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By LEONARDO BOFF*

“The right measure” can save life and planet Earth

The fair measure is a universal value, present in all cultures and represents one of the most important points of all ethical paths. It was inscribed on the porticoes of temples or public buildings, whether in Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire or elsewhere. The virtue of fair average means the middle path, not too much and not too little and the right dose. It opposes all excess and all exaggerated ambition (hybris in Greek). She recommends self-control, the capacity for detachment and renunciation.

We are convinced that one of the main causes of the current chaos, with the imbalance of planet Earth, with the devastation of almost all ecosystems, with global warming that irreversibly introduced a new warmer climate regime, which is shown by the extreme events worldwide, with the intrusion of several viruses, the worst of them so far, the coronavirus, decimating millions of lives, with the outbreak of wars in 18 different places on Earth, particularly the lethal war between Russia and Ukraine ( behind which NATO and the USA stand) is a consequence of the lack of fair measure.

This lack of fair measure is intrinsic to the paradigm of modernity, formulated in the XNUMXth/XNUMXth centuries by founding fathers such as Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and others. For these, the structuring axis of the new world to be built was based on the will to power or power, as already identified by Friedrich Nietzsche and the entire Frankfurt School. According to this new paradigm, the human being understands himself as master and owner of nature in the expression of René Descartes. He does not feel part of the natural whole. This has no meaning in itself, nor purpose, only insofar as it is ordered to the human being who treats him according to his pleasure.

In the name of this paradigm, the just measure was completely broken. European countries exerted the will to power, dominating entire peoples as in Latin America, Africa and, in part, Asia. They dominated nature, extracting unlimited goods and services from it. They dominated matter down to the last particles. They mastered the secret of life, the genetic code and the genes. All carried out in a fury without any sense of fair measure.

They brought innumerable and undeniable advantages to human life. But at the same time, for having sent the just measure to limbo, they created for themselves the principle of self-destruction with all kinds of weapons, to the point that, if they were used, there would not be a living soul left to tell the story.

In order not to stay only in concepts, we give a concrete example: the intrusion of Covid-19 that only affected humanity and not other living beings. It is a direct consequence of the will to power, of the systematic aggression of our way of inhabiting planet Earth, destroying the habitats of viruses. Without their vital niches, they advanced on human beings causing the death of millions of people. Therefore, we lacked the right balance between the necessary intervention in nature to guarantee our means of life and the exaggerated ambition of super-exploiting natural goods and services, more than we needed, in view of accumulation and enrichment.

In this way, the living Earth has lost its dynamic balance and has sent us through the coronavirus an appeal for fair measure, a message of care, self-control and overcoming all excess. That was the meaning of social confinement, the use of masks and the urgency of using the proper vaccines. Everything seems to indicate that we have not learned our lesson, as the vast majority have returned to the old normal.

Well said the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci: “history is a teacher, but it has practically no students”. In any case, we are left with the lesson that we must include the right measure in everything, nurture a friendly and fair relationship in all things, if we want to guarantee a future for human life and for our civilization.

Going straight to the fundamental question: the most immediate and visible cause of the rupture of the fair measure lies in capitalism as a mode of production and in neoliberalism as its political expression. Known are the mantras of both: profit above all, competition as its engine, unlimited exploitation of natural resources, individualism, flexibility of laws to be able to carry out its intention of domination/enrichment without hindrance.

If we had followed such mantras, a large part of humanity would have been seriously affected or even disappeared. What saved us was giving centrality to life, interdependence among all, solidarity with one another, care for nature and the laws and norms that limit oligopolies, which generate poverty for a large part of humanity.

Concerned with this ultimate issue, of life and death, we have written two books, the result of extensive worldwide research, but written in the most accessible language possible so that everyone can realize the gravity that the absence of the right measure for life means. personal, for communities, for society, for governments, for the economy, for culture and for our relationship with nature, ultimately with the Earth.

The first was published in 2022 – The ambitious fisherman and the enchanting fish: the search for the right measure. In it we prefer the narrative genre with the use of tales and myths linked to the right measure. In the second that continues the first, The quest for fair measure: how to balance planet Earth I tried in a more reflective way to go to the causes that lead us to lose the fair measure or the relative optimum.

Both books pose the harrowing question: is it possible to live the right measure within this capitalist and neoliberal system, now globalized? We respond, with some hope, that it is possible, on condition that we move from the culture of excess to a culture of fair measure, developing a new way of inhabiting the Earth, feeling ourselves part of it and brothers and sisters of all other beings. In the language of Pope Francis in the encyclical fratelli tutii operating the crossing dominus (owner) of nature for the frater (the brother and sister) among us and among all beings of nature.

For this, an ethics of fair measure is important at the personal and community level, in politics and economics, in education and spirituality. Either we organize our societies within the limits of planet Earth, living in everything the right measure, or we will be putting the future of our life and all life on Earth at risk.

Leonardo Boff is an ecologist, philosopher and writer with several texts on integral ecology and the risks facing humanity.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist and philosopher. Author, among other books by Caring for the Earth-Protecting Life: How to Avoid the End of the World (All time lap record).


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