal consumption and more solidary.

Because that does not happen, we understand the words of the UN Secretary General, António Guterrez, recently in Berlin at a meeting on climate change: “We have only one choice: collective action or collective suicide.” Earlier, in Glasgow, on the occasion of the COP 26 on climate change, he peremptorily stated: “either we change or we are digging our own grave”.

Perhaps the most imminent danger of the change in the situation of our Common Home is the alarming global warming, confirmed in recent times. In the 2015 Paris Agreement, it had been agreed to restrict the rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius until 2030 to avoid major damage to the biosphere. With the massive release of methane, due to the melting of the polar caps and premafrost (which goes from Canada to the confines of Siberia) millions of tons of methane have been released. This is 28 times more harmful than CO2. Due to these changes, the ICLL admitted that not in 2030 but in 2027 there would be a temperature increase of between 1.5 and 2.7 degrees Celsius.

The extreme events that are currently occurring in Europe, India and other places, with great fires and heat never before experienced, and at the same time the unusual cold in the South of the world, are showing signs that the Earth has lost its balance and is looking for another.

Summarizing the speech: if we continue this trend, what future awaits us? Could the human species have reached its climax, like all species in their time, and disappear? Or can it happen, thanks to human ingenuity or the forces of planet Earth combined with the energies of the universe, that it takes a leap in quality and thus inaugurates a new order, giving continuity to the human species?

 If this happens, a situation that we predict, it will not happen without many sacrifices of lives of nature and of humanity itself. 67 million years ago a meteor almost 10 km long fell in the Caribbean, destroying the dinosaurs and 75% of all life forms, but respecting our ancestors. Couldn’t something similar happen with our planet Earth?

Probably not a grazing meteor, but some other immeasurable ecological-social disaster. If we survive, the Earth will have made the saving leap and delivered the long-awaited birth. The labor pains will have passed and finally the biocene and the ecocene will have been generated. Life (bio) and the ecological factor (eco) will gain centrality, compromising our care and our whole heart. May this desideratum be a viable utopia that allows us to continue on this beautiful and smiling planet.

*Leonardo Boff has written The painful part of Mother Earth, Dabar 2021; Inhabit the Earth,,Dabar 2022..

The importance of the religious factor in the current brazilian presidential elections

That religion has a powerful political force, confesses Samuel P. Huntington in his controversial book The Clash of Civilizations (1977 he was one of adviser in the desastrous Vietnam’s war), which today, with the new Cold War, has become relevant again. He states: “In the modern world, religion is a central force, perhaps the central force that mobilizes people…What ultimately counts is not so much political ideology or economic interests, but religious convictions of faith, family, blood and doctrine; it is for these things that people fight and are willing to give their lives” (p. 79, 47, 54). He himself was heavily critical of American foreign policy for never giving importance to the religious factor. And he had to feel in his own skin Islamic terrorism with a religious background.

Let’s consider the situation in Brazil. I quote here the reflection of a person deeply inserted in the popular environment with an acute sense of observation. It is worth listening to his opinion, because it can help in the campaign to defeat those who are dismantling our country.

He states: “I fear that by appealing more and more to the religious factor, stirring up the phantom of communism = atheism and religious persecution, the negationist and the “enemy of life” may eventually still threaten to win.

“For, it is inescapable to recognize: the people en masse are religious to the bone (superstitious the “intellectuals” will say, never mind)”.

“They sell their body and soul for religion, indistinctly understood as ‘that God thing’, especially the Brazilian, syncretist that he is.”

“And this appeal, I am not saying that it is good, but only that it has a tremendous force and I fear very much that it could be decisive at the moment of deciding the vote.”

“Unfortunately, this issue carries little weight in the campaign of Lula and his allies. I would say almost the same thing with respect to the two other values that Bolsonaro and all the “!new right” of the world boast: God, Homeland and Family, the trilogy of Integralism that the old left doesn’t want to see even painted. And yet that is where the new right is mobilizing the masses in the world and also in Brazil”.

“And note how easy it is for a candidate of the new right like Bolsonaro to present to the electoral mass this triad: him praying (God), with a Brazilian flag (Homeland) and with Michelle by his side (Family), three scenes of guaranteed commotion and irresistible attraction for the people. Who can be against prayer, the green-yellow flag, and a wife (especially if she is very feminine)?

