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The 2015 annus nefastus does not destroy hope for an annus propicius

13/01/2016

The year 2015 that just ended deserves this Latin characterization: annus nefastus. Others call it annus horribilis. There were so many calamities that, besides fright, they cause concern. The first concern is the Earth Over-Reach Day that occurred on September 13th. It means that on that day, the required supplies to maintain the life-system and the Earth-system had surpassed the Earth’s capabilities. The Earth lost her biocapacity. She is the basis for all our projects. Since the Earth is a super-living being, the signals she sends us that she has reached her limit are droughts, floods, typhoons and increased violence all over the world.

Everything is inter-connected, as Pope Francis insistently repeats in his encyclical letter. In this context, the consensus reached in Paris on December 12th by COP 21 is an illusion: the global warming should be below 2º centigrade, closer to 1.5°C by mid-century. This implies a change of our civilization’s paradigm, to not be based on fossil fuels, even though it is clear that all the combined alternative energies do not reach 30% of what we need. The great suppliers of oil, gas and carbon can neither undergo this conversion, nor do they want to do so. The idea is rhetorical.

The third dreadful event is the violent terrorism in Europe and Africa, the thousands of refugees and the wars the militarist powers together are conducting against the Islamic State and the other armed groups in Syria. Reputable sources claim that there have been thousands of innocent civilian victims. Another dreadful fact is the transformation of the United States into a terroristic state. With its 800 military bases distributed around the world, it intervenes, directly or indirectly, whenever it perceives that its imperial interests are threatened. Internally, the United States has not abolished the “Patriotic Act”, that suspends fundamental rights. It is no wonder that in 2015, the Northamerican police killed almost one thousand unarmed persons, 60% of whom were Black or Latino.

Another horribilis fact is the corruption in PETROBRAS, the largest oil company in Brazil, that involves millions and millions of dollars. Alongside this there arose among us a wave of hatred, rage and prejudice after the 2014 presidential elections. That is not surprising, because Brazil is full of contrasts; as Roger Bastide noted it in his Brazil, land of Contrasts, (Brésil, terre des contrastres, Hachette, 1957). Even before, Bastide, Gilberto Freyre, the most important interpreter of the social history of Brazil, wrote: «considered together, the formation of Brazil was a process of equilibrium among antagonists».

This antagonism, usually kept under ideological cover by the «cordial man» has now come to light and is clearly visible, especially in the social media. The «cordial man» that Sergio Buarque de Holanda, Brazil’s Roots, (Raízes do Brasil, 21.edición, 1989, p. 100-112) took from the writer Ribeiro Couto, is generally misunderstood. It has nothing to do with civility and courtesy. It has more to do with our aversion for social rites and formalisms. We favor informality and closeness.

It is a Brazilian characteristic that we are ruled more by our hearts than by reason. Now, kindness and hospitality derive from the heart. But as Buarque de Holanda points out, «enmity can very well be as cordial as kindness, because both are born from the heart» (note 157, of the pages, 106 and 107).

This fragile equilibrium was lost in 2015 and the negative cordiality emerged as hatred, prejudice and rage against the militants of the Labor Party, PT, against the northerners and against the Blacks. Not even constitutionally respectable figures, such as President Dilma Rousseff, were exempted. The Internet has opened the gates of hell to insults, rude words, direct affronts between persons, pitting some against others.

Such expressions only reveal our backwardness, our lack of democratic culture, intolerance and class struggle. It cannot be denied that in certain sectors are found resentment against the poor and those who have ascended socially, thanks to the social compensatory policies (that are not particularly emancipating) of the PT government. The Brazilian antagonisms were clearly shown to not be harmonized, and now openly pit some against others in true struggles (call them of class, of interests, of power, it does not matter). But there is a social fissure in Brazil, and it will cost us dearly to correct it. In my understanding, this can only be accomplished through a participatory democracy, beyond the present farce that represents the interests of the wealthy classes more than the interests of the people as a whole.

What is valuable is our super abundance of hope, that surpasses the annus nefastus and leads us towards an annus propicius. There are so many good experiences everywhere, that could not be mentioned in this space, that justify this hope of a propitious year. May God hear us.

Leonardo Boff is theologian, philosopher and writter
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.

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