Within the World Social Forum 2021, a panel took place on 25 January with the title RBUI, gaining freedom by ensuring subsistence.
The speakers were Eduardo Suplicy, Sergio Mesquita and the author of the paper reproduced below, Juana Pérez Montero.
The slogan of the Forum Another world is possible connects with what we feel and think and with our deep faith in the human process. And this leads us to ask ourselves – in this area and from the theme that has brought us together – what this world we aspire to would be like and what instruments, steps, relationships, etc. we need to take in order to build it.
Trying to explain in one sentence the world in which we live, we can say that the essence of it is violence, which has many different faces and which we can summarize as physical, economic, racial, sexual, religious, moral and psychological violence. At the moment, economic violence is perhaps the mother of all forms of violence, as it is the one which, to a large extent, affects all the victims of the other forms of violence.
If the essence of this system is violence and, therefore, destruction and death – the destruction and death of all forms of life, as we are seeing – when we try to imagine the other world that we believe possible and to which we aspire, we necessarily imagine it to be nonviolent.
But nonviolence does not imply passivity – as its detractors advertise. No, nonviolence in its essence also carries the moral commitment to action in the direction of trying to develop a new culture and the path that leads to it… of course, far from imposition and even beyond concrete short-term results.
And from active nonviolence, we consider denouncing this violent system and its excesses, but – in our opinion and above all – we should put our energy into the construction of the new, of what we imagine and long for.
And what does this world we long for look like? It is a world in which people and the environment in which they live will be at the centre, in which Life with capital letters will be at the center, in which human life and freedom will be at the centre, in which nothing is above the human being and no human being is above another.
That world which affirms the equality of all people will necessarily work towards moving beyond the simple formality of equal rights before the law, towards a world of equal opportunities for all.
And for this to be possible, each person, each population, needs living conditions that bring them closer to equal opportunities.
What opportunities can we talk about today for the billions of human beings who barely have anything to put in their mouths, for the elderly who have no pension, for the many women who have to live with their abuser because they cannot support themselves and their children? What opportunities, and therefore what freedom to think, feel and do, are we talking about when we talk about millions of children who have to work for a plate of food or little else? What freedom and opportunities are we talking about when we talk about child marriage, child prostitution… or much of prostitution in general? What opportunities are we talking about when we look at the situation of a large part of the LGTBIQ population? What freedom of negotiation are we talking about for millions and millions of workers who have to accept precarious employment that does not allow them to subsist in minimally decent living conditions? We could go through more and more collectives to corroborate that there is no such equality of opportunity in practice.
But, how can we begin to make progress in creating the conditions for equal opportunities to become a reality?
Undoubtedly, we have to start with the most basic, by ensuring the subsistence of all human beings. There is enough wealth for that. The key is to question the concentration of this wealth in fewer and fewer hands and to redistribute it. We must not accept and denounce the discourse that says that there are no resources for all people.
We said: The most basic thing is to ensure the subsistence of all human beings and, to this end, the right to subsistence must be recognised as the first of human rights.
Humanity needs this article 25 of the Declaration of Human Rights to be developed as has been done with other rights.
Of course we do not question the rest of the rights. How can we question the right to education, to health, etc.? Not at all.
What we are saying is that such rights – you will agree with me – are superfluous if subsistence is not assured.
So we must do everything in our power to ensure that the United Nations – at the outset – recognises this right and encourages the implementation of the necessary measures to make it a reality. And an excellent measure, because it is universal, unconditional, individual and sufficient, is the implementation of a basic income.
Of course, for this right to be implemented in each territory, we activists must work to ensure that governments legislate in this direction, but it also seems to me that it is essential to propose, and what better way than at this World Forum, that we must think about this right and help to make it a reality for the whole of humanity, not just for certain countries where we are.
Those of us who are at this world meeting, I am sure that we feel that we are citizens of the world and that we know that borders are only for the poor, that the rich find the doors open to them, that big capital does not have and is not loyal to any flag. Therefore, we need to maintain our internationalist outlook and claim the same right for all human beings. We need to start speaking out against borders, by the way. But this is another issue.
Let’s go back to basic income and ensuring subsistence for all. And let’s talk about some of the consequences of its implementation.
The first consequence is the disappearance of poverty at a stroke.
This would eliminate all the physical and mental illnesses associated with precariousness and, therefore, also those derived from the somatisations produced by the closure of the future due to not having a secure livelihood.
When we talk about eliminating poverty, about breaking down fears about the future… we talk about changing living conditions, about liberation, about having our time and being able to decide what we do with it, about ensuring conditions to develop our freedom, in short.
Freedom to negotiate jobs, freedom to have sex with whomever and whenever we choose, freedom to relate in all fields with whomever or whomever we want, freedom to opt for more horizontal forms of government… freedom… freedom… and, therefore, democracy as well.
It is not easy to feel free when we have nothing to put in our mouths or nothing to feed our children.
It is not easy…. Let’s imagine it for a moment…
I invite you to imagine with me for a few moments…
Let’s imagine that we don’t have enough to eat today… and that we don’t know how to get food for our loved ones to eat today… or tomorrow …. or the day after tomorrow… Can you imagine it?…
And now, just for a moment too… Let’s imagine that our subsistence is assured… that we have an assured material floor… that we no longer have to worry about having assured food, light… basic… certain basic conditions of life…
Isn’t it true that we go from a feeling of anguish, of suffocation, of darkness, where all our energy, all our time is dedicated to see how to get ahead, to a feeling of relaxation, in which we can begin to breathe deeply, from which we can observe how our inner and outer world is illuminated… Perhaps, how the best of each one of us and of the others comes to light, how the future is illuminated?
These kinds of sensations, these kinds of registers, this is what millions and millions of human beings do not experience today but can experience if their livelihood is assured.
This, my friends, is the nonviolent world we aspire to, the personal experience of the world we want to build. This is to talk about advancing towards equal opportunities for all, this is to concretise the conditions that allow us to develop our freedom.
To speak of a universal, unconditional, individual and sufficient basic income is to speak of having a guaranteed subsistence.
And to have a guaranteed subsistence is to lay the material foundation to advance in our liberation, to be able to grow the goodness and compassion that we all carry within us and to relate to each other from there, to be able to dedicate ourselves to developing our intentionality and humanity in a rainbow of possibilities and colours, to make our spirit grow. It is, in short, to move forward in unfolding our limitless freedom.
Thank you very much.