Friday, November 25, 2011

Thoughts and dreams about Brazil

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)

1. The Brazilian people became accustomed to "facing life" and getting everything through "the struggle", ie, by overcoming difficulties and hard work. Why wouldn't they also "face" the ultimate challenge of making the changes necessary to create more equal relationships and end corruption?

2. The Brazilian people have not finished being born. What we inherited was the Enterprise-Brazil, with an enslaving elite and a mass of dispossessed. But from the heart of this mass, social movements and leaders were born with consciousness and organization. Their dream? Reinventing Brazil. The process started from the bottom and is now unstoppable.

3. Despite poverty and marginalization, the poor invented paths to survival. To overcome the negative situation, the government and politicians need to hear and appreciate what the people already know and have invented. Only then will we overcome the elites-people division and be a single complex nation.

4. The Brazilian has a commitment to hope. It is the last thing that dies. Therefore, he is sure that God writes straight with crooked lines. Hope is the secret of his optimism, it lets him relativize dramas, dance in his carnival, be a fan of his soccer team, and keep the dream alive that life is beautiful and tomorrow could be better.

5. Fear is inherent in life because "life is dangerous" and always carries risks. These force us to change and reinforce hope. What the people, not the elites, want most is to change so that happiness and love would not be so difficult.

6. The opposite of fear is not courage. It is faith that things can be different and that, organized, we can move forward. Brazil has demonstrated that it is not only good at carnival and soccer, but it is also good at agriculture, architecture, music and in its inexhaustible zest for life.

7. The Brazilian people are religious and mystical. Rather than thinking of God, they feel God in their daily lives, which is revealed in the expressions "thanks be to God," "may God repay you", "go with God." God is not a problem for them, but the solution to their problems. They feel protected by saints and good spirits and orixás who anchor their lives in the midst of suffering.

8. One characteristic of Brazilian culture is the joy and sense of humor, which help alleviate social contradictions. That joy comes from the conviction that life is worth more than anything else. So it should be celebrated with fiestas and humor should be kept up in the face of failure. The effect is the levity and enthusiasm that so many admire in us.

9. A union that we still have pending in Brazil is academic knowledge with conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is born of suffering, of a thousand ways of surviving with few resources. Academic knowledge is born of studying, drinking from many sources. When these two forms of learning unite, we will be invincible.

10. Caring is part of the essence of all life. Without caring, life gets sick and dies. With caring, it is protected and lasts longer. The challenge today is to see public policy as caring for Brazil, its people, its nature, education, health, justice. That caring is proof that we love our country.

11. One of the hallmarks of the Brazilian people is their ability to interact with the whole world, adding, gathering, synthesizing and syncretizing. Therefore, they aren't intolerant or dogmatic. They enjoy and welcome foreigners. These are core values for globalization with a human face. We are showing that it is possible and we are building it.

12. Brazil is the largest neo-Latin nation in the world. We have everything to also be the greatest civilization in the tropics, not imperial, but in solidarity with all nations, because Brazil has incorporated representatives of 60 peoples who came here. Our challenge is to show that Brazil can be, in fact, a piece of paradise that was not lost.

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