Friday, September 17, 2010

To save life: women in power

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

There is a happy uniqueness in the current presidential contest in Brazil: the presence of two women -- Marina Silva and Dilma Rousseff. They are different, each with her own style, but both of unquestionable ethical depth and an understanding of politics as a virtue in the service of the common good and not as a technique of conquest and exercise of power, usually to the benefit of one's own vanity or elite interests that still prevail in the democracy we inherited.

They emerge at a special moment in the history of the country, humanity, and the planet Earth. If we think radically and we conclude, as have notable cosmologists and biologists, that the main subject of the actions is not ourselves, in a superficial anthropocentrism, but the Earth itself, understood as a living superorganism, full of purpose, Gaia and Great Mother, then we would say that it is the very Earth that through these two women is speaking to us, calling our attention and warning us. They are the Earth itself that is crying out, the Earth that feels and seeks a new equilibrium.

This new balance must happen predominantly through women and not men. The latter, after centuries of arrogance, are more interested in ensuring their business than in saving life and protecting the planet. The international meetings show us that they are ill prepared to deal with issues related to life and the preservation of the Common Home. At this crucial moment of grave danger, those historical subjects are invoked who, by their very nature, are better equipped to take on missions and actions relating to conservation and care for life. They are women and their partners, men who have integrated the virtues of the feminine in themselves. Evolution made them deeply linked to the generative and caring processes of life. They are the pastors of life and the guardian angels of the values derived from the dimension of the anima (the feminine in woman and man), which are caring, reverence, the ability to grasp messages and meanings in its slightest signals; sensitive to spiritual values such as self-giving, unconditional love, renunciation in favor of the other and openness to the Sacred.

Global feminism brought a fundamental indictment of the patriarchy that comes from the Neolithic era. Patriarchy gave rise to the institutions that still shape global societies, with the instrumental-analytical reason that separates humans and nature and that has led to the domination of the processes of nature in such a devastating way that today is manifested by global warming; it created the state and its bureaucracy, but organized according to the interests of men; it designed a style of education that reproduces and legitimizes patriarchal power; it organized armies and initiated war. It has affected other bodies, such as churches and religions whose gods or actors are almost all male. The "manifest destiny" of patriarchy is dominium mundi (world domination), with the aim to make us "lords and masters of nature" (Descartes).

Currently, men (males) have become victims of the "god complex", in the words of an eminent German psychoanalyst, K. Richter. They have assumed divine tasks: dominating nature and others, organizing all of life, conquering the outside world and reshaping humanity. All this has been simply too much. They feel like a "second-rate god" who succumbs to his own weight, especially because a killing machine has been planned, able to eradicate him from the face of the Earth.

Now the saving action of women is vital. We say that what the United Nations Fund for Population wrote some years ago is right: “The human race is plundering the Earth in an unsustainable manner. Giving women greater decision-making power on its future can save the planet from destruction.” Note that it does not say "more power to participate to women", something which men have conceded, but in a subordinate manner. Here it states: "decision-making power on the future." Women should make this decision, incorporating men into it, otherwise we would be jeopardizing our future.

This is the profound, I would say "providential", meaning of these two women candidates for the presidency of Brazil: Marina Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

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