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Hospitality and solidarity

Haiti: A Test for Humanity

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AUTHOR:  Leonardo BOFF

Translated by  El Refugio del Río Grande


The disaster that devastated Haiti, destroying Port-au-Prince, killing thousands, and depriving the people of the minimum infrastructure needed for survival, is a test for humanity. According to the predictions of those who systematically follow the state of the Earth, it will not be long before we confront several Haitis, with millions and millions of climate-change refugees, provoked by extreme events that could cause a true ecological devastation and destroy countless human lives.
Two virtues, linked to the essence of the human being, should have special relevance in this context: hospitality and solidarity.
Hospitality, as philosopher Kant saw it, is the right and duty of all, because all of us are inhabitants, or better, sons and daughters of the same Earth. We have the right to move freely, to receive and to offer hospitality. Will the world's nations be prepared to attend to this basic right of the multitudes who will no longer be able to live in their overheated regions, without water or crops? The survival instinct does not respect the borders of nation states. The barbarians of yesteryear destroyed empires and the new «barbarians» of today will not do otherwise, unless they are exterminated by those who usurped the Earth for themselves. I will stop here because the probable, and not impossible, scenarios are Dantesque. 
The second virtue is solidarity. Solidarity is inherent to the social essence of the human being. The classics of the study of solidarity, such as Renouvier, Durkheim, Bourgeois and Sorel emphasize the fact that a society does not exist without the solidarity of one for the others. It presupposes a collective consciousness and the sense of belonging to the whole. Everyone accepts living together naturally, so that together we can realize the goal, namely, the search for the well being of all.
We must critique the concept of modernity that begins with the absolute autonomy of the subject in the solitude of its freedom. It is said: we should all attend to our own needs, without needing anyone else. For such solitary human beings to be able to live together requires a social contract, such as was elaborated by Rousseau, Locke and Kant. But that kind of individualism is false and illusory. We must acknowledge the undeniable fact that the human being is always a being in relationships, a-being-with-the-others, always intertwined in a tapestry of innumerable connections.  Never alone. The social contract does not create society, it only organizes it juridically.
Moreover, solidarity has a cosmological background. All beings, from the topquarks, but particularly living organisms, are beings of relationships, and no one lives outside of the net of inter-retro-connections.
Therefore, all beings show each other solidarity. Each helps the other to survive—that is the meaning of biodiversity—and thus do not necessarily fall victim to natural selection. At the human level, instead of natural selection, due to solidarity, we introduced caring, especially for the most vulnerable. This way they do not succumb to the selfish interests of groups or a kind of ferocious culture that puts ambition above life and dignity.
We have reached a moment in history in which we all find ourselves intertwined in a unique geosociety. Without the solidarity of all towards all and also for Mother Earth, there will be no future for anyone. The tragedies of a people are our tragedies, their tears are our tears; their progress is our progress. Their dreams are our dreams.
Che Guevara put it well: «Solidarity is the tenderness of the peoples.» It is the tenderness that we must give to our suffering brothers and sisters of Haiti.

Source: the author - Haiti: teste para a Humanidade 

Original article published on Feb. 15, 2010

About the author

Refugio del Rio Grande, a partner of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity, is a 45 acre refuge located outside Harlingen, Texas, USA. It was opened in 1986, to offer a place of refuge in the United States for political refugees from Central America. Now, refugees from all countries of the world are welcome. REFUGIO is also a refuge for a wide variety of wildlife, who find a safe and friendly environment. At REFUGIO, basic needs of housing, clothing and food are met. Those looking for asylum because of repression or oppression can find peace as they work through the process of their legal case, living with friends who work in solidarity for justice and peace in a small self governing community. A sense of balance is sought between nature and humanity as we live and work together.
This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author and translators  are cited.

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SOUTH OF THE BORDER : 09/03/2010