The Path of Good Hope

Image: Ylanite Koppens


The challenge is to overcome storms

In a previous article posted on the website The Earth is Round I dealt with what I called “Brazil's planetary destiny”. Extravagant, but successful. It is perhaps worth insisting on the theme. The Brazilian is in need of encouragement. The article was kind of delusional, I know. This is what actually tends to happen – when someone dreams alone, the dream can degenerate into delirium. But when many dream together, ah, then the delusion can come true. And let's face it, our future is right there.

Does the reader want an example of how Brazil can fulfill its planetary destiny? I'm going to use an idea from Saturnino Braga, one of those Brazilians who know how to think big and who, in the midst of the storm, did not lose confidence in Brazil. I can sail in the good wind, say the Italians. The challenge is to overcome storms.

Before the pandemic, I participated with Saturnino in a panel discussion in Rio de Janeiro on the New Silk Road, that grandiose Chinese initiative, launched in 2013, which essentially consists of a collection of infrastructure projects. The name of the initiative carries a whole historical symbolism, as it evokes the ancient trade routes between Asia and Europe at a time when China was the most developed and powerful economy in the world. The New Silk Road is not limited to the original areas and also reaches Africa and Latin America.

Everyone spoke with admiration of the Chinese initiative, when suddenly our Saturnino decided to innovate. And he came up with one of those beautiful improvised songs that Brazilians, like few others, manage to produce. Why not, he asked, a Brazilian initiative – a New Route of Good Hope, which would unite the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia? Brazil would thus retrace the path of the Great Portuguese Navigations. This would be the motto that could shelter and energize a whole set of development projects and programs in Latin America, Africa and Asia, driven by Brazil.

The idea resonated with me because I had long nurtured the feeling that our country is, in fact, the natural heir to the spirit that moved Portugal's global adventure in the 15th and 16th centuries. scale, by bringing Portuguese-speaking countries from Africa and Asia to our IMF group. We were remaking, I said at the time, tongue in cheek, the trajectory of the Great Navigations.

Portugal, victim of the mongrel complex

Before developing the idea of ​​Saturnino a little, I need to open a quick parenthesis about Portugal. Brazilians, in general, know little, understand little about Portugal. Which is complete nonsense, for at least two reasons.

The first, obvious reason is that the Portuguese, along with other peoples, formed us. More than that: Portugal led the creation of this huge country that would become Brazil. And he bequeathed us, among other things, the beautiful national language – for my taste more beautiful, by the way, in several of the Brazilian pronunciations than in its original homeland.

The second reason is that Portugal was a really extraordinary nation. That small country, at one end of Europe, became the vanguard of the worldwide expansion of European civilization. He launched himself into the Atlantic Ocean, traveled along the coast of Africa, discovered the way to the Indies, skirting the fearsome Cape of Storms, renamed Cape of Good Hope by King João II. And it reached not only India, but China and Japan. As a bonus, he crossed the Atlantic and created Brazil.

Brazilians have always had some difficulty realizing the importance of Portugal for us and for the world. In the past, the most common was simple contempt, expressed in laments such as “it's a shame we weren't colonized by the Dutch or the French”, “it's a shame they couldn't establish a foothold in Rio de Janeiro, São Luís and Pernambuco”. Our destiny would have been different, it was imagined. All that was left was to transform Calabar (a forerunner of the marreco de maringá) into a national hero. What was hidden behind it (and it wasn't even very hidden) was an old acquaintance of ours – the indefectible mongrel complex. Contempt for Portugal was, at heart, a facet of the national tendency to self-deprecation.

 More recently, another way to attack the Portuguese has emerged. In certain circles, the tendency is to stigmatize them as invaders, colonizers, slaveholders and genociders. They try to rewrite history from the point of view of the defeated and enslaved. It is a legitimate effort, which will allow for a much more complete and fair view of our national formation. The only thing we cannot lose sight of is that Portugal is in us, in our blood, in our culture, as are the Africans, the original peoples and other peoples who came here. To deny Portugal is to deny a huge piece of Brazil and our history.

