What Earth do we want? What common house do we want to live in?

Almost two years ago, in February 2019, Pope Francis, while visiting the United Arab Emirates, signed an important document in Abu Dahbi with the Grand Imam Al Azhar Amad Al-Tayyeb “On human fraternity for the sake of peace and common coexistence”. Subsequently, the UN established February 4 as the Day of Human Fraternity.

All are generous efforts that aim if not to eliminate, at least to minimize the deep divisions that prevail in humanity. Aiming for a universal fraternity seems a distant dream, but always desired.

The great obstacle to fraternity: the will to power

The structuring axis of world societies and of our type of civilization, as we have previously reflected, is the will to power as domination.

There are no declarations on the unity of the human species and universal fraternity, as well as the better known “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” of 1948 by the UN, enriched with the rights of nature and the Earth that manage to impose limits on the voracity of power

Thomas Hobbes understood it well in his Leviathan (1615): “I note, as a general tendency of all men, a perpetual and restless desire for power and more power that ceases only with death; The reason for this lies in the fact that power cannot be secured except by seeking even more power.”. Jesus fell victim to this power and was judicially murdered on the cross. Our modern culture has mastered death, because with the total extermination machine already created, it can eliminate life on Earth and itself. How to control the demon of power that inhabits us? Where to find the medicine?

The renunciation of all power through radical humility

Here St. Francis opened a way for us: radical humility and pure simplicity. Radical humility implies placing oneself close to the humus, to the earth, where everyone meets and becomes brothers and sisters because everyone comes from the same humus. The way to do this consists of stepping down from the pedestal where we place ourselves as lords and owners of nature and operating a radical divestiture of any title of superiority. It consists in making oneself really poor, in the sense of removing everything that stands between the I and the other. That's where the interests are hidden. These cannot prevail, as they are obstacles to the encounter with the other, eye to eye, face to face, empty-handed for the fraternal embrace between brothers and sisters, however different they may be.

Poverty does not represent any asceticism. It is the way that makes us discover fraternity, together on the same humus, on sister and mother Earth The poorer the more brother of the Sun, the Moon, the poor, the animal, the water, the cloud and the stars.

Francis humbly walked this path. He did not deny the obscure origins of our existence, from humus (where homor in Latin) and in this way fraternized with all beings, calling them with the sweet name of brothers and sisters, even the fierce wolf of Gubbio.


Another type of presence in the world

We have to do with a new presence in the world and society, not as one who imagines himself to be the crown of creation on top of everyone, but as one who is at the foot and together with other beings. Through this universal fraternity, the humblest find their dignity and their joy in being by feeling welcomed and respected and by having their place guaranteed in the group of beings.

Leclerc obstinately asks the question again and again as someone who is not completely convinced: “Is fraternity possible between human beings? he answers himself: “Only if human beings place themselves with great humility, among creatures, within a unity of creation (which includes human beings and nature as a whole) and respecting all forms of life, including the most humble, he can wait a day to form a true fraternity with all his fellow men. The human brotherhood passes through this cosmic brotherhood” (p. 93).

Fraternity is accompanied by simplicity. This is no sappy or sanctimonious attitude. It is a way of being, removing everything that is superfluous, all kinds of things that we accumulate, making ourselves hostage to them, creating inequalities and barriers against others and refusing to live in solidarity with them and to be content with them. if with enough, sharing it with others.

This path was not easy for Francis. He felt responsible for the path of radical poverty and fraternity. As the number of followers grew, by the thousands, a minimum organization was required. There were beautiful examples from the past. Francisco had a real aversion to that. He goes so far as to say: “don't talk to me about the rules of Saint Augustine, Saint Benedict or Saint Bernard; God wanted me to be one new crazy in this world (novellus Pazzus)”. It is a clear affirmation of the uniqueness of his way of life and his being in the world and in the Church, as a simple layman, who takes the Gospel absolutely seriously, in the midst of and among the poor and invisible, and not as a cleric of the powerful Church. feudal.

San Francisco's Great Temptation

However, at a given moment in his life, he entered a deep crisis, as he saw that his evangelical path of radical poverty and fraternity was being taken away from him. Embittered, he retired to a hermitage and the woods for two long years, accompanied by his close friend Friar Leão “the little sheep of God”. It is the great temptation that biographies give it little relevance, but essential to understand Francisco's life proposal.

