Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Attitudes toward the current crisis

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)

No one can remain indifferent to the current crisis. It's essential to make a decision and find a liberating way out. Here we'll present various attitudes to see which one is best to avoid being deceived.

The first is that of the doomsayers: the flight to the bottom. They emphasize the side of chaos that encases the entire crisis. They see the crisis as a catastrophe, the breakdown and end of the existing order. For them, the crisis is something abnormal that we must avoid at all costs. They only accept certain adjustments and changes within the same structure. But they do it with so many objections that they cut off any innovative breakthrough.

Against these alarmists the good Pope John XXIII used to say -- referring to the Church but it's applicable to any field -- that "real life isn't an antique collection. This is not about visiting a museum or an academy of the past. One lives to progress, while taking advantage of the experiences of the past, but always to go ever farther."

The general crisis does not have to be a fall into the abyss. What a Swiss man who loved Brazil very much, the philosopher and educator Pierre Furter, wrote is true: "Characterizing the crisis as a sign of a universal collapse, is a subtle and perfidious way of the powerful and the privileged to prevent changes by discrediting them beforehand."

The second attitude is that of the conservatives: the flight backwards. They are guided by the past, looking through the rearview mirror. Instead of taking advantage the strengths contained in the current crisis, they flee into the past and look for old solutions to new problems. Therefore they are archaic and ineffective.

Many of the political institutions and global economic organizations such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, G-20, but also most of the denominations and religions seek to solve the serious global problems with the same conceptions. They favor inertia and put the brakes on innovative solutions.

Leaving things as they are, they lead us fatally to failure, to an unimaginable environmental and humanitarian crisis. As past formulas exhaust their strength of conviction and innovation, they end up transforming the crisis into a tragedy.

The third approach is that of the utopians: the flight forward. They think they'll resolve the crisis situation by fleeing into the future. They are located within the same horizon as the conservatives, just in the opposite direction. Therefore, they can easily reach agreements with them.

Generally they are proactive and they forget that in history only revolutions that are made, are made. The last slogan is not a new thought. The boldest critics may also be the most sterile. Frequently rebellious boldness is nothing more than an escape from facing the harsh reality.

All kinds of futuristic utopias are currently circulating, many of them esoteric such as those that talk about the alignment of cosmic energies that are affecting our minds. Others project utopias based on the dream that biotechnology and nanotechnology will solve every problem and make human life immortal.

A fourth attitude is that of the escapists: they flee inward. They realize the darkening of the horizon and the set of fundamental beliefs, but turn a deaf ear to the ecological alarm and cries of the oppressed. They avoid confrontation, would rather not know, they don't hear, read, or question. These people don't want to live with others. They prefer the solitude of the individual but are generally connected to the internet and social networks.

Finally, there is a fifth attitude: that of the responsible ones: they face the here and now. They're the ones who have prepared an answer, so I call them responsible. They're not afraid, they don't flee nor are they evasive, but they take the risk of opening ways. They seek to strengthen the positive forces contained in the crisis and formulate responses to problems. They don't reject the past for being past. They learn it as a repository of great experiences that should not be wasted, but without exempting themselves from making their own experiments.

The responsible ones are defined by being for and not just by being against. Nor do they lose themselves in empty controversies. They work and commit themselves deeply to the building of a model that meets the needs of the times, open to criticism and self-criticism, always willing to learn.

What are most required today are politicians, leaders, groups, people who feel responsible and force the passage of the old times to the new.

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