Transcript – Marina Silva: 20 Million Votes for a Sustainable Brazil!

Marina Silva: 20 Million Votes for a Sustainable Brazil!

In dialogue with Walter Link

GlobalLeadership.TV

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Marina Silva

 

[00:00:12] It’s a deep question. Mankind has the opportunity to beat this crisis, if we can realize that now is the time to integrate economy and environment, politics and ethics, man and nature, and man with himself and each other, without diluting our dreams nor eliminating differences. Talking is not enough. We need to live according to our words. The best message you can express is not what you say but what you live.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:00:51] Welcome to Global Leadership TV, my name is Walter Link. I’ve always been fascinated by the question of how we move from our many challenges into our full potential as individuals, organizations and whole societies. In this television series, I inquire with some of the most innovative leaders from around the world about how they manage to move from inspiration to real change. Please join us in this exploration because we all make a difference and we all can get better at it. Therefore, on our website, we not only show other dialogues and publications but also the kind of practices that these leaders and their organizations used to move from inspiration to real change.

 

Today I take you to Brasilia to meet Marina Silva. She became the world’s most successful Green party candidate when in Brazil’s last election she won 20% of the federal vote and 42% in the capital of Brasilia. Marina grew up as a poor rubber tapper in the Brazilian forest. Illiterate until the age of 16, the native wisdom that surrounded Marina’s youth continued to inspire an extraordinary journey to become an environmental activist and a union leader, a federal senator and a government minister. Join me in this very personal dialogue with Marina Silva, one of the world’s most important leaders toward sustainable civilization.

 

20 Million Votes for a Sustainable Brazil!

 

You won an incredible election success, almost 20% of the vote in Brazil and, for example, in Brasilia, the capital, over 40% of the vote. That has never happened to a Green party candidate and it never happened to the Green party in Brazil before. So, there is something about you and about what you stand for. A new vision for politics and a new vision for political movement, tell us, what is at the core of that, what do you really propose that people could understand and vote for?

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:03:23] Before people embrace a new vision they need to be mobilized. There are times in history when people begin feeling very uneasy with politics, spirituality companies, the way people deal with each other, with ourselves and nature. This uneasiness often stays dormant because we cannot articulate it and because our old paradigms limit what we feel, think, say and do, these paradigms are our references for what we do, feel, think and say. And we repeat that, even if it doesn’t really convey what we feel. But, luckily there are some people who detach from these old paradigms and the same old ways, to feel, to express that are stagnated. These people bring a new voice. That’s what I think happened in Brazil. People responded to our presidential campaign because it had a new voice, and in a way when we expressed what they inherently felt, that ignited a very strong mobilizing power. People were tired of the old political party dualism. Brazil is historically marked by dualism: empire or republic, democracy or dictatorship, the older parties… and now PT or PSDB when you only have these to choose from. If you have only the same old two choices, people feel they have no real choice. So, they choose the less bad option. But, real choice involves us. It makes us co-authors of our choices. So, when reporters would ask us, “Are you opposition or do you support the party in power?” and I answered, “Neither.” We have a new positioning. Then, they asked if we are left or right. I answered: “We are neither left nor right. We’re ahead” and people were confused. On the day of the first debate, reporters asked, “How did you prepare for this debate with Dilma and Serra? How is this fight going to be?” I answered: “This doesn’t have to be a fight. It would be nice, if it could be a dialogue. We express our opinions, convince others and are convinced. If we can’t convince, we can continue to talk to find out more about our differences. During a fight, nobody wins. So, I’m not going to fight but debate instead. That made sense to people. They didn’t want to see serious people, they respect fighting. Like Minister Dilma or Governor Serra, they are respected and I am too. But in the old paradigm, politics is a fight. Talking is not enough. We need to walk or talk. The best message is not what you say but how you live. People saw that in Guilherme and me. And, our program had a different take on development; the idea of sustainable development. For the past 30 years people from all sectors, certain NGOs, scientists, public servants and companies, some sectors in the government and some companies have worked on sustainable development. So, our campaign was like a Samba school. In Brazil, Samba schools rehearse separately for the entire year. Then suddenly, they all come together to put on a beautiful show. I used to say that to my team. We gather all those people who rehearsed separately for 30 years. And we’re coming out with me and Guilherme and a team of experts in education, economy, social policies. And even if we lose, we will lose winning.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:11:04] So, there were 20 million people that voted for you and what you said is that they voted for you and for Guilherme, because they want a new paradigm of society, that was already latent in them and it was in a way you giving voice and giving the opportunity to vote for a different paradigm that brought them forward to vote for you. What’s now the next step you have left at the Green party? You are not in Parliament, you are not in politics and you want to create a movement. How is your vision for that and how do you implement that vision?

