The fact that there are millions of poor people, in Brazil and in the world, has an evaluation that is as abundant in criticism and diagnosis as in very weak effects on the necessary and required measures for it to be definitively overcome. As the IBGE, for example, began to publish data for the 2022 census, two of them appear as the most worrying and challenging about the social injustice they prove and need to be overcome: the first, the growing number of Brazilian poor people , and the second, as a more than natural and obvious consequence of those who are starving.
Without a collective feeling that inspires and puts into action the confrontation that this matters urgently, the tendency of these two very serious social diseases to increase is inevitable. Before and after the last IBGE census was published, some publications reached the public, seeking to portray the effects of these evils. The Senate Agency, for example, in an edition of October 14 of last year, criticized the number of poor people who suffer from hunger. For a country that had already left the map of this shortage, the alarm is scandalous, as Brazil “returned to the scenario from 2015” and, “in 2022, the Second National Survey on Food Insecurity in the Context of the Covid Pandemic -19 in Brazil pointed out that 33.1 million people are not guaranteed what to eat — which represents 14 million new Brazilians in a situation of hunger. According to the study, more than half (58.7%) of the Brazilian population lives with food insecurity to some degree: mild, moderate or severe”.
If some of these people manage to survive anyway, last Sunday’s Zero Hora provides information also based on the IBGE, giving as an example the sacrificed day-to-day life of a family of recyclable material collectors living on Ilha Grande dos Marinheiros, three adults , a teenager and four children, the life they lead thanks to selling the recyclable solid waste they collect. What is left over and what is rubbish for other people is a condition of life for them.
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Refers to the news: “They are more than 100 million Brazilians”. “How does a family with a per capita income of less than R$18 a day live? This was the average daily budget of 50% of the population last year, according to IBGE.” (…) “It’s R$537.00 monthly per person. The Conceição da Cruz family is part of the more than 100 million Brazilians who make up the poorest 50% of the population.” Taking into account the fact that 5% of the population, “less disadvantaged”, according to the same source, have an average income of R$ 87.00 “per person month”, this is “32.5 less than the “1% richest, group for which this value is R$17,447 monthly per person.” “It is a big distance, a sign of the inequality that still bothers the country.”
There are many, and most of them well-intentioned, recipes that seek to increase the income of families such as the collectors of material such as Conceição da Cruz, who survives on Ilha dos Marinheiros, as well as to satisfy the hunger of millions of other which the Senate regrets. What seems insufficient, however, given the size of the problem and the urgency of its being solved, lies in the fact that it is primarily addressed only in terms of its effects. Of course, this is opportune and convenient, but without a decisive attack on its causes, it is evident that this injustice tends to increase, as is happening in Brazil.
We really need the continuous and generalized concern, a much more concentrated and active social sensitivity, both on the part of Public Administrations and private economic powers, that the satisfaction of the vital needs of any human being such as work, food and housing, for example, are fundamental human rights and not favors or alms. Thus, when the law, within the scope of Criminal Law, exempts those who act under a “state of need” from responsibility, and when, within the scope of Civil Law, it provides for “emergency guardianship” to assist those who need a medicine whose price is unreachable for the rent of those who ask, it is forgotten that, in both cases, there is the unwanted possibility that the person’s own life is at permanent risk and not just occasional. The omission of assistance, as is known, is provided for in law that even punishes those responsible for it, but who can be held responsible for the omission of assistance to victims of poverty and social injustice?
Without the material means of a life of material well-being, it does little good for the law to predict, as it does for the collectors of material and for those who go hungry, that both of these people are “free and equal,” we live in a democracy and Brazil is a State of Law. This constitutes truly unacceptable debauchery for these human beings. What freedom and equality does a hungry person enjoy and who can be measured with the terrible health conditions to which he has to subject himself to pick up the garbage? The certain and predictable damage that weighs on these “subjects of law” (!?), as the legal language qualifies them, cannot expect that the “due legal process” bureaucracy remains alert and at the disposal of these lives so that they are not threatened, injured or eliminated.