Finally, this instinct of spiritual possession is stripped away. Accept a path that is not yours, but which was inevitable. Where would the friars sleep? How would they support themselves? He prefers to save the fraternity than his own ideal. Jovially welcomes the iron logic of necessity. He doesn't want anything anymore. He completely stripped himself of even his most intimate desires to the point that his biographer São Boaventua called him come desideriorum (man of desires).

Now, completely stripped of his spirit, he lets himself be led by God. The Spirit will be the master of your destiny. He himself proposes nothing else. He is at the mercy of whatever life asks of him, seeing it as God's will. He felt in this the greatest possible freedom of spirit that was expressed by a permanent joy to the point of being called “the always cheerful brother”. He no longer occupies the center. The center is life led by God. And that's enough.

He returns to the midst of the confreres and regains his joviality and the full joy of life. But following the call of the Spirit, as in the beginning, he returns to live with the lepers, whom he calls “my Christs” in deep fraternal communion. He never abandons the deep communion with his sister and Mother Earth. As he dies, he asks to be placed naked on Earth for the last caress and total communion with her.

The unity of creation: we are all brothers and sisters, humans and nature

Francis tirelessly sought the unity of creation through universal fraternity, a unity that includes human beings and beings of nature. Everything starts with fraternity with all creatures, loving and respecting them. If we do not cultivate this fraternity with them, human fraternity will be in vain, which becomes merely rhetorical and continually violated.

Interestingly, the renowned anthropologist Claude Lévy Strauss, who for some years taught and researched in Brazil, learned to love it (see his book Smiss Brazil) confronted with the appalling crisis of our culture suggests the same remedy as San Francisco: “the starting point must be an main humility: respect all forms of life…to be concerned about man without being concerned about other forms of life is, whether we like it or not, to lead humanity to oppress itself, to open the way for self-oppression and self-exploration” (Le Monde, January 21-22, 1999). In the face of planetary threats, he also stated: “The Earth came into being without human beings and will be able to continue without human beings”.

Let's go back to our historical moment: social confinement created the involuntary conditions for us to pose this fundamental question: What is essential: life or profit? The care of nature or its unlimited exploitation? Finally what Earth do we want? What common house do we want to live in? Only us human beings or together with all the other brothers and sisters of the great community of life, realizing the unity of creation?

The Pope during the pandemic took the time to reflect on this momentous question. He expressed it in severe terms, almost desperate in Fratelli tutti although, as a man of faith, he always maintained and reaffirmed hope.

The survivor of the Nazi death camp, Eloi Leclerc, relocated it in an existential and permanently anguished way, but with hints of hope, within frequent shocks caused by the inerasable memory of the horrors suffered in the Nazi death camps.

If it cannot be a state, fraternity can be a new type of presence in the world.

Francis lived the universal fraternity in personal terms. But overall it failed. He had to come to terms with order and with power. And he did so without bitterness, recognizing and embracing its inevitability. It is the permanent tension between charisma and power. Power is a component of the essence of the social human being. Power is not a thing (the State, the President, the police), but a relationshipthe between people and things. At the same time it takes the form of an instance of social direction. However, we must qualify the relationship and the direction. Are both at the service of the good of all or of groups, which then reveals itself as exclusion and domination? To avoid this mode (the demon that inhabits it), prevalent in modernity, it must always be put under control, thought and lived from the charisma. This represents a limit to power to guarantee its character of service to life and the good of all and to avoid the temptation of domination and even despotism. Charisma is always creative and puts established power in check.

Answering the question whether a universal fraternity is possible, I would say: “within the world we live in under the empire of power-domination over people, nations and nature, it is always unfeasible and even denied. Over here on the road”.

However, if it cannot be experienced as a permanent state, it can be realized as a spirit, as a new presence and as a way of being that tries to permeate all relations even within the present order which is a disorder. But this is only possible on the condition that each person is humble, placing himself close to the other and at the foot of nature, overcoming inequalities and seeing in each one, a brother and a sister, placed on the same earthly humus where our common origins and on which we live.

San Francisco time and our time

Francisco de Assis, in the troubled context of his time, in the decline of feudalism and the dawn of communes, showed the real possibility of creating, at least on a personal level, a limitless fraternity. But his impulse took him further: to create a global fraternity by uniting the two worlds of that time: the Muslim world of the Egyptian sultan Al Malik al-Kâmil, with whom he nurtured great friendship, the Christian world under the pontificate of Pope Innocent III, the most powerful in Church history. In this way, he would realize his greatest dream: a truly universal fraternity, in the unity of creation, fraternizing human beings with other human beings, even of different religions, but united with all other beings of creation.