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:11:49] Some people wanted to create a new political party. But I wanted to first create a movement, a movement that transcends parties, with people from different parties and professions, who care about sustainability – not just as a way of doing things – but as a way of life. That means being sustainable in politics, ethics, economy, with nature, with aesthetics and ultimately with values. During this whole process, we wanted an option for those who didn’t want a party. Many young and academics people don’t relate to parties. Politics worldwide is in a deep crisis. Part of society is becoming detached from the old ways of thinking about politics, but not only about politics, but also how to govern. The instruments that operate politics, the parties, representational democracy, are losing relevance. They no longer make sense for people’s priorities, for the crisis the world is going through in the economy, environment, etc. Therefore, I wanted to organize a movement of the periphery that embraces the middle and I thought we must organize at the edge then. Along the edges of all these different movements, people are feeling lost, even hopeless. The young jobless people in Spain gather together in the plazas because the only supporting surface for them is this edge. They feel hopeless and they want to say to this stagnated center – we have other priorities. We must create another agenda. So, I said let’s organize this movement and not treat these votes as if they are ours because votes do not belong to the politicians or parties, but voters and citizens. It caused surprise when I said this after the elections. People asked what would I do with this inheritance of 20 million votes. But, I said it’s not an inheritance. Inheritances are left by the dead. Voters are alive. They leave a legacy, a responsibility. An inheritance belongs to a few; a legacy belongs to all. Brazil gave a very strong signal for sustainability, never seen before anywhere to companies, science, technology, that answers are required for this demand of society for sustainability. It is a legacy that other parties can use, put it in their programs, their decisions. It is a legacy for the government that many Brazilians want development. But development that protects the Amazon, environmental laws and people’s dignity. People want another development model, another paradigm. That’s the legacy I want to keep alive not as something that is mine that I can use politically, but as something needed in Brazil and worldwide. Not only a way of doing things, but a way of living in the 21st century. It poses deep questions into how we produce, consume and how we manage waste and find happiness. We will solve this crisis if we recognize that we need to integrate economy and environment, politics and ethics, man and nature, each other and ourselves, without diluting dreams and without eliminating our differences. For that, we need multi-centered leadership, leaders that share authorship, development and recognition. Otherwise, we perpetuate old paradigms and tools from previous centuries in a reality that has new needs.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:18:29] You speak about the importance of difference. And, I think one of the big challenges that we have today, not only in Brazil, but in the whole world, is to appreciate the richness of our difference and to benefit from the richness of our difference. But, this richness of difference needs to be held together by the realization of our unit, of our human and natural unity. And, you are creating a movement or you are participating and helping to lead a movement that is very diverse. And, it’s not only diverse in terms of sectors and ideas, but in terms of the internal cultures of how these people function, how they think, how they act. How do you unite these different cultures while benefiting also from their diversity?

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:19:42] The problem is that in old paradigms we banish paradoxes. But now, we have reached the age of paradoxes. So far, we have united via our similarities. Now we need to unite over our differences. How do we do that? I think that through values, ethical and moral principles, we can create new alliances. We don’t need to agree on everything. But, there are some things we need to agree on at all times in order to be together. We need to agree that long-term resources can’t be sacrificed for short-term profit. We need to agree that poverty is an attack on human dignity, is unacceptable. We can agree that we can’t accumulate wealth while harming life. I’m only mentioning some examples. We need to view democracy as a value. Even if it’s uncomfortable, it’s the best way to solve our problems. At least, that’s how we think in the Western world. So, let’s unite on values.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:21:24] You speak about the importance of values to unite this vast diversity, the richness of diversity, brought together through uniting values. But, often values are just words on a piece of paper, a vision statement or they are easily said in conversation. But, when we talk about really changing the world, we need to talk about values that are really lived, that can also withstand a crisis. So how do you find those uniting values which are those? And, also, how do you find them so authentically and strongly that they can actually bring about real change?

