Friday, July 8, 2011

Loss of confidence in the current order

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

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

From the perspective of the vast majority of humanity, the current order is an order in disorder, produced and maintained by the forces and countries that benefit from it, increasing their power and profits. This disorder stems from the fact that economic globalization has not given rise to political globalization. There is no entity or force to control the voracity of economic globalization. Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, two Nobel laureates in economics, have criticized President Obama for failing to put the brakes on the thieves of Wall Street and the City rather than surrender to them. After having caused the crisis, they still benefited from billion dollar investments of public money. And they came back, successfully, to the system of financial speculation.

These exceptional economists are the best when making analyses but mute when it comes to presenting ways out of the current crisis. Perhaps, as they have hinted, because they're convinced that the solution to the economy is not in economics but in rebuilding social relations destroyed by the market economy, especially the speculative one. The latter has no compassion and is devoid of any goals for the world, society and politics. Its purpose is to accumulate the most and to that end it must subordinate states, break laws, make labor laws flexible, and establish national economies, forcing countries in crisis to privatize everything that is marketable, throwing the people into poverty and despair.

For speculators, in Brazil, the money is used to make more money and not to produce more goods for those who need them. Here, the government has to pay more than one hundred billion U.S. dollars annually for acquired loans, while only about sixty billion is devoted to social projects. This disparity is ethically perverse, a consequence of the type of society it is obliged to keep up, which puts the economy as a central structuring axis and makes everything else merchandize, even the common necessities of life such as water, seeds, air and soil.

There are many who support the thesis that we are in a dramatic moment of breakdown of social ties. Alain Touraine even speaks of a post-social rather than a post-industrial phase.

This social decay is revealed by polarization and through radically opposing logic: the logic of productive capital, about 60 billion dollars/year, and that of speculative capital, about 600 billion dollars under the aegis of "greed is good." The logic of those advocating the greatest profit potential and that of those who fight for the rights of life, humanity and the Earth. The logic of individualism that destroys the "common home", the growing number of those who no longer want to live together, and the logic of social solidarity based on the most vulnerable. The logic of the elites who make intra-system changes and appropriate the benefits, and the logic of workers threatened with unemployment, and unable to intervene. The logic of the acceleration of material growth (Brazil) and that of the limits of every ecosystem and the earth itself.

There is widespread mistrust that anything good for humanity can come from the prevailing system. We go from bad to worse in all that relates to life and nature. The future depends on the flow of trust people have in their abilities and the authentic possibilities of reality. This confidence is dwindling day by day.

We are facing this dilemma: either let things continue as they are and then we will sink into a terminal crisis, or we engage in the development of a new social life that will sustain another type of civilization. New social ties will not be derived from current policy and technology, detached from nature and a synergetic relationship with the Earth. They will be born of a minimum consensus among humans, to be built around the recognition and respect for the rights of life, of every social subject, humanity and the Earth, considered as Gaia and our common Mother. The technology, policy, institutions and values of the past should serve this new social life. I've been thinking and writing about these things for at least twenty years. But who listens? It's a voice lost in the wilderness. "I cried out and saved my soul" (clamavi meam et salvavi animam meam, Marx would say desolately).

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