Creation of the circles of solidarity, of social, ecological, economic, institutional and political transformation
26th April 2020
Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas
Magistrate National Electoral Council of Colombia
Human Rights Defender
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it” Albert Einstein
The pandemic we are facing shows us the great vulnerability of the human species. It is starkly evident that money does not buy health, nor life. Nothing will be like before. Are we ready to take on the changes? Can we achieve an economy at the service of life and not humanity at the service of those who own the capital?
The so-called invisible hand of the market has laid bare the unacceptable limits of individualism and the risks of extinction of human life. This proposal a call to common sense to transform ourselves as a species, to defend the rights of nature, so that solidarity counts more than selfishness, peace more than war, love more than hate, justice more than impunity, and so that democracy is the vital scenario for producing the profound changes that humanity requires.
The UN’s Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report of 2019, produced by 250 experts, on the state of the planet, estimates that air pollution causes between 6 and 7 million premature deaths per year, that lack of access to clean water causes 1.4 million people to die annually from preventable diseases such as diarrhea and parasites, that 3.2 billion people live on land degraded by intensive agriculture or deforestation. Prior to this crisis, 1,200 people were still dying every hour due to lack of access to medicines and, one child under the age of 15 was still dying every five seconds, more than 6.3 million a year from diarrheal diseases and intestinal parasitosis. One third of humanity has no access to medicines.
Meanwhile, multinational pharmaceutical companies are multiplying their wealth, constituting 1.3% of the world’s GDP and billing one trillion dollars a year, while health care personnel lack job stability and are poorly paid in many regions of the world.
At the same time, the FAO reported that more than 820 million people are suffering from hunger and nearly two billion others are threatened by it, while one third of the food produced in the world, approximately 1.7 billion tons of food per year, is thrown away.
The GEO study also warns that by 2050 humanity’s chances of survival will be drastically limited, destruction would be caused by the disappearance of the Arctic ice cap, increased deaths from air pollution in cities and the extension of the desert over vast regions of the Earth. Some 4 billion people would be dying in desertified lands, mainly in Africa and South Asia. The study also warns that environmental pollutants would make antibiotics ineffective in humans, which would be the leading cause of death in the world by the middle of this century.
Inequality is at the epicenter of the problem. Crédit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report states in its latest study that 45% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 1% of the population, while 90% only have less than 20% of the available wealth.
These imbalances and injustices already existed before the global crisis caused by COVID-19, which, as we speak, the WHO officially registers 3 million people infected and 205,000 deaths, declarations of states of emergency, restrictions on democracy and confinement in almost all countries. Before a vaccine is found, millions of people will die and millions more will die of hunger, many social outbreaks will continue to occur and increase in many parts of the world. Violence will lead to many more deaths and institutions and governments will collapse.
Mankind will not be the same after this pandemic is overcome. The question is, will we be better or worse people, will we have better or worse governments, will we have democratic governance, or will we continue to be subjected to the power of money and guns? Will we overcome the patriarchy that has multiplied violence and inequality against women in this pandemic? Will we leave behind this culture of the strongest who let their elders and people with disabilities die?
The virus lays bare what we have made of the world, of life, of relationships, of the environment, of the planet. The virus takes a photograph of everything that has been caused by the model centered on the commodification of life (that which we call “capitalism” or its crudest expression “neo-liberalism”), but it also shows us that it is possible to transform it, to transform ourselves, to be different. But the task of transforming humanity cannot depend on nature’s reactions to the predatory forces of the system. It is our great responsibility to assume it and make it happen.
Humanity cannot stand that in the name of freedom and market forces, a minority continues to gather the wealth of the planet, continues to reduce democracy and political intermediation to its own interests and continues to provoke the destruction of ecosystems, of biodiversity and endangers the very survival of the species.
Health, food, access to drinking water, education, a basic income, a pension and other fundamental rights have been turned into commodities. Even security and people themselves have been commodified in many parts of the world, as part of the new forms of slavery imposed on us by consumerism.
The State, far from guaranteeing all human rights, has chosen to repress the social protests that demand them, ensuring the status quo in the service of the most powerful. For their part, the inter-state institutions tend with their decisions to ensure the reproduction of financial and speculative capital, concentrating power on that 1% of the population that controls world wealth. Many authoritarian governments have set themselves up in the name of security, xenophobia, racism and discrimination, affecting the most significant integration processes, such as the European Union, by sweeping away freedoms and destroying civil liberties as well as social and collective rights.