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:22:18] That’s our greatest challenge. Values do exist. Greatest challenge is not to find values but how people collaborate on the basis of shared values, people capable of actually living these values. It doesn’t work to claim values that don’t correspond to how we live. Leaders will increasingly be asked to lead by example. Leadership will have to increasingly become multi-centered. One person can’t be a leader of everything anymore. This kind of leadership doesn’t respond to this reality. We live today in what I call latent democracy, some sort of prospective democracy. Previously, the ones pointing to the potential of democracy were the politicians, corporations and academics. Then, there were the unions, the NGOs. But, today with the Internet, for good or bad, billions of people experiment with new applications for democracy. CAS talks about the idea of the democracy. But, here’s the great challenge: how does the democracy of individuals avoid an atomization of society? Where we lose social connection and the idea of public interest? because without that there’s no society. So, values are somehow, over thousands of years, co-created. But, we lack people willing to live up to these values. This may sound crazy for a politician but I view politics as a service. I’m not even sure I do politics. I think politics does me. We don’t own our causes. They own us. When the cause owns you, you don’t just say what makes you popular. You don’t just say nor do whatever can bring you more prestige. You do and say whatever is necessary to be said or done. Even if that costs prestige or your life. That happened to Chico Mendes, Gandhi and so many others. I think Mandela is the most eloquent example of what it means to be owned by a cause.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:25:58] Part of the integration of diversity that you are doing in this movement building is to also bring together on the one hand, the groups that want to change the material reality of life, social conditions, the environmental conditions, political conditions. But, you combine them also with a perspective on the spiritual, on the inner and recognizing that in order to change society, psychology, spirituality has an important place and it does so also in your personal life. But that’s not easy to bring together because those groups that were more oriented toward inner work and toward outer work tend to be also split and often look at each other with disrespect – at the very least with lack of understanding of how they could possibly be useful to each other. So, my understanding is that in your vision those are needed to be brought together because the crisis of our civilization is not only a material crisis, it’s also a spiritual crisis. So how do you see that this integration of the inner and the outer?

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:27:31] A movement of this magnitude has people with these different outlooks. We cannot mechanically integrate these two groups. We need to transition into the future. We need to go through a transformative process. Transformation that changes the limiting view of those who think that they are better just because they are soul and dream oriented as well as of those who are pragmatic, looking for solutions to material problems. How will this happen? Humans are constantly intertwined. They can’t avoid each other even with such evident differences. They will create a new kind of person capable of being dreamers who want to be sustainable – not only as a way of doing things, but as an ideal for life and at the same time, capable of translating that into practical attitudes, real attitudes because people need to live a decent, fulfilling life. The economist Yunus created the concept of fulfilling substantial needs. How will we, given the shortage of resources, given our difficulties, make use of the resources and means available to us? Maybe, it’s best to do this by investing in human quality, in terms of equality, of opportunities, of people, so that they can make the right choices at the right time for their lives and the lives of others. How can we make the right choice for our and future generations? How can we establish a dialogue between Western science and the science derived from traditional wisdom, traditions from traditional populations who generate wisdom from narrative, which is treated as non-science, non-knowledge? How can we change to transform so much information into knowledge? How can we turn knowledge into wisdom? That transformation is what will happen and what needs to happen. Luckily, according to Roland Barthes, we teach more than we intend to. Luckily, we learn a lot more than we intend to. Man has a part of himself, said Saint Augustine that is like a memory we don’t recall. He says that behind the memory we remember, there is a memory we don’t remember. Freud called it the unconscious and there is a dialogue without barriers there. People are more than their objective sides. People are also subjective. A good part of what we do and think what we feel and decide is intertwined with those subjective aspects. The problem is that we try to eliminate what we don’t control or dominate, instead of trying to learn from what cannot be separated from us because we cannot exile parts of ourselves. Humans are not self-sufficient. Humans need instincts. We are beings formed by the need of instincts. We need each other to learn, to speak, to have meaning. I’m only here talking to you because one day someone interpreted my crying, because one day someone taught me to walk, because one day someone taught me to speak. That doesn’t stop after we grow up. We continue to interpret our crying, our speech, our eyes, our listening, the meaning of others, so we can create our own as well.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:33:29] My understanding is that you grew up very close to nature and that from this time of living in the forest, you developed a very close connection to nature and that this also plays an important part of inspiring what you are doing now and that it brings with it also certain sensitivities that have stayed with you and that are central to the way, you still are inspired by nature and you connect with people. Tell me a little about your story of growing up and how you are bringing what you learned as a child into your work today.