:: Consea prepares mega conference to combat hunger and calls for regional initiatives to be organized ::
Woe betide anyone who dares, however, to rebel and act against such a state of affairs. There is a whole socioeconomic and political “system”, armed with a powerful “legal security”, which does not tolerate the “subversion” of the “order” that keeps this state dominating the State. Among the examples of past heroes who gave their lives in defense of poor and oppressed peoples throughout Latin America, in particular, is Ignacio Ellacuria, the rector of the Central American University (UCA) murdered on November 16, 1989, by the dictatorship of El Salvador, along with four other Jesuits, a servant and her niece.
What bothered the dictatorship was mainly the fact that it diagnosed as a “damaged totality” the kind of life that world civilization created, and the Salvadoran regime adopted, more or less as Brazil did in 1964 and an attempted coup in January of this year. 2023 tried to resume. Against this reality, Ellacuria proposed, which seems paradoxical for those who see material wealth as the only way to overcome poverty, precisely the opposite: a “Civilization of poverty”. This is the title of a collection of articles gathered in a book in which Jon Sobrino sums up Ellacuria’s thoughts as follows:
“In order to define, or at least describe, what a certain civilization was, even though the formulation varied, two essential things were fixed: what is the fundamental engine of history and what is the principle of humanization. In the civilization of wealth, the engine of history is the accumulation of capital, and the principle of (de)humanization is the possession-enjoyment of wealth. In the civilization of poverty, the engine of history, sometimes called the principle of development – is the universal satisfaction of basic needs and the principle of humanization is the elevation of shared solidarity.” (São Paulo: Paulinas, 2014, p. 36, emphasis added).
There are no poor people, therefore, but the impoverished. Both the satisfaction of basic needs and the principle of humanization of shared solidarity, so foreign and opposed as they are to the civilization of wealth, can find themselves in the crosshairs of the latter, as happened to Ellacuria. If not for the weapons, for the exploitation of the work of others and for the concentration of income, typical of the accumulation of capital, therein lies, therefore, the cause of both the cross that weighs on the shoulders of families like Conceição da Cruz (!), and the sacrifice of the right to food that millions of others are suffering.
Hence the radicalism with which Pedro Demo, for example, seeks to defend “solidarity as an effect of power”, the title of one of his books, which reads: “in the solidarity that comes from the center and from the elite there always trembles the uncomfortable request of the bad conscience that pleads, deep down, not to answer for the confrontation. From the point of view of the marginalized, however, confrontation is vital, although it does not necessarily imply violence, above all the same violence of the center and the elite. But it implies a radical break and this is not done without damage, which can always be reduced and better distributed depending on our political and ethical quality.” (São Paulo: Cortez, Paulo Freire Institute, 2002, p. 271).
If the interpretation and application of laws intend to prevent this radical rupture, the problem is not with it, but with the laws, since these are the ones that will be unfaithful to their ends that others are not to defend life and not to sacrifice it, or to eliminate -there. Only in terms of life can they be considered legitimate.
The whole future of human civilization that it can create depends on the willingness with which this confrontation is assumed by the power of solidarity liberation from poverty, with its allies and allies. If there is a right way, however, for none of this to happen, it is that, in the face of the superiority of the opposing power of the civilization of wealth, we are content to remain satisfied in classifying ourselves only as subjects of utopias.
* State Attorney of Rio Grande do Sul (Retired). Master in Law from Unisinos. Professor of Civil Law at Unisinos. Lawyer and legal adviser to popular movements such as the MST and NGOs linked to human rights. He is also founder and coordinator of the NGO Access – Citizenship and Human Rights and a member of Renap (National Network of Popular Lawyers).
** This is an opinion article. The author’s view does not necessarily express the editorial line of the newspaper Brasil de Fato.
Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul
Editing: Marcelo Ferreira