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Brazil – the other economy

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Mons. Pedro Casaldáliga, bishop emeritus of São Félix do Araguaia, Brazil, gives us the meaning of the ‘other economy’, which “cannot be merely economic. It has to be integral, ecological, and intercultural, at the service of Living Well and Living Well Together, in building human completeness”

When we talk about the “Other Economy,” we are not talking about a new topic but about one that fits in well with the utopian struggle of such a large part of humanity through movements and revolutions. These have different names but are always searching for justice and struggling against hunger and slavery, against political regimes that denied land and bread to an immense majority of humanity.
We speak of the Other Economy. It really is other: radically alternative and not simply a matter of “economic reforms.” The God of Life frees us from cheap reformism. The Other Economy cannot be merely economic. It has to be integral, ecological, and intercultural, at the service of Living Well and Living Well Together, in building human completeness. It must dismantle the current economic framework, which is exclusively at the service of the global market, without loyalty to any country. An economy that destroys people and commits genocide on entire peoples. We dream of a systemic change that attends to the necessities and aspirations of the entire human family united in the common home, the Oikos. “Oiko-nomia” is “the administration of the household” with fraternity as its law.
eco2This other economy can only be realised if it is based on a human and humanizing consciousness that denies the scandalous inequality of our current society. It is an economy for all peoples, in a communion of struggles and hopes, just like the campesino who had dreams for all his nine sons. We are dreaming at the level of the family or neighbourhood, of the city or the entire country, of the continent or the entire world. We are always thinking of the poor and excluded, building on the land of the People, based on their sweat, their cries, their songs, the blood spilled by so many martyrs.
In its 248th edition the journal “Iglesia Viva” wrote about the great crisis: “The only way to get beyond this crisis and avoid others that would be even more serious is to overcome inequality in all its manifestations.” The reports of the UNDP remind us that the richest 20% of the world population use 80% of the world’s wealth and that the poorest 20% have to be content with 1.6%. According to Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, political critic, and activist, 230 families possess 80% of the world’s wealth. As long as these statistics of monstrous inequality continue, there will be no peace or justice in the world. The Other Economy socializes common goods that are the wealth of all humanity: land, water, housing, health, education, work, communication, and transportation. The speculative, financial market rules the world and eco5everything is submitted to a macro-dictatorship of the neoliberal, capitalist economy. Instead of a social policy, a global market and its speculative, financial economy have been imposed. The civilization that rules today is the capitalist structure of egotism, arrogance, exclusion, hunger, and premature death.
Ignacio Ellacuría, the martyr theologian, fought for “the civilization of poverty.” I would use the “civilization of shared simplicity.” If we continue to put profit at the centre of the economy, hunger, misery, violence, and predatory behaviour will continue to grow. Neoliberal capitalist growth can only be defeated by a harmonious and worldwide “de-growth.” “Living Well and Living Well Together” demands and makes it possible for humanity to really grow by becoming more human at all levels. “Humanize humanity” is the slogan: Ecologically, multi-culturally, with equality and diversity in the Common House, the Oikos.
In light of religious faith, above all, that other economy will be a real spirituality of compassion in solidarity with all those who have fallen by the wayside, of prophetic indignation in the face of all the idols of falsehood and death, of living together in love with all beings. It presumes an authentic conversion to the Mystery of Life, to the God of that Mystery, to the Oikos that we live in together.
eco4One might say that it is utopian: it is. It is a legitimate utopia if lived each day by constructing it through love and hope. A utopian-economy must advance by inventing itself through daily practice. It will demand that we take a profoundly different stance on the notion and practice of private property, which is held as sacred and unlimited. Religions, specifically the Church, have served to justify the enthronement of private property, which is deprivation and dispossession. Yet, in the early years of the Church, those venerable theologians and bishops said categorically “what is superfluous is not yours.” The theologian Joseph Comblin would say that when a few accumulate and exclude the majority, private property is waging a war to the death between oppressors and the oppressed. Or, as Cervantes would say: between those who have and those who do not. In biblical-theological language we find the key to speak of the Other Economy, one that is truly other, the Reign, the economy of the Reign. Jesus of Nazareth was entirely engaged with this: a total revolution of personal and social structures. It is a necessary Utopia, one that is “obligatory,” because it is proposed by the very God of Life, the Father-Mother of the whole human family.

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