 I learned that even in Portugal the “decolonizing” rage is felt and there are those who ask for the removal of that famous monument to the Great Navigations in Lisbon, “The Monument to the Discoveries”, one of the emblems of the city. It won't win. The day Portugal ceases to be proud of its glorious past will be exactly the end. Can close for balance.

Perhaps the best introduction to the greatness of Portugal is the book Message by Fernando Pessoa, one of the few works published by him during his lifetime and dedicated, in large part, to the Portuguese maritime adventure. “The endless sea”, wrote Pessoa, “will be Greek or Roman: the endless sea will be Portuguese”. In my wild ignorance as a Brazilian, I only realized the greatness of Portugal when I became acquainted with this work by Pessoa.

Message it's a wonder from the first verse to the last. See, reader, for example, the poem “Horizon”:

O sea before us, your fears
They had coral and beaches and groves.
Unraveled the night and the fog,
Past storms and mystery,
The Far Away opened in bloom, and the siderian South
Splendia on the ships of initiation.

Severe line of the far coast
When the ship approaches, the slope rises
In trees where the Far had nothing;
Closer, the earth opens up in sounds and colors:
And, when disembarking, there are birds, flowers,
Where there was only, from afar, the abstract line.

The dream is to see the invisible forms
From imprecise distance, and, with sensitive
Movements of hope and will,
Search the horizon's cold line
The tree, the beach, the flower, the bird, the fountain
The deserved kisses of Truth.


I make an appeal here to the reader: be sure to read or reread Message, an indispensable book to understand our history and also our future.

Brazil, heir of the great Portuguese navigations

I return, then, to our planetary destiny and the idea of ​​the Saturnine. Portugal, a small country, diluted in the European Union, can perhaps only remain faithful to its past in alliance with Brazil. He no longer has the energy and drive he once had. Our country, one of the world's giants, has everything to recapture the spirit of the Great Portuguese Navigations. This is the meaning of the brilliant Saturnine metaphor.

What could the New Route of Good Hope be? Like the Chinese initiative, it could take the form of a set of infrastructure and sustainable development projects and programs formulated and/or financed by Brazil in collaboration with other Latin American, African and Asian nations. The focus would be development adapted to the demands of the 21st century – a development based, therefore, on not only economic and financial sustainability, but also social and environmental sustainability. The climate emergency would make the issue of the green economy assume a central role in the New Route of Good Hope. It is, in a word, about contributing to save the planet.

We have instruments for this that can be mobilized or recovered. BNDES, Embrapa, contractors and other Brazilian companies with an international presence. We have a diplomatic corps of excellence at Itamaraty that would help pave the way for the initiative. The BRICS Bank, if it is capable of expanding the number of its member countries, can also be dynamized to help finance projects and programs of the Route of Good Hope – not least because it was the first multilateral development bank to address the environmental issue inscribed in its Constitutive Agreement.

Notice, reader, the name of the initiative – “Boa Esperança”. Brazil must be the bearer of a new message of solidarity, respect and equality among nations. Among the great countries, I repeat, only Brazil, due to its characteristics, its history and its unique formation, is cut out to bring this message of hope to everyone.

What will be up to us to do soon will be to transform what may seem mere delusion into reality. It is, as Pessoa wrote, dreaming of invisible forms and searching the cold line of the horizon, with hope and will, for the tree, the beach, the flower, the bird, the fountain – the well-deserved kisses of Truth.

Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. he holds the Celso Furtado Chair at the College of High Studies at UFRJ. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS in Shanghai. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard: backstage of the life of a Brazilian economist in the IMF and the BRICS and other texts on nationalism and our mongrel complex (LeYa)

Extended version of article published in the journal Capital letter, on August 06, 2021.


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