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domingo, 22 de julio de 2012


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We Westerners, the Most Responsible

              Leonardo Boff


Earthcharter Commission

The number of crises overwhelming humanity forces us to stop and take stock. It is a time for all critical observers who wish go beyond the conventional and intra-systemic speeches to philosophize.
Why have we come to the present situation, that objectively threatens the future of human life and of our civilizing work? Our response lacks serious justification: those principally responsible for putting us on this path are those who in recent centuries have held the power, the knowledge, and who owned everything. They wanted to dominate nature, conquer the whole world, subjugate its peoples and put everything at the service of their interests.
To this end they employed a powerful weapon: techno-science. Through science, they determined how nature functions, and through technology they created interventions for human benefit, with no thought for their consequences.
The men who did this were the Western Europeans. They incorporated us Latin Americans, by force, as an appendix: the Far Westerners.
These Westerners, however, are now enormously perplexed. Stunned, they ask themselves: how can we be at the center of the crisis, when we have the best knowledge, the best democracy, the best technology, the best movies, the biggest military and the best religion, Christianity?
Now these “conquests” are in question, because in spite of their value, they undeniably fail to offer us a vision of hope. We sense that the time of the West has been used up, and is already past. This is why it has lost its legitimacy and convincing strength.
Arnold Toynbee, analyzing the great civilizations, noted the following historical constant: when the answers to the challenges no longer suffice, civilizations always enter into crisis. They start to decay, until they either collapse or are assimilated by another. The new one brings renewed vigor, new dreams and new meaning for personal and collective life. What will come? Who knows. That is the crucial question.
What makes the crisis more serious is the persistent Western arrogance. Even in decay, Westerners imagine themselves to be the obligatory point of reference for everyone else.
For the Bible and the Greeks, such behavior constituted supreme deception, because it puts oneself on the same pedestal as the divinity, considered to be the supreme reference and the Last Reality. This attitude was called hybris, this is, arrogance, and extreme egotism.
It was this arrogance that led the United States intervene under false pretenses in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, and previously, in Latin America, for many years supporting military dictatorships and the shameful Operation Condor, in which hundreds of leaders of several Latin American countries were kidnapped and murdered.
With the new president, Barak Obama, a new path seemed promising, a more multipolar one, respectful of cultural differences and compassion for the vulnerable. It was a huge mistake. Obama is carrying out the imperialist trajectory, in the same line as fundamentalist Bush. He has not substantially changed anything, in this strategy of arrogance. To the contrary, Obama inaugurated something outrageous and perverse: un-declared war, using “drones”, un-manned planes. Electronically directed from cold rooms in military bases in Texas ,they attack, killing individual leaders and entire groups whom they suspect to be terrorists.
Christianity itself, in its different forms, has distanced itself from ecumenism and is taking on fundamentalist traits. There is a competition in the religious market, to see which denomination acquires more of the faithful.
We have witnessed in Rio+20 the same arrogance of the powerful, who refused to participate and to find even minimal points of convergence, that could alleviate the crisis of the Earth.
And to think that, deep down, we only seek a simple utopia, well expressed by Pablo Milanes and Chico Buarque: “history could be a happy bus, filled with contented people".

Leonardo Boff

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, alfaro_melina@yahoo.com.ar

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