“Intellectuals can speak all they want against this right-wing populism. But that it works, it works. And that’s what matters to the right, and I think it should also matter to the left, without offending ethics, because it is perfectly possible to defend these three flags, once integrist, as moral values, on the condition, however, that they are not exclusive: of those without religion, of other homelands, and of LGBT+respectively.”

“But even if Lula wins, which the polls indicate, the issue of the three flags above will remain. And the Bolsonarists will continue to wave them, as the new right is waving them around the world (see Trump, Putin, Le Pen, Salvini et caterva). And it is the “God flag”, above all others, that will be most politicized by the new right, and this the less the old left has digested this issue and the less attention the Church itself, progressive or liberationist that it may be, seems to pay to the changing Zeitgeist, designated as post-modern.”

The great challenge of the campaign of the coalition around Lula/Alckmin, which also belongs to the historic Christian churches, especially the Catholic Church, is how to attract these masses, manipulated and deceived by the Pentecostal churches, to the values of the historic Jesus, much more humanitarian and spiritual than those presented by the self-proclaimed “pastors and bishops” and true wolves in sheep’s clothing. These are religious expressions of the market, of the misleading propaganda and styles that directly contradict the biblical message and that of Jesus, because they directly use lies, slander, and fake news.

It is worth showing how the Jesus of the Gospels was always on the side of the poor, the blind, the lame, the lepers, and the sick women, and he healed them. He was extremely sensitive to the invisible and most vulnerable, men and women, in short, to those whose lives were threatened. Love, solidarity, truth, and welcoming everyone without discrimination, such as those of another sexual option, seeing in the blacks, quilombolas and indigenous people our suffering brothers and sisters, are worth much more.

It is important to be in solidarity with them and to stand with them to make their own way. This behavior is worth much more than the “prosperity gospel” of material goods that we cannot carry for eternity and, deep down, do not fill our hearts and do not make us happy. Whereas the other values go with us as an expression of our love for our neighbor and for God and bring us peace in our hearts and a happiness that no one can steal from us.

Logically, it is important to undo the slanders, refute the falsifications, and eventually use the available means to legally incriminate them.

It is always worth believing that a little light dispels all the darkness and that truth writes the true page of our history.

Brazil deserves to come out of this devastating storm and see the sun shining in our sky, giving us back hope and the joy of living.

Leonardo Boff wrote Brazil: conclude the refoundation or prolong the dependency, Vozes 2018; The ambitious fisherman and the charming fish: the search for the just measure, Vozes 2022.

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State of the world: civilizational crisis, drama or tragedy?

                             Leonard Boff*

Follow me on this thought: can anyone tell where we’re going? Neither the Dalai Lama, nor Pope Francis nor any authority will be able to say. However, we have three serious warnings: one from Pope Francis in his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti of 2020: “We are in the same boat: either we are all saved or no one is saved” (n.32). Another also of the greatest authority, the Earth Charter of 2003: «humanity must choose its future and the choice is this: form a global society to take care of the Earth and take care of each other or risk the destruction of ourselves and diversity of life” (Preamble). The third comes from UN Secretary General António Guterres in mid-July 2022 at a conference in Berlin on climate change: “We have this choice: collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”

Most do not sit in the same boat or cultivate care and do not carry out collective actions. Let’s consider some phenomena: Brazil is going through a wave of hatred, lies and violence against an immense range of people, cowardly despised and defamed, a wave encouraged by the president who praises torture, dictatorships, constantly violates the Constitution. Without any evidence, he questions the security of the polls. He summons all the ambassadors to speak ill of our legal institutions and implies that, if he is not re-elected, he will carry out a coup. He commits a crime against the country, reason to challenge his candidacy. And we are not referring to the hunger and unemployment of millions of people in the country.

The ecological situation in the world is no less worrying: in the middle of European summer the weather has reached 40 degrees or more. There are fires in practically every country in the world. They are the extreme events aggravated by global warming. This year in our country we have had great floods in the south of Bahia, north of Minas, the Tocantins River and the Amazon and tragic landslides in Petrópolis and Angra dos Reis, with innumerable victims, and simultaneously prolonged drought in the south . There are 17 outbreaks of war in the world, the most visible of all in Ukraine attacked by Russia with a high power of destruction.

