Monday, 21 January 2013

Attitudes for confronting the current crisis

by Leonardo Boff
Earthcharter Commission

No one can be indifferent to the present crisis. Decisions and finding a liberating solution are urgent. To avoid being mistaken, we will present here a few possibilities, and see which is best.

The first attitude is that of the catastrophists: the flight to the depth. They emphasize the chaotic aspect that inheres in every crisis. They see the crisis as a catastrophe, a decomposition and the end of the current order. To them, the current crisis is something abnormal that must be avoided at all cost. They accept only certain adjustments and changes within the same structure. But they make them with so many objections that they undermine any innovative change.

The good pope John XXIII already said about catastrophists, referring to the Church, but applicable to any field: «Real life is not a collection of antiquities. It is not about visiting a museum or an academy of the past. One lives to progress, learning from the experiences of the past, but always going forward».

The generalized crisis does not have to end with a fall into the abyss. As Pierre Furter, a Swiss philosopher and pedagogue who loves Brazil very much, wrote: «To characterize the crisis as a sign of a universal collapse is a subtle and perfidious way that the powerful and privileged avoid changes, by devaluing them beforehand».

The second attitude is that of the conservatives: the flight backwards. They point to the past, looking through the rear view mirror. Instead of taking advantage of the forces contained in the present crisis, they fly to the past and seek old solutions for new problems. That is why they are archaic and ineffective.

A large portion of the political institutions and world economic organisms, such as the IMF, the World Bank, the OMC, the G-20, but also most Churches and religions, seek to solve the grave problems of the world with the same old principles. They favor inertia and slow down innovative solutions.

Leaving things as they are will inevitably lead us to failure, to an unimaginable ecological and humanitarian crisis. Since the old formulas have exhausted their ability to convince and to innovate, they will end up turning the crisis into a tragedy.

The third attitude is of the utopists: the flight ahead. They try to solve the crisis-situation by flying towards the future. They are on the same plane as the conservatives, but facing the opposite direction. Therefore, utopists and conservatives can easily reach agreement.

They are generally headstrong and forget that in history only those revolutions that are made take place. The last slogan is not a new thought. The most audacious critics can also be the most sterile. It is not uncommon for audacious non-conformism to be nothing but evasiveness in facing hard reality.

There are presently all types of futurist utopias around. Many are of an esoteric character, such as those who speak of the alignment of cosmic energies that affect our minds. Others project utopias founded in the dream that biotechnology and nano-technology will solve all our problems and make human life immortal.

A fourth attitude is of the escapists: they flee within. They see the darkening of the horizon and of the fundamental convictions, but ignore the ecological alarms and the cries of the oppressed. They avoid confrontation, preferring not to know, not to hear, not to read and not to question themselves. These people do not want to coexist. They prefer the solitude of the individual, but are generally connected to the Internet and social networks.

Finally, there is a fifth attitude: that of the responsible: they face the here and now. They are those who develop answers, which is why I call them responsible. They are not afraid, nor do they run away, in order to avoid. Rather, they assume the risk of developing new paths. They seek to strengthen the positive forces contained within the crisis, and formulate answers to problems. They do not reject the past simply because it is the past. They learn from the past as the repository of great experience that should not be wasted, but not as an excuse for not undergoing their own experiences.

The responsible define themselves as being in favor of and not simply by being against. Nor do they waste their time in sterile polemics. They work and are profoundly committed to developing a model that corresponds to the needs of the time. They are open to criticism and self-criticism, always ready to learn.

What is most in demand now are politicians, leaders, groups, and others who feel responsible, and who force the passage from the olden times to the new.

Leonardo Boff


Free translation from the Spanish sent by

Melina Alfaro,, done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU


  1. No-one can really take any positive steps regarding 'the present crisis'. There is no such thing. There are, in reality, many particular crises which demand particular, informed and creative solutions. We do ourselves no service by talking of a 'present crisis' and seeking to label our fellow human-beings with stereotypes as a means towards a spuriously intellectual solution.

  2. No reference to God in Leonardo Boff's text. Is 'We are Church' embracing a secular agenda?


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