Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas in times of Herod

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
LeonardoBoff.com (em português)
December 20, 2016

This year's Christmas will be different from other Christmases. It is usually the feast of family fellowship. For Christians, it is the celebration of the Divine Child who came to take on our humanity and make it better.

In the present context, however, in his place has appeared the figure of the terrible Herod the Great (73 BC- 4 BC), linked to the slaughter of the innocent. Zealous for his power, he heard that in his kingdom, Judea, a child-king was born. That's when he ordered all boys under two years old to be slaughtered (Mt 2:16). Then we hear some of the most painful words in the Bible: "A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more." (Mt 2:18)

This story of the murder of innocents continues in another way. The ultracapitalist policies imposed by the current government -- taking away rights, lowering wages, cutting basic social benefits such as health care, education, safety, pensions, and freezing for 20 years the possibilities for development -- have resulted in a perverse and slow slaughter of innocents from the large and poor majority of our country.

The legislators are not unfamiliar with the lethal consequences stemming from the decision to consider the market more important than people.

Within a few years, we will have a super-rich class (today they are 71,440, according to IPEA, therefore 0.05% of the population), a middle class frightened by the risk of losing their status and millions of poor people and pariahs who will go from poverty to destitution. This means starving children who die from undernutrition and absolutely preventable diseases, elderly people who no longer get their medicines and access to public health, doomed to die before their time. This slaughter has those responsible for it. Most of the current legislators of the so-called "death PEC ["Proposta de Emenda Constitucional" - "Proposed Constitutional Amendment"]" can not be exempt from the stain of being the current Herods of the Brazilian people.

The moneyed and privileged elites were able to return. Supported by corrupt parliamentarians, with their backs to the people and deaf to the clamor of the streets, and by a coalition of forces that involves vigilante judges, the Public Ministry, the Military Police and part of the Judiciary and the corporate, reactionary and putschist media, not without the backing of an imperial power interested in our wealth, they forged the removal of President Rousseff. The real engine of the coup is financial capital, banks and rentiers (not affected by fiscal adjustment policies).

Political scientist Jessé Souza rightly denounces, "Brazil is the scene of a dispute between two projects: the dream of a big and powerful country for the majority, and the reality of a predatory elite that wants to drain everyone's work and plunder the country's riches for the pockets of half a dozen. The money elite rules by the simple fact that it can "buy" all the other elites."(FSP [Folha de São Paulo] 4/16/2016).

The sad thing is to realize that this whole process of plunder is a consequence of the old politics of conciliation between the owners of money among themselves and with governments, which has been in existence since the time of the Colony and Independence. Lula-Dilma were not able or failed to overcome the fine art of this dominant minority who, on the pretext of governability, seeks conciliation between themselves and with the rulers, granting some benefits to the people at the price of keeping the nature of their process of wealth accumulation at very high levels untouched.

Historian José Honório Rodrigues, who has thoroughly studied class conciliation always with backs turned on the people, rightly affirms: "The national leadership, in its successive generations, has always been anti-reformist, elitist and personalistic ... The art of stealing practiced by these minorities and not by the people, is noble and ancient. The people don't rob, they are robbed ... The people are cordial, the oligarchy is cruel and pitiless...; the great success of the history of Brazil is its people and great disappointment is its leadership."(Conciliação e Reforma no Brasil ["Conciliation and Reform in Brazil"], 1965, pp. 114,119).

We are experiencing the repetition of this evil tradition, from which we will never be liberated without the strengthening of an anti-power, coming from below, capable of overthrowing this perverse clique and establishing another type of state, with another type of republican politics, where the common good is imposed over private and corporate good.

Christmas this year is a Christmas under the sign of Herod. Nonetheless, we believe that the Divine Child is the liberating Messiah and the Star is generous to show us better ways.

Leonardo Boff has written Natal: o sol da esperança, Mar de Ideias, Rio, 2007.

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