A Look at the Portuguese World


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Borges, the thinker

Written by  yvette vieira fts Bárbara Fernandes

Paulo Borges is an essayist and writer and published several texts and books on spirituality, ethics and religion, among other topics. It is also a professor in the Department of Philosophy and researcher at the Centre for Philosophy, University of Lisbon. Chairs the Circle Between-Being, is board member of the Association Agostinho da Silva and the Portuguese Buddhist Union.

We live in an increasingly secular world, or who profess other religions, but nonetheless, there is still room for radical movements. How does this happen?
Paulo Borges: I think it's a reaction to secular culture, when it becomes aggressive religious phenomenon is natural that eventually elicit also more radical reactions, which is what happens in contemporary societies. This is a world that relativizes very much values, which often refuses to spirituality, which is a very materialistic society, this ends generating two types of phenomena, on the one hand, a great spiritual unrest in contemporary societies, which often seek this spiritualities free of dogma and religious doctrines. Moreover, by some more traditional religious cultures, creates more people with fundamentalist tendencies, where there is also a phenomenon of aggression and violence against the secular world, which is the case with Islamic fundamentalism, which is self-justified, although for me there is not any justification, as being to fight the world away from God and fundamental values.

So how justified that there are people, and now there is talk of the jihadist movement, which comes from this secular world, the West in a Christian culture, but who adhere to these radical movements, when before they even profess any religion?
PB: I think it's a desperate search for meaning in life, because people today have a sense of existence evicted. Contemporary Western societies are geared to produce and consume and there is nothing more to give meaning to their lives. Are empty. Note that there is very individuals who desperately need to find a top for their life and sometimes cling to radical solutions, in the fundamentalist sense. There are others who become fanatical supporters of a football club, as there are still others who become religious fanatics. It's like cling to a lifeline that gave them some sense to achieve that goal. That's how I explain it. It is a psychological problem that has to do with our societies produce uprooted people very, very isolated and Islam, Islamic fundamentalism is a reaction against this extreme individualism of contemporary society. In the background is a religion that comes with a sense of community, unites people with the same religious purpose and it gives people a lot of strength, it cannot be is very clear, which is what I think.

So how do you combat this force of a deliberate sense of isolation and materialism that is currently happening in Western societies. How can you find the balance?
PB: We have to find a new spirituality, which I propose in my work. But obviously has to be transversal to all who are believers and non believers, whatever religion they have, must be a free spirituality of dogmas and doctrines, is an inner search as proposed in meditation. Instead of searching for a solution, a fact that comes out to seek this truth, that peace within yourself, through a return to care for us, with relaxation techniques and relaxation. We discover in meditation, what we went looking outside. This is the solution to this crisis in civilization we live in, because that spirituality can make us a sense of connection with others, with other living beings, with nature as a whole. The environmental and ecological crisis shows that even mankind focused on ourself, we believe that own and mistress of the world, that natural resources are there to be exploited, but we cannot last forever and we have scientific reports that indicate that we are on the brink of ecological and social collapse due to increasing gap between rich and poor, between north and south and the devastation of natural resources. If we not discover a spirituality that reconnect us with each other, with another human being, or living beings, or nature, we do not contributed with anything to the solution of the problem.

But how can we find this solution even in terms of the planet, when in many countries of Africa and some of Asia to issue passes for survival and not for spirituality.
PB: It's clear who is concerned with survival cannot be occupied with these issues that we are talking of spirituality. This is for those who have secured their basic needs, but it is also obvious that these are not people in Africa and many parts of Asia that have the greatest environmental impact. Who in this time is destroying this planet are the so called developed nations that are fundamentally Western, are those that pollute the atmosphere and deplete natural resources. I think that if we in the West need to create another mindset, we can become aware of the way we consume, the waste we produce and the ecological footprint we left, that this particularly damaging to these people. The important thing is to change these so called nations evolved, so if we awaken to a more global ethic, we agreed to support these populations that are increasingly needy, instead of creating more wealth, we must support these countries to find sustainable development solutions and help them overcome these misery limits.

So how would it be the future of society you propose, would consist of smaller communities, more close to nature?
PB: Yes, I think that great nations like China, the U.S. and Brazil, even smaller countries become from a certain point ungovernable, I think that is not possible in democratic politics there is no genuine decentralization of power. My idea is that there are smaller, local and regional communities, where people can choose representatives who know that they can trust and can blame if the objectives for which they were elected. In the background is reinventing a more participatory and less representative democracy, because currently you problably voted in people who do not know them and we delegate our power and then not have any mechanisms to control the actions of these people and hold them accountable when they do not fulfill their programs. I think democracy has to be reinvented and power must be decentralized with a strong ecological sense. Increasingly resilient and sustainable communities that produce their own food, because nowadays we have nations, this absurdity, which are not self-sufficient in food and has to import much of its food on the other side of the planet. When we imported foods from China, or Australia we are contributing to the increase of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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