The current coronavirus pandemic represents a unique opportunity for us to rethink our way of inhabiting the Common Home; the way we produce, consume and relate to nature.
The time has come to question the virtues of the capitalist order: unlimited accumulation, competition, individualism, indifference towards the misery of millions of people, the downsizing of the State and the exaltation of the Wall Street motto: “greed is good”.
All of this has been undermined now. It can no longer continue.
What will save us now are not private companies but the State with its public health policies – always under the attack of the “free” market system – and also the virtues of the new paradigm, advanced by many and also by me: care, social solidarity, co-responsibility and compassion.
The first to see the urgency of this change was the French president: a neoliberal from the world of finance, E. Macron.
He said it very clearly:
“Dear compatriots: tomorrow we will have time to draw lessons from the moment we are going through; to question the development model that our world chose decades ago and that shows its failures in the light of today; to question the weaknesses of our democracies.
“What this pandemic reveals is that free health – not tied to income, personal history or profession – and our Social Welfare State are not costs or burdens but precious goods, indispensable benefits when fate knocks on the door.
“What this pandemic reveals is that there are goods and services which must be outside the laws of the market”.
Here is a full awareness that a market-only economy – which commodifies everything – and its political expression – neoliberalism – are evil for society and for the future of life.
Even more forceful was journalist Naomi Klein, one of the most insightful critics of the world-system, who provides the title of this article: “The coronavirus is the perfect disaster for disaster capitalism”.
This pandemic has produced the collapse of the stock market, the heart of this speculative, individualistic and anti-life system, as Pope Francis calls it.
This system violates the most universal law of the cosmos, of nature and of the human being: the interdependence of everyone with everyone; that there is no being, much less us humans, that is an island disconnected from everything else.
Furthermore, the system does not recognise that we are part of nature and that the Earth doesn’t belong to us to exploit it as we please; we belong to Earth.
In the vision of the best cosmologists and astronauts who see the unity of Earth and humanity, we are that part of Earth that feels, thinks, loves, cares and venerates.
By overexploiting nature and the Earth as we’re doing around the world, we harm ourselves and expose ourselves to the reactions and even the punishments that it imposes on us.
Earth is a generous mother, but she can rebel and send us a devastating virus.
I support the thesis that this pandemic cannot be fought just with economic and health means, which are always indispensable.
It demands a different relationship with nature and the Earth.
If after the crisis has passed we don’t make the necessary changes, the next time may be the last, since we will have become staunch enemies of the Earth. And she may no longer want us here.
Professor Neil Ferguson’s report from Imperial College London stated:
“This is the most dangerous virus since the H1N1 flu of 1918. If there is no answer, there could be 2.2 million deaths in the United States and 510,000 in the United Kingdom”.
This statement was enough for Trump and Johnson to immediately change their positions.
In the meantime, in Brazil, the President doesn’t care; he treats the pandemic as “hysteria” and, in the words of a German journalist from Deutsche Welle:
“He’s acting criminally. Brazil is run by a psychopath and the country would do well to get rid of him as soon as possible. There would be many reasons for this”.
It is what Parliament and the STF [the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice – ed.], for love of the people, should do without delay.
Hyperinformation and appeals by all the media are not enough. They don’t move us to the required change in behaviour.
We have to awaken sensible and cordial reason. We have to overcome indifference and feel the pain of others in our hearts.
No one is immune to the virus. Rich and poor, we have to be in solidarity with each other, to take care of ourselves personally and of others, and to take collective responsibility.
There is no escape. Either we recognise ourselves as humans – co-equal in the same Common Home – or we will all sink.
Women, like never before in history, have a special mission: they know about life and about the care that’s needed. They can help us to awaken our sensitivity to others and to ourselves.
They together with health workers (medical and nursing staff) deserve our unlimited support.
We have to care for those who care for us so as to minimise the evils of this terrible assault on human life.
*Boff is a well-known Brazilian liberation theologian.