The American Corruption

Image: Georg Grosz
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By LEONARDO BOFF*

Considerations on business ethics in a wild capitalism

The billionaire gap, accumulated over the years by the giant retailer Lojas Americanas of 20 billion reais, plus debts of 43 billion reais has many facets. The most explicit and shameful way to describe the corruption that hides behind these numbers is the euphemism “accounting inconsistencies”. The market, always sensitive to any small movement that favors the dispossessed by the socially biased State, soon reacts critically. In the face of those billions it showed no movement. Of course, this is the complicity of the same financial mafias, especially the speculative ones that earn without producing anything.

The names of the main “referential partners” (the real owners) are the well-known billionaires Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sucupira who, with other assets they own such as Burger King, Kraft Henz and particularly the control of the beer market with InBev, reach 185 billion reais.

In the note published by the trio on January 11, 2023, they exempt themselves from any knowledge, making suckers out of readers who know how Brazilian capitalism works.

It is not up to me to delve into this question, asked by specialists. I stick to what fits me as a professor of ethics and theology for many years.

What happened here confirms what the late Darcy Ribeiro often said: Brazilian capitalism has never been civilized, it is one of the wildest in the world and deeply selfish and individualistic. This brings us back to what the friend of Brazil (his wife is Brazilian), one of the greatest thinkers of our time, the philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky sadly said: “I have never seen in my life a portion of the Brazilian elite have so much contempt and hatred to blacks and poor people from the periphery”. This is confirmed in his vast work by the sociologist Jessé Souza, especially in the classic The Late Elite: this elite has shamefully marginalized a large part of the poor and black population, denied them rights, unaware that they are human like them and sons and daughters of God. When they rose, they were soon repressed and even murdered.

In another passage, Noam Chomsky emphasizes what makes us understand our corrupt people (especially the trio, always smiling): “The basic idea that runs through modern history and modern liberalism is that the public should be marginalized. The public, in general, is seen as nothing more than ignorant outsiders who interfere like misguided cattle.” What interests capitalism to have consumers and not citizens. It does not love people, but only their labor power and eventual capacity to consume.

Aristotle, one of the fathers of Western ethics, said that the first sign of lack of ethics is “lack of shame”. Etymologically shame comes from the Latin alderman which means respect reverential awe. When this value of respect and reverence towards others is lacking, the door is open to any kind of shamelessness.

The corrupt people of the 20 billion Americans do not show the slightest shame: they show themselves to be benefactors of society, supporting some people (the most gifted) to study at the best universities in the world (Harvard), to be educated in the spirit of capitalism and to carry out their projects. It is not the case, as is the case with many North American universities that are supported by large corporations that favor their maintenance and research. Our opulent people only offer occasional help to distinguished people and do not help large educational projects that benefit the entire nation to advance towards knowledge and autonomy.

The most painful thing, however, is the absolute lack of sensitivity of the backward elite (which, in the words of our greatest mulatto historian Capistrano de Abreu “capped and recaptured, bled and bled” the population that left the colonial regime, but maintained slavery ).

This culpable lack of sensitivity was frequently denounced by one of the most meritorious Brazilians in the projects against hunger, for life and for democracy, the always remembered Betinho:

”Our biggest problem is not economic, it is not political, it is not ideological nor is it religious. Our biggest problem is the lack of sensitivity for our fellow man who is beside us”. We don't hear his cry of pain, we don't see his hand outstretched for some food, we don't even see his pleading eyes. We passed by the one who had fallen by the roadside, as the Levite and the priest did in the parable of the good Samaritan. It took a despised Samaritan heretic to interrupt his journey, heal his wounds and take him to the sanatorium, leaving everything paid for and if he needed more he would pay on his way back. Who is next here, asked the Master: he is the one I approach, not repairing his moral condition, his religion, his color. He is a wounded brother who needs another brother to succor him.

In Brazil, Christians are just cultural Christians who have learned nothing from the historical Jesus who was always on the side of life, the poor, the blind, the lame and the despised. That is why there is so much social inequality, one of the biggest in the world. Because it lacks sensitivity, solidarity, human sense, that of treating another human, your brother and sister, humanely.

The billionaire trio and the 318 millionaires (according to the magazine Forbes) do not hear the outcry that comes from the large peripheries, from the indigenous people being decimated by some in the agribusiness as in Dourados-MT and the thousands of Yanomami, violated by illegal mining and who were officially denied water, vaccines, assistance by the genocidal government medical and basic nutrition.

In the case of Brazil, but it is true for a large part of humanity, there was a lack of ethics and morals. There was a lack of ethics if we understand by ethics the promotion of a good and decent life for all. There was a lack of morals if we understand by morality the observance of norms and laws that society has established for itself to guarantee a good and decent life.

Now there was a lack of ethics and morals in the people who caused the American millionaire gap. They didn't know about the 33 million hungry people in our country and the more than one hundred million with nutritional insufficiency. If they had a minimum of ethical and moral sensitivity, they would help with their fortunes to reduce this human tragedy. And so we continue with the savagery of our capitalist culture, which through the market tries to control the country's economy, especially if it is directed towards those who need it most.

I recall the classic phrase of the philosopher Heraclitus (500 BC) who said: “the ethos he is the good angel of the human being”. between us the ethos turned out to be demonic.

*Leonardo Boff He is a philosopher and theologian. Author, among other books, of Ethics and morals: the search for fundamentals (Vozes).

 

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