The Third World and Globalization
By Michael Fluckiger
[The Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff sees an ethical and ecological chance in globalization. This article originally published in: Neue Luzerner Zeitung, November 24, 2001 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.neue-lz.ch/.]
Leonardo Boff, author of numerous books, is one of the most distinguished advocates of liberation theology and the concerns of the Third World. Although the 63 year-old teaches at the University of Rio de Janeiro and gives addresses in North America and Europe, he is both a theoretician and a practical person. In his home country, he sacrificially does his utmost for street children in a relief organization directed by him and his brother.
Social and Ecological Crisis
In a lecture based on his latest book "Ethics for a New World" intended as a complement to Kung's "Project World Ethos", Boff touches on two complex questions: the social crisis and the ecological crisis.
Boff shows the social crisis in the example of his country. A million children left to themselves live on the street. Another seven million street children have a very sporadic social network. A half-million underage girls make ends meet through prostitution.
In Brazil, 50 percent of the gross domestic product is concentrated in 10 percent of the population. 30 to 35 million persons of the 170 million inhabitants live below the poverty line. In this world, around half of humanity is excluded through the enormous disparity between poor and rich. This injustice is a tremendous challenge. Guidelines must oppose the intense economic orientation so an ethical consensus can claim universal authority. Boff sees the deficient sensitivity spreading more and more as most responsible for the problems in realizing such an ethic rather than the exploitation of the poor themselves. The withdrawal from the problems of others must be broken through a new spirituality urging dialogue and discouraging stopping at one's own ego.
As Boff explains, humanity can hardly survive without a new world-embracing ethic. This is also true for the ecological crisis and the Amazon problematic. For Boff, nature is interwoven in a social sensitivity. The cooperation of all life is a basic law of the cosmos, as biologists and anthropologists teach. The earth as a whole (including living beings and plants) can only survive through cooperation. This consciousness must prevail again in the community of humanity.
Urgent Need for Action
In his address, Leonardo Boff emphasized the urgent need for action. However prescriptions can only be mentioned at the margin. When a German says to him, you have your problems and we have ours, this is sobering, as the committed theologian reveals. At least he could shake up this man by explaining that 52 percent of the wealth of west Germany is produced in low-wage countries. This deficient sensitivity completely ignores causal connections and stands in the way of a genuine solidarity.