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:34:21] My childhood and teenage years were full of learning, even though, I only learned to read and write at the age of 16. I always joke that I arrived in the city illiterate, in a world of writing, but with a PhD in empirical knowledge. Because I learned a lot from traditional people, the rubber tappers, the people to whom I belong. I was lucky to have a grandmother who was a traditional midwife and an uncle who lived with the Brazilian natives from 12 to 37 years of age. They both taught me a lot. I learned how to make metaphors from them. I work a lot with metaphors. Metaphors from nature are wonderful, if we’re capable of translating them into the language of life, the language of humans. Can I tell you one? My grandmother used to say that when we want to do something important, we have to be like a fire in a compost heap. A compost heap may be a bunch of leaves that are piled up. A little smoke comes from the leaves. But, strong branches create a lot ember. But, you only see the leaves and the little bit of smoke coming out of them. You may, misguidedly think that you can put that fire out with your foot. But, if you step there, you will find a really high temperature from very hot embers. My grandmother would say, “My dear, you should be like the compost fire with just a little smoke, but a high temperature, not on the surface, but underneath”. That was a very important metaphor. How did I translate this into my life? At university, studying history, I decided that we should be a lot more than what we seem to be and seem like a lot less than what we actually are. Because when we seem like more than what we actually are, there is a risk that we could become a fraud and be denounced. But, when we are a lot more than we seem to be, we are always a treasure to be revealed. Do not attempt to glitter like gold on the surface, be real gold inside, that I learned from nature – with light, with fire, from a compost heap, a compost pile nobody thinks much of.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:38:40] What is your relationship with Christ?

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:38:45] My relationship with Christ is a relationship of love. Love. A kind of love that…has a lot to do with something. I read once, The French psychoanalyst, Legan, says it’s only possible to love yourself, if you have loved someone else before. When I read that, I thought: Well, that contradicts the biblical principle to love each other like we love ourselves. If only, we love ourselves if we loved someone else before, that’s the opposite of the biblical principle. I thought a lot about this, as I am really passionate about psychoanalysis. I concluded that it’s wonderful that a nonbeliever would say that with such depth. Because he reaffirms the biblical principle, which starts this way: Love God before all things. God is the great “other”. Why do we love this great other? Because he loved us first. If we love him, we’re capable of loving ourselves, because we are similar to him. We are similar to him because of his love for us. When we love God before all things, we love ourselves. And, if we love ourselves, we’re capable of loving each other. So, Legan is perfectly right. My relationship with Jesus Christ is a relationship of love. Jesus is the most democratic being I know. He approaches a blind man in Jericho and asks, “What would you like me to do for you?” He is the son of God. Why didn’t he just fix his eyesight? Why does he ask the blind man what he wants? Because he is extremely democratic. The choice should belong to the blind man. And, the blind man made the right choice. He said he wanted to see. Jesus is not invasive. He says it’s not through force or violence, but through my spirit. That is my relationship with Jesus. Some believers try to show that they are better than others. Quite the opposite, Jesus teaches us that we must be completely democratic because free will is one of the great gifts he has given to mankind. We must not be bigots. And, he says through Paul: Question everything and retain the good. I cannot limit my view, my outlook on the world. I have to see it all. Retaining the good, that’s my choice. We think being a Christian means to be a conservative. But, Paul says in Romans: Transform the world through new understanding. That’s what we are doing this revolution. We have to transform ourselves through renewing understanding. We used to think that our natural resources are infinite. Today, we know it’s finite. But, we still haven’t changed our actions. When our understanding changes, we might see that our patriarchal view comes from the Christian tradition, which holds mankind back. But, if you read the letters of Paul you will learn about an Orthodox Jew who says that it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Greek, rich or poor, male or female. We’re all equally sons and daughters of God. This is the Jesus that reveals himself.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:44:03] Another important rich diversity to integrate is the feminine and the masculine. And it’s wonderful to see that in Brazil you have, from different political parties, not only yourself as the Green party candidate, as a woman, but also the president and the prime minister who we just spoke to also and important business leaders and civil society leaders, people of the media. So, there is around the world a recognition of the importance of women coming into positions of influence. What is it that they bring and how does this feminine can just as well also live in men and enrich our society by bringing in the femininity into the world in balance with masculinity?

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:45:19] The last part of the question is very interesting. How can feminine contribute to masculine? For thousands of years, women were treated as incapable. Yet, in less than a century, we have learned everything that men do. Everything they know. And, a great number of us are working in governments, companies, schools, the arts, spirituality, communications, in less than a century, for people who were treated as incapable for thousands of years. There were very few women who found loopholes in history. But, if we learned so quickly from you, it is essential that you learn very quickly from us because otherwise, instead of civilization, walking on two legs, we will create another imbalance. So far, women were an atrophied leg of civilization. Civilization was limping, supported only by the masculine leg. Now we need to walk on two legs. And, for that, women have to contribute as the female beings we are with our way of thinking, being and acting. We need an anthropological understanding of what being female is and what being male is. These worlds need to get in touch and integrate without eliminating our differences. When women get to positions of leadership, they bring qualities that are very important. They like consensus a lot more than dispute. Women find it easier to share work authorship and recognition. The masculine style is about dispute. I convinced I made it happen. Women often exert what I called diluted power. That’s a contribution of the feminine. In the same way, we learned from you how to be objective, pragmatic, rational. You must learn how to be sensitive, intuitive, horizontal. Let’s balance on these two legs of mankind. The masculine being integrating feminine values and this feminine being that integrate masculine values. Women sometimes get lost in becoming caricatures of men being loud, aggressive. We don’t need to do that. And, men don’t need to become caricatures in order to gain our values and methods. I see the relationship between masculine and feminine as an exchange. Exchange is only possible with difference. But, an exchange is an exchange. It’s not exclusion or repulsion. We must embody this integration through the quality of relationship and interaction, perhaps something very different from everything we’ve had so far. Humanity denied half of itself. We are 7 billion people; imagine, if today, 3 1/2 billion people were treated as incapable. How would you feed us? How would you carry us? It wouldn’t be sustainable from an ethical, social, cultural point of view and especially from the point of view of intelligence.

