the planetary crisis

Image: Plato Terentev
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By LEONARDO BOFF*

The crisis of capitalism is notorious. It is a perverse system that managed to take over the entire planet with its industrialism and the illusory dream of unlimited growth.

Finally in Brazil we are coming out of a deep crisis that almost shook the foundations not only of our democracy but of our civilization in the making. We were taken over by a barbarism whose actors, for the most part, were real criminals. We are politically breathing an air of decency, of a firm will to guarantee democracy and the democratic rule of law. May the tragic and bizarre depredation of the three sacred palaces that make our government work never happen again.

No less tragic is the general situation of the world with the increasing degradation of the planet, the already uncontrollable increase in global warming that inaugurated a new climatic regime for the worse to the point that the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterrez, warned at the COP on the climate in Egypt in January of this year: "Either we close a climate solidarity pact or a collective suicide pact". Serious words from a serious man.

The planetary crisis is not just conjunctural but structural, as it undermines our sense of living together. It can represent a tragedy whose outcome can be devastating, as in the Greek theater, or a drama whose end can be blessed, as in the Christian liturgy. It depends on us and our ability to decide whether it will be one thing or another. But awareness is growing that we are approaching the moment when we have to decide, otherwise the crisis will cease to be a drama and become a collective tragedy, as the UN Secretary General wisely warned.

Since the advent of existentialism, especially with Sören Kierkegaard, life is understood as a permanent process of crises and overcoming crises. Ortega y Gaset showed, in a famous 1942 essay, that history, because of its ruptures and resumptions, has the structure of crisis. This obeys the following logic: (i) the dominant order fails to realize an evident meaning; (ii) begins the criticism and the perception that a wall rises in front of us, so doubt and skepticism reign; (iii) it urges a decision that creates new certainties and another meaning; but how do you decide if you don't see it clearly? but without decision there will be no way out of the crisis; (iv) once the decision is taken, even at risk, a new path and another space for freedom opens up. The crisis has been overcome. New order begins.

The crisis represents purification and opportunity for growth. We don't need to resort to the Chinese crisis diagram to know this meaning. It is enough to recall its most ancestral origin in Sanskrit, the matrix of our language. In Sanskrit, crisis comes from kir or kri which means to purify and clean. From kri comes crucible, the element with which we clean gold from the jeans and to refine which means to purify. So, the crisis represents a critical process, of purification of the core: only what is true and substantial remains, what is accidental and aggregate disappears. From the core, another order is built.

But every purification process is not done without cuts and ruptures. Hence the need for the decision. The decision operates a split with the previous and inaugurates the new. Here the Greek sense of crisis can help us. in greek krisis, crisis, means the decision taken by a judge or a doctor. The judge weighs and weighs the pros and cons and the doctor combines the various symptoms; then, both make the decision by the type of sentence or the type of treatment for the disease. This decision-making process is called a crisis. Once the decision is taken, the crisis disappears. The Gospel of Saint John uses the word crisis 30 times in the sense of decision. Jesus appears as “the crisis of the world”, because he forces people to make a decision.

In Brazil, we have always postponed the crises that would oblige us to take a leap in quality in the face of profound social injustices against the poor, the black population, the quilombolas. the indigenous people, as we have been sadly witnessing the true genocide of the Yanomami people for days.

Conciliations are always made under the pretext of governability and thus the privileges of the elites are preserved. The crisis of capitalism is notorious. It is a perverse system that has managed to take over the entire planet with its industrialism and the illusory dream of unlimited growth. He, not just humanity, is the main factor in the crisis of the life-system and the Earth-system. Its large corporations with their CEOs and technicians are more concerned with securing their earnings than taking measures to balance the emission of greenhouse gases and take the planet out of an announced tragedy.

It's a system so well-oiled that it works by itself like a robot, putting at risk the balance of the planet that must guarantee the support base of our lives. Either we overcome this system of voracious industrialism or it will make the planet uninhabitable for them and for everyone else.

Well did Plato say in the midst of the crisis of Greek culture: “great things only happen in turmoil”. With the decision, the turmoil and the crisis disappear and a new hope is born. Can we expect this for our generation subjected to so many threats?

Paulo Freire's hope can inspire us: not just waiting for things to happen for the good by themselves, but creating the objective conditions for hope to be transformed into a new order, in which, still in the words of the Master, "society don't be so mean and don't be so difficult to love”.

Leonardo Boff is a philosopher and ecologist. Author, among other books, of The search for the right measure: the ambitious fisherman and the enchanted fish (Vozes).

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