This spirit, in the context of the reigning anthropocene and necrocene destructive forces, is confronted with a situation totally different from that experienced by Francis of Assisi. It did not question whether the Earth and nature had a future or not. It was assumed that everything was guaranteed. The same happened in the great economic and financial crisis of 1929 and even in 2008. Nobody questioned the limits of the Earth and its non-renewable goods and services. It was an assumption that was taken for granted, since, for everyone, it appeared like a trunk full of unlimited resources, the basis for unlimited growth. At Laudato Si the Pope calls this conception a lie.

Today is not like that anymore. Everything disappeared, because we know that we can destroy ourselves and shake the physical, chemical and ecological foundations that sustain life.

The spirit of fraternity as a requirement for the continuity of our life on the planet

We are not faced with an option, which we can assume or not. In the face of a requirement for the continuity of our life on this planet. We find ourselves in a threatening situation for our species and our civilization.

The COVID-19 that has affected all of humanity must be interpreted as a sign from Mother Earth that we cannot continue with the domination and devastation of everything that exists and lives. Either we do, as Pope Francis of Rome warns in the light of Francis of Assisi's spirit and a new way of being in the world, "a radical ecological conversion" (No. 5) or we put our future as a species at risk: "The catastrophic predictions can no longer be viewed with contempt and irony. Our unsustainable lifestyle and consumerism can only lead to catastrophes” (Laudat Si n. 161). At Frateli tucts it is more forceful: “We are in the same boat, no one can be saved alone, it is only possible to be saved together” (n. 32). This is a final card for humanity.

The emergence of conditions for a universal brotherhood

But here comes a new possible alternative, because history is not rectilinear. She knows breaks and jumps. Thus we would be facing a leap in the state of consciousness of humanity. There may come a time when it becomes fully aware that it can self-destruct either through a phenomenal ecological, social and health crisis (attacked by lethal viruses) or through nuclear war. He will understand that it is preferable to live fraternally in the same Common House than to surrender to collective suicide. It will be forced to convince itself that the most sensible and wise solution consists in taking care of the only Common Home, the Earth, living within it, all, like brothers and sisters, nature included. Humanity is certainly not condemned to self-destruction, neither by the desire for power-domination nor by the military apparatus capable of eliminating all life. It is called to develop the countless potentialities that are within it, as an advanced moment of cosmogenesis.

It will then be a given of the collective conscience what the encyclicals Laudato Si and Fratelli tutti they repeat from end to end: we are all related to each other, we are all interdependent and we will only survive together. Everything will be relational, including companies, generating a general balance based on social love, a sense of fraternal belonging, altruism, solidarity and common care for all common things (water, food, housing, security, freedom and culture etc.).

Everyone will feel like a citizen of the world and an active member of their community. There will be a plural planetary government (of men and women, representatives of all countries and cultures) that will seek global solutions to global problems. An earthly hyperdemocracy will prevail. The great collective mission is to build the Earth, as already in the Gobi desert, in China, back in 1933, announced Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. We will witness the slow and sustained emergence of noosphere, that is to say, of the minds and hearts attuned within the one planet Earth. This is our act of faith.

Now the conditions of the dream of Francis of Assisi and Francis of Rome will be given: a real human fraternity, of a true social love together with the other brothers and sisters of nature.

It is up to us as people and as a collectivity to think and rethink with the utmost seriousness, to ask and ask this question again: Within the changed situation of Earth and humanity and the threats that weigh on them does not represent a pure dream and unviable utopia to seek a spirit of universal fraternity among humans and with all beings of nature and realize it collectively. This will be the great exit that can save us. Pope Francis believes and hopes that this is the way to go. It can be tortuous, meet obstacles and take detours, but it goes in the right direction.

We are urged to respond, as the clock is ticking against us. Or do we welcome the proposal of the most inspiring figure in the West, the humble Francis of Assisi, as Tomás Kempis, author of Imitation of Christ and resumed in Fratelli tutti by Francisco de Roma and rethought by Leclerc and Lévy Strauss or we will be able to follow a path already traveled by dinosaurs 67 million years ago. But we believe that this is not the destiny of humanity.

All that remains for us is to walk this path of universal fraternity and social love, because then we will be able to continue, under the beneficent light of the sun, on this little planet, blue and white, Earth, our dear home and our common home. Dixi et salvavi animam meam.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist. Author, among other books by The covid-19: Earth's counterattack against humanity (Voices).


See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table