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Leonardo Boff: It is Urgent to Review the Fundamentals

The combination of different crises, some related to the moment, others systemic, forces us all to work on two fronts: one, intra-systemic, seeking immediate solutions in orderto save lives, guarantee jobs and production, and to avoid collapse. The other, trans-systemic, elaborating a rigorous critique of the theoretical fundamentals that have brought us to the present chaos, and developing others that may engender an alternative that on another level allows the continuity of the human planetary project.

Each historical epoch needs a myth that unifies people, galvanizes forces and imprints a new path to history. The founding myth of modernity rests in reason, that, since the time of the Greeks, has been the structural axis of society. Reason creates science, transforms it into techniques of intervention in nature and purports to dominate all its forces. For this, according to Francis Bacon, the founder of the scientific method, nature must be tortured until she gives up all her secrets. This reason believes in unlimited progress and creates a society that strives to be autonomous, built on order and progress. Reason presumed to foresee all, handle all, control all, organize all and create all. It occupied all the spaces. It dispatched into limbo other forms of knowledge.

Now after more than three hundred years of exaltating reason, we witness its madness, because only a reason gone mad would organize a society where 20% of the population possesses 80% of the wealth of the Earth. The three richest people in the world have assets greater than the combined wealth of the 40 poorest countries, where 600 million people live; 257 individuals alone accumulate more wealth than 2.8 billion persons, equivalent to 45% of humanity; five thousand families in Brazil hold 46% of the national wealth. The madness of productive and consumerist reason has caused the global warming that is already bringing visible imbalances, and will decimate thousands of species, including the human race.

The dictatorship of reason has created the market society with its typical culture, a certain form of living, producing, consuming, of making science, educating, teaching and molding the collective subjectivity. These must be attuned to its dynamics and values, always seeking to maximize earnings through the marketing of everything. Now, this culture, called modern, capitalist, bourgeois, occidental, and now, globalized, has entered into crisis. It is manifested through the various current crises, all of which are expressions of one unique crisis: the crisis of fundamentals. It is not about rejecting reason, but of questioning its arrogance (hubris)and critiquing its narrowness of vision. What reason needs most at this moment is to be complemented with sensible reason (M. Maffesoli),with emotional intelligence (D. Goleman), with cordial reason (A. Cortina),with the education of the senses (J. F. Duarte Jr.), with the science of conscience (E. Morin), with spiritual intelligence (D. Zohar), with concern (D. R. Winnicott), and with caring, as I have personally been proposing for a long time.

It is the profound feeling (pathos) that lets us hear the cry of the Earth and the heartbreaking outcry of millions of starving human beings. It is not cold reason, but the sensible one, that moves people to bring those suffering down from their crosses, that they may live. This is why it is urgent to critique the dominant model of science, to radically impugn the applications that are made more in function of profit than of life, to unmask the present model of development that is unsustainable because it is highly predatory and unjust.

Sensibility, cordiality, caring, taken to all levels, with nature, in social relations and in everyday life can cement, together with reason, a utopia we can touch with our hands because it is instantly practicable. These are the fundamentals of the paradigm of a civilization that is being born, which gives us life and hope.

Leonardo Boff

Earthcharter Commission