The decision of Western countries, included in NATO, whose main actor is the United States, by establishing “a new strategic commitment” and moving from a defensive pact to an offensive pact, has been very serious. It declares ipsis litteris to Russia as present enemy, and later to China. It is not a question of a competitor or adversary, but of an enemy, which, in the perspective of Hitler’s jurist Carl Schmitt, must be fought and destroyed using all means, including military and, in the limit, nuclear means. As the renowned environmental economist Jeffrey Sachs pointed out, reinforced by Noam Chomsky: if that happened, it would be the end of the species. This would be the great tragedy.

Perhaps the most serious threat comes to us from the aforementioned accelerated global warming. With the combined effort of all the countries until 2030, warming should be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius until 2030. Now we know that it has accelerated; with the massive entry of methane due to the melting of the polar caps and permafrost has been anticipated to 2027. The last report in three volumes of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (known by the English acronym IPCC) published a few months ago warned that it could reach long before. There is a danger, previously pointed out by the North American Academy of Sciences, of an “abrupt jump”, which can raise the temperature by 2.7 or more degrees Celsius. The conclusion reached by the IPCC is “that the impacts around the world are a threat to humanity”.

A large part of living organisms fails to adapt and ends up disappearing. In the same way, multitudes of humans can suffer terribly and also die before their time. Such an event may occur in the next 3-4 years. It does not seem that analysts and planners are taking this eventuality into account. Hence it is understood that some climate scientists are technofatalists and skeptics. They claim that with the billions of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases already accumulated in the atmosphere (where they remain for nearly 100 years) we are not in a position to prevent global warming. We have arrived too late. Extreme events will inevitably come, becoming more frequent and more damaging, devastating parts of terrestrial biomes and seacoasts. Due to the fact of having science and technology we can only mitigate the harmful effects but not avoid them. It is a crisis of our kind of civilization, that devaste the natural commons of the Earth.

To this dramatic picture we must add the Overload of the Earth: we consume more than it can offer us, since we need more than one and a half Earths (1.7) to cover the demands of human consumption, especially the sumptuous of the upper classes. opulent Faced with this undeniably dramatic scenario, what to think? that perhaps our turn has come to be excluded from the face of the Earth? Given the voracity of the globalized productivist process that knows no moderation, each year nearly 100,000 species of living organisms are disappearing.

Here we can pick up the words of the eminent French naturalist Théodore Monod, which we have quoted a few times: “we are capable of insane and insane behavior; from now on we can fear everything, including the annihilation of the human race: it would be the just price of our follies and our cruelty». This opinion is shared by other notable personalities such as Toynbee, Lovelock, Rees, Jacquard, and Chomsky among others.

We cannot know what our future will be like. But it cannot be an extension of the present. The nature of capitalist logic will not change, if not, it would have to give up being what it is and wants to be: unlimited accumulation without taking care of externalities. As Hans Jonas showed in his book The Responsibility Principle, the fear and awe factor can be decisive. Realizing that it can disappear, the human being will do everything to survive, like the ancient ships that, in danger of sinking, threw all their cargo into the sea. There would be radical changes, especially in the mode of production and in frugal and supportive consumption.

There is still the principle of the imponderable and the unexpected of quantum mechanics. Evolution is not linear. In moments of high complexity and great chaos, it can take a leap towards a new order and achieve another balance. In our case it is not impossible. But it will surely be done at the sacrifice of many human lives as well. It’s our drama.

Finally, we have the theological hope, the Judeo-Christian legacy, which must also be understood as an emergence of the evolutionary process and not as something exogenous. She affirms the principle of life and of the living and life-giving God who created everything out of love. He will be able to create conditions for human beings to change towards another course of their destiny and thus be able to save themselves. But “chi lo sa”? It is up to us to be hopeful of Paulo Freire, that is, to create the conditions for a viable utopia, the hope that the unexpected will happen and that life will always have a future and is destined to change in order to continue and continue to shine.

*Leonardo Boff has written The Painful Birth of Mother Earth: A Society of Fraternity Without Borders and Universal Love, Vozes 2021 and Inhabiting the Earth, Vozes 2022; with Mark Hathaway, The Tao of Liberatioon: explorind the ecology of transformation, Orbis Books,NY 2010.