The Common Good was Thrown into Limbo
In the middle of a threatening water and energy crisis in Brazil, current political discussions are obfuscated by the particular interests of each party. There is an attempt at destabilizing the new administration of Dilma Rousseff by the dominant groups, behind which are hiding the large corporations, national and multinational, the corporate media and, surely, the actions of the security forces of the North-American empire. It is not just about the ferocious criticism of the official policies, something even more profound is at play: the desire to dismantle, and, if possible, to eliminate the Labor Party, PT – from the Portuguese name – that represents the interests of the populations that historically have always been neglected. It is very hard for the conservative elites to accept the new historical subject –the organized people and their political expression – because they feel that their privileges are threatened. As the elites are clearly egotistical and have never considered the common good, they strive to remove from the scene the social and political force that can irreversibly change the destiny of Brazil.
We are forgetting that the essence of politics is the common search for the common good. One of the most devastating effects of global capitalism and its ideology, neoliberalism, is the destruction of the goals of the common good and social welfare. We know that civilized societies are built on three fundamental pillars: participation (the citizenry), social cooperation and respect for human rights. Together, they create the common good. But the common good has been thrown into the limbo of preoccupation with politics. It has been replaced by the concepts of profitability, flexibility, adaptability and competitiveness. The freedom of the citizen is replaced by the freedom of the market forces, the common good by the individual good, and cooperation by competition.
Participation, cooperation and human rights guaranteed each person’s existence with dignity. By denying those values, people’s existence is no longer socially guaranteed, nor are their rights assured. As a result, everyone feels compelled to guarantee his or her own: employment, salary, car, family. Individualism, the greatest enemy of social coexistence, rules. Consequently, people are not encouraged to build something in common. The only thing that is left in common is the war of all against all, seeking individual survival.
In this context, who will see to the common good of planet Earth? In a recent article in the magazine Science, (01/15/2015) 18 scientists list the nine Planetary Boundaries, four of which have been already exceeded (climate, integrity of the biosphere, use of the soil, biogeochemical fluxes-phosphorous and nitrogen). The others are in an advanced state of degradation. Just exceeding those four can make the Earth less hospitable for millions of people, and for biodiversity. What world organ is confronting this situation, that destroys the planetary common good?
Who will care for the common interests of more than seven billion people? Neoliberalism is deaf, blind and mute on this fundamental question, as Pope Francis keeps repeating as a ritornello. It would be contrary to neoliberalism to address the common good, because neoliberalism defends political and social concepts that are directly opposed to the common good. Neoliberalism’s basic purpose is: the market has to win and society must loose, because the market will regulate and solve everything. That being so, why should we build things in common? Social well being has lost its legitimacy.
However, the growing impoverishment of the world is the result of the excluding and predatory logic of the present competitive, liberalizing, deregulating and privatizing globalization. The greater the privatization, the more individual interests are legitimated, to the detriment of the general interest. As Thomas Piketty has shown in his book, Capitalism in the XXI Century, with greater privatization, inequalities grow. It is the triumph of killer capitalism. How much social perversity and barbarism can the spirit take? Greece has shown that can not take any more. Greece refuses to accept the diktat of the markets, in her case principally imposed by Merkel’s Germany and Hollande’s France.
In summary: what is the common good? In the infra-structural plane, it is the just access by all to food, health, housing, energy, security and culture. in the humanistic plane, it is acknowledgement, respect and peaceful coexistence. Having been dismantled by competitive globalization, the common good must now be rebuilt. To that end, it is important to give supremacy to cooperation, rather than competition. Without that change, it will be difficult for the human community to stay united and to look forward to a good future.
Now, this reconstruction is the nucleus of the political project of the PT and its ideological allies. Begun correctly, Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) was subsequently transformed through several popular public policies. It attempted to lay a solid foundation: a new social pact starting with the values of cooperation and good will towards all. But the effect has been weak, given our individualist and patrimonial tradition. However, at bottom, there remains this basic humanistic conviction: there is no long range future for a society founded on the lack of justice, equality, fraternity, respect for the basic rights, caring for the natural resources and cooperation. It denies the most basic longing of the human being since its appearance on the evolutionary stage, millions of years ago. Whether we like it or not, even accepting its errors and corruption, the best of the PT articulated and articulates that ancestral longing. Therefore, it can restore itself, renewing and nourishing its strength to summon others. If not the PT, other actors in other times will do so.
Cooperation is strengthened by the cooperation that we must unconditionally offer.
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.