Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The duel between life and death

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at LeonardoBoff.com.

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

In one of the most beautiful hymns of the Christian liturgy of Easter, which comes from the 13th century, one sings that "life and death were locked in a duel; the Lord of life died, but now reigns alive." This is the Christian meaning of Easter: the reversal of the terms of combat. What seemed like defeat was really a strategy to beat the winner, that is, death. That's why grass didn't grow on Jesus' grave. Risen, He guarantees the supremacy of life.

The message comes from the religious field which falls within what is deepest in the human being, but its meaning is not restricted to it. It acquires a universal significance, especially nowadays, when life and death are truly and physically locked in a duel. This duel takes place on all fronts and its battlefield is the entire planet, involving the whole community of life and all humanity.

This is happening because, belatedly, we are realizing that the lifestyle we have chosen in recent centuries implies a real war against the Earth. In the desire to seek wealth and increase indiscriminate consumption (63% of U.S. GDP consists of consumption, which has become a real consumer culture), all available services and resources of Mother Earth are being looted.

In recent times, there has been growing collective awareness that a real duel has been entered into between the natural mechanisms of life and the artificial mechanisms of death triggered by our system of living, producing, consuming and treating waste. The first victims of this total war are us human beings ourselves. Most live with inadequate means, dwelling in favelas and super exploited in the workforce. The suffering, frustration and humiliation that hide here are unspeakable. These are times of new barbarism, denounced by many global thinkers, such as Tzvetan Todorov recently in his book The Fear of Barbarians (2010). These realities that really count because they make us human or cruel, are not included in the profit calculations of any company and are not considered in the GDP of countries except Bhutan, which established the Gross National Happiness index of its people. The other victims are all the ecosystems, biodiversity and the Earth as a whole.

Recently, the Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugmann revealed that 400 North American families alone hold an income higher than 46% of American working people. This wealth doesn't fall from heaven. It's made through accumulation strategies that include traps, financial overspeculation and pure and simple theft of the fruits of labor of millions of people.

For the current system -- and we must spell it out -- the unlimited accumulation of profit is considered intelligence, the plundering of public and natural resources artfulness, fraud ability, corruption cunning, and unbridled exploitation management wisdom. It is the triumph of death. Is it possible that in this duel it will have the upper hand?

What we can say with complete confidence is that in this war, we have no chance of winning over the Earth. She existed without us and can continue without us. We do need her. The system within which we live is terrifyingly irrational, as befits really demented beings.

Analysts of the global ecological footprint on the Earth tell us that, due to a combination of the many existing crises, we may experience eco-humanitarian tragedies of extreme gravity in the not too distant future.

In this context, it is fitting to update and listen to the message of Easter. It's possible that we will not escape a painful Good Friday, but then comes the Resurrection. Earth and Humanity will still live.

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