Today, more than ever, the importance of the integral defense of human rights, the protection of civil and political rights and the realization of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights is evident.
What should we do? Organize ourselves to access public administration at the local, regional, and global level, promoting democratic state and inter-state governance, real solidarity not charity, and the integration of peoples in the interest of transforming humanity and protecting the rights of nature.
Let’s unite, those of us who believe that we must act now, extending citizen participation, weaving love and social responsibility, over religious, ideological and political differences. Let’s unite, those of us who have the conscience and the will for the most capable people, with popular leadership, honesty and solidarity to reach public power in all places and scenarios.
I therefore call for the creation of circles of solidarity, of social, ecological, economic, institutional and political transformation in rural areas, towns and cities, in all countries and continents, made up of 10 to 30 families or individuals who share the objectives expressed herein.
The moral basis of these circles must be empathy, which is defined as “a person’s affective participation in a reality that is alien to her or him”. It is not a question of solidarity among the similar, but among the different. We must support each other and those who need it most, within a framework of respect, understanding, and solidarity. In this exercise to put oneself in the other’s shoes, to transform individual and collective practices, it is essential to recognize those who were previously unknown, or strangers, and to understand them in their human condition. It is about building our own social network with those who surround us and share our sympathy, but also (above all), to do the exercise of weaving with those who, being close, have not been part of our circle of affection until now, so that they begin to participate in it, according to a process of human transformation.
Each circle could be made up of people close to it, but it should be made up of people from different social sectors and even ethnic groups, involving citizens and peasants, indigenous people, Afro-descendants, entrepreneurs, employees, the elderly and the young, without discrimination of gender or any other kind, who share the view that the economy should be at the service of all people, particularly the most vulnerable communities, and that the right to food, the right to health and education, full employment or a basic income for those without decent work and retirement should be ensured. Recognize and expand the rights of nature, promote the integration of peoples.
Each circle will promote integration and solidarity among its members and will have delegates who will communicate with others. With contributions made according to the capacities of the members, a social fund will be created. If the circles multiply as cells that unite in horizontal relationships, we will build an indestructible transforming social force at the level of each country, and at the global level.
The circles will lay the foundations of an authentic and daily democracy, its members will be permanently formed and will collaborate with each other to share the material goods that may be available and to nurture a new social subject that will transform individuals, families, communities and states.
The circles will not have hierarchies, but will coordinate to achieve short, medium and long-term objectives. Those who promote any form of violence or discrimination should not be included. Non-violence will be a principle, practice and objective. It will contribute to the eradication of public and private corruption. A State and an inter-state order will be promoted to guarantee integral respect for human rights, as well as for the environment, recognizing and expanding the rights of nature, in order to protect and recover the planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity.
The creation of a new national and international economic order will be promoted, in which states will intervene in the economy to guarantee the universal enjoyment of the rights mentioned herein. The economy will be focused on renewable energy sources; national and international tax regimes will be created so that those who have more pay more taxes, military expenditures and the Armed Forces in the world will be reduced, the United Nations will be transformed to ensure global democratic governance and a true multilateral democracy.
Free enterprise will have no other limit than the full and integral guarantee of human rights and nature. The circles will contribute to empowering women, youth, vulnerable communities and peoples so that they can help create horizontal power relations with public actors who will understand the unpostponable challenge of transforming humanity.
The circles will be integrated between the North and the South, the East and the West, all the ethnic, religious, sports, artistic, academic, professional, scientific, economic, social, gender, youth, and population with disabilities communities, leaders of any nature that share the objectives of this call to promote freer, fairer and more inclusive societies, under the principles of equal rights, social equity and historical responsibility are called to nourish and multiply this proposal.
The circles of solidarity, of social, ecological, economic, institutional and political transformation, do not belong to individuals, political parties, religious communities or any ideology, nor to any country or culture in particular. They are born to transform themselves, to transform us, to transform you, to transform humanity and to survive this pandemic with individual and collective dignity. Let us apply this maxim of Paulo Freire “Nobody educates anybody else. Nobody educates himself. People educate each other through the mediation of the world”.
The circles facing the social and environmental crisis exacerbated by the pandemic, are the development of participation as a right and duty of citizens to contribute to the improvement of individuals, society and the common home that is the planet or as the indigenous call it “our mother earth”.
We will find each other on social networks and we will advance with such vigor and strength that after this crisis, it will not be the apocalypse but the rebirth of humanity.
“We are not dreamers, we are the awakening”, Slavoj Zizek.
(Those who react to this proposal can write to CirculosColombia@gmail.com)