 

Walter Link

 

[00:51:31] Another group of people that is often disregarded is poor people. People without formal education, people who live like you, did in the forests, in nature away from official civilization or those who live at the bottom of the pyramid. And yet, we know from being with people like that – and you are one of them – but there are of course many others who have not had your opportunities and your developments – we know that being with these people, there is also a richness of wisdom about life. And, there is a need of integrating everybody into society. So, what are we learning from people that are often disregarded in our civilization because they lack social status or they lack education, they lack formal participation in mainstream society?

 

Marina Silva

 

[00:52:55] I really like what you said that these people have a richness of life. Being capable of living and still be happy under such extreme situations that don’t fulfill even their basic needs. That’s an impressive richness. Simple people, poor people, people from the forest, the natives, they possess knowledge of the reality they live in. They have an essential strength, which we lost with our comforts: Rustic resilience. They bear the weight of the adversities we have created. We are too fragile to bear these adversities. I think something we should learn from them – how to preserve in us that rustic resilience. Do you understand? A plant that has been genetically modified, is more vulnerable to cold, drought is more vulnerable. A rustic plant extracts the water it needs to survive. These people are like that. They have a richness of life that we need to learn from. I think the environmental, social, economic crisis, this crisis in civilization, will reverse our paradigm. I don’t think the question is how to integrate them with us, but how we integrate ourselves with them. Thinking that, we are the highest stage of humanity to which they should integrate may conceal the critique we should do on ourselves. We live at the expense of these people’s dignity in many parts of the world, at the expense of natural resources. We enrich a few at the expense of many. Think about how many problems we have created to be what we are. We are very fragile beings. Would we be happy living in a slum? Would we be capable of being happy without a doctor when we need one? Would we be happy without the brands we buy, to show off our status? I don’t think we need to give them these very fragile things. Maybe we should take the powerful things they have, their capacity, this richness of life, being happy even when facing adversities. I’m not saying they should remain poor. I’m not saying we should become poor like them. I’m only saying we should learn from them. This richness of spirit that I think perhaps we lack because we’re not trained for it. We are trained and adapted in comfort. And, I want a full life, a plentiful life for all people. The problem is that some feel more human than others. Some behave as if they are first-class citizens. They can live with others that don’t even have than the minimal material means to live, as if they were second-class citizens. This happens among people in the same country, entire countries and also, entire regions. Just look at parts of Africa, Latin America, Asia. We feel moved by the atrocities of the past, we feel poorer because we can no longer exchange with entire civilizations that have vanished. But, in Brazil alone, about 220 peoples speak 180 different languages. We miss the Mayans, Incas, Aztecs. We admire their worldview, artifacts and architecture. But, we don’t care about those who are still among us. Mankind’s poverty is being blind to its time, being blind for what needs to be seen now. When the Portuguese first arrived in Brazil, there were 5 million natives and 12,000 Portuguese. Today, there are 200 million Brazilians, but only 700,000 natives. Each century we have eliminated 1 million natives. I say “we” did it because humankind did it. Either we deal with this as our problem, of the human condition, as Hannah Arendt says, or are we going to think this was a problem of Europeans alone? It wasn’t. The problem is that we are not able to respect those, as Freud puts it, who find joy in different ways than the way we do. That’s why people are disturbed by believers because they enjoy the joy of a God that cannot be known mentally. That’s why people want to eliminate natives and black people because they aren’t able to understand a different kind of joy. We have to learn that they are differences that enrich us in this exchange of multiple joys and at the same time, we are equal as human beings.

 

Walter Link

 

[01:01:02] On our website, www.globalleadership.tv, you will find additional footage, other dialogues with innovation leaders from around the world and also the hands-on practices that help them and their organizations to move from inspiration to real change.