Boff, The political strength of hope

One of many “Temer Out!” demonstrations, this one in São Paulo. Photo by Rovena Rosa via Wikimedia.

The political strength of hope

by Leonardo Boff

We live in times of great social unrest. There has been a kind of earthquake, provoked not by nature, but by politics.

There was a coup d’état by the moneyed class, their privileges threatened by the beneficiaries of the social policies of the governments of the Labor Party, PT, (from the Portuguese, Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT), that lifted them to places from which they had been excluded before. To that end, they used the parliament, as the military had done in 1964. The removal of President Dilma Rousseff, democratically elected, served the ends of these economic elites (0.05% of the population, according to the Institute of Applied Economic Research, IPEA, (from the Portuguese, Instituto de Pesquisa e Economia Aplicada), allowing them control of the apparatus of the state, thus guaranteeing their historic-social status based on privilege and dirty business. Having made corruption seem natural, they had no scruples about amending the constitution and introducing reforms that eliminated workers’ rights, and profoundly modified Social Security benefits.

Corruption, first detected by the intelligence branches of the United States, and passed on to our judicial system, enabled the installation of a judicial process called Lava Jato. There an unimaginable scheme of corruption was detected, involving large enterprises, both of the state and private enterprises, their funds and other organs, under the logic of inheritance. The corruption identified was of such a magnitude that it scandalized the world. It caused the bankruptcy of states of the federation, such as, for example, Rio de Janeiro.

Many, including myself, have not received our salaries as university professors, retired or not, since December, 2016.

The result is a political, judicial and institutional disaster. It would be deceitful to say that the institutions are functioning. Every institution is contaminated by corruption. Justice is shamefully biased, especially Justice Sergio Moro and much of the Public Ministry, backed by a reactionary press with no commitment to the truth. This “justice” openly carries on a furious and contemptible persecution against former President Inacio Lula and his political party, the Labor Party, PT, the largest in the country. They want to destroy his unquestionable leadership, defame his biography and in any way possible, keep him from becoming a candidate. They push his prosecution, grounded more on political convictions that actual evidence, in order to impede his candidacy, which is preferred by the majority.

The consequence is a painful lack of hope. But it is important to retake the politically transforming character of hope. Ernst Bloch, the great philosopher of hope, talks of the hope-principle, which is more than the common virtue of hope. It is the impulse that lives within us, that always moves us, that projects dreams and utopias, and from failure, finds reasons for resistance and struggle.

From Saint Augustine, perhaps the greatest Christian genius, a great inventor of phrases, comes this sentence: hope has two beloved daughters: Indignation and Courage; Indignation teaches us to reject things as they are, and Courage inspires us to change them.

At this moment we first must evoke the daughter Indignation: facing what the Temer government is criminally perpetrating against the people, the indigenous, the small farmers, women, the workers and the elderly — taking away their rights and lowering millions of Brazilians from poverty into abject misery. Not even national sovereignty is safe, because the Temer government is allowing the sale of national lands to foreigners.

If the government offends the people, the people has the right to invoke daughter-Indignation, not giving the government peace, but demanding in the streets and squares that it be removed, because it is already being accused of criminal corruption and is the result of a coup, and for that reason, lacks legitimacy.

Daughter Courage is seen in the movement for change, even though the confrontations could be dangerous. Courage keeps our spirits high, sustains us in the struggle and can lead us to victory. It is important to follow the advice of Don Quixote: “Do not accept defeat if the last battle has not yet been fought.”

A fact that we must always keep in mind is that reality is not only what is visible, like something we can reach out and touch. What is real is more than the things that we can see. The real carries within itself hidden potentialities and possibilities that can be brought out and become new facts.

One of these possibilities is that of invoking the first article of the constitution that says: “All power comes from the people.” Government and politicians are only delegates of the people. When they betray the people, they no longer represent the general interest, but the interests of the enterprises that finance their elections. The people has the right to remove them from power quickly, through direct elections.

“Temer out and direct elections now” is not a slogan just of groups, but of great multitudes. Daughter Courage must demand this option as our right, the only one that will guarantee authority and credibility to a government capable of leading us out of the present crisis.

The two daughters of hope could make their own this phrase of Albert Camus: “In the middle of winter I discovered there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

Leonardo Boff is a Brazilian theologian and philosopher, and a member of the Earthcharter Commission.


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