Teach your son
Frei Betto, a true priest, who stays in the midst of people, friend of the President of Brazil, Lula, sent me a letter addressed to a Brazilian child.
But it could be any child in this world, even an Italian child. If you want, read it to your children.
“Teach your son that Brazil can succeed and that he must grow up to be proud of being Brazilian. In this country, there are just judges, even though this truth may sound uncomfortable. Judges like my father who have never offered a job to members of his own family, even though his sons are lawyers, who have never taken advantage of their position to gain a favour and who remain impartial and so have allowed even the poor to win a case, and have stood up to rich owners or companies who had to admit that for certain men, honour is not a good that can be negotiated.
Teach your son that in this country there are politicians with integrity, competent administrators, worthy authorities who don’t allow themselves to be corrupted, who don’t hide outrage under the mat, who aren’t afraid of being disliked by their friends or of deluding the powerful, who have the courage to think with their own heads and to look after honour more than their life.
Teach your son that not having a talent for sport, or not having the face or body of a top model, or feeling ugly in comparison with the current fashion for defining beauty, is not a good reason for loosing his self-esteem.
Happiness cannot be bought, nor is it a trophy that can be won by beating competitors; it is bound up with values and virtues, and design, in our existence, that sense for which it is worth living or dying.
Teach your son that Brazil has continental dimensions and the most fertile land of the planet. Thus it is not possible to justify so much land without people and so many people without land. Just as the freeing of slaves came late, but eventually happened, even agrarian reform will have its moment. And let us hope that little blood will flow in bringing it about.
Let your son know that those without land who occupy uncultivated areas, unlawfully claimed by landlords or even abandoned, today are called “bandits”, just as once upon a time condemnation fell upon Gandhi, sitting on an English railway line, and upon Luther King who occupied the schools where black people could not go.
Teach your son that pioneers and prophets, from Jesus to Tiradentes, from Saint Francis of Assisi to Nelson Mandela, were invariably treated by the elite of their time as subversives, malefactors and visionaries.
Teach your son that Brazil is a country that works and is creative. Millions of Brazilians get up early in the morning and eat less than they need and pass most of their life working, in exchange for a wage that isn’t even enough to give them access to a house of their own. And even so, these people are not capable of stealing a pen from the office, a brick from the building site, a tool from the factory. They are proud of not falling so low, where at the same level you find the bandits with white collars and the small-time crooks. They are people made of the same mettle as those refuse collectors of Vitória who handed over to the Police, bags full of money that bank robbers had hidden in a bucket.
Teach your son to avoid the privileged lane of this neo-liberal society that tries to brainwash them into thinking that being a consumer is more important than being a citizen, that incenses who brings down fortune, that exalts the aesthetic rather than ethics. Convince him that happiness is not the result of the sum of pleasures, and that the spiritual route is a treasure that is conserved in the depth of the heart … those who manage to open it will enjoy indescribable happiness.
Let your son know that Brazil is the land of the Indios who did not bend to the yolk of the Portuguese, and of Zumbi, Angelim and Frei Caneca, of Joana Angélica and Anita Garibaldi, dom Helder Câmara and Chico Mendes.
Teach your son that he doesn’t have to agree with the established disorder and that he will be happy if he joins with those who fight for social transformation, who make this country free and just. He will thus transmit to your grandchildren the inheritance of your wisdom.
Teach your son to vote according to his conscience and to never be disgusted by politics, in as much as those that act like that are governed by those who have no politics, and if the majority should happen to feel like that, it will be the end of democracy.
That your vote and his are in favour of social justice and the rights of Brazilians who are so unjustly poor and excluded, for political reasons, from the gifts of life.
Teach your son for a person it is enough to have bread, wine and great love. Cultivate in him the desires of the spirit, the respect of older people, the love of nature, the defence of the most fragile.
Let your son know how to listen to silence, to respect expressions of life and to allow himself to be loved by God who lives in him.”