What Dreams May Come
01 January 1991
I had the good fortune to be born into a family with a dream, which believed in the coming of the Kingdom, although my parents would not have put it that way.
By LAURIE VOGEL
Aipari, in the great Brazilian cattleranching State of Mato Grosso, achieved sad fame in the October elections this year. Of its 181 registered voters, only one took the trouble to go to the polling-booth - and he put in a spoilt ballot-paper. The voters of Aipari were an extreme example of the national disinterest in the election.
Only a year before, hundreds of thousands were taking to the streets in mass demonstrations preceding Brazil's first free presidential elections for 26 years. Some of those demonstrating had been tortured, imprisoned or had seen their comrades liquidated under military rule. They ate, slept, dreamt of free expression: rule by the people rather than on their behalf.
What has become of their dream?
I had the good fortune to be born into a family with a dream, which believed in the coming of the Kingdom, although my parents would not have put it that way. They had rejected all churches; none of us children was baptized. But, in contrast to today's belief in selfdevelopment, they held firmly that we are on this Earth to serve others.
My father expressed his dream thus: `From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need.' Those are Marx's words, but the vision was given by Jesus: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' When I, as an adult, became a Christian and attempted to pass my new faith on to my father, he maintained, `My religion is humanity.' Later in life he became convinced that, without a power greater than human selfishness, the most well-meant schemes would be destroyed.Twenty years after his death, his children - may I dare to say his grandchildren? - stumblingly pursue the dream he never abandoned.
The death of socialism in Eastern Europe and the USSR has freed millions of oppression, but deprived humanity of a dream. Free-market liberalism - as recent articles in Der Spiegel and Fortune have pointed out - may get the economy going, but cannot satisfy the hunger for a vision. `Capitalism is neither a religion nor a philosophy,' points out Henry Anatole Grunwald in Fortune.
Our richest societies testify that without a dream to live for, people remain unsatisfied. Drugs, rising crimelevels, a suffering sub-class cry out to the world that `seek ye first the economic kingdom and all else will be added unto you' is a failed philosophy.
The great ideals of the 20th century have failed. The political dreams of today may be as fleeting as Brazil's `liberty for the people'. Where can we turn?
Speaking to 1,200 Mexican businessmen in Durango, in May, Pope John Paul II said: `We must consider human activity in the light of collaboration with God, which every person is called to give. Our modern world... must give echo to this divine plan and cooperate with the Creator in changing the world according to God's design.' This vision, the mother of them all, was already old two millennia ago when the prophet Joel promised, `Your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions.' And there is abundant life in it yet.