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Love, Forgiveness, Expropriation: Brazil’s Landless Peasant Movement

A central question for me, as a Buddhist organizing for collective liberation from oppression, capitalism, and needless material suffering, is how to resist and reclaim in a spirit of love.  In a discussion here on Turning Wheel, seth nathanson raised an important point for discussion:

I can understand the frustration. It seems like the rich are taking from everyone else, so in order to rectify the injustice, it should be fair to take from them.

But this is stealing — “To take what is not freely given”, in the words of Buddha.

The debate raises questions that I hope we can keep on exploring, together.  Can we lovingly expropriate?  Can we practice compassionate confrontation, reclaiming that which rightfully belongs to the 99% — or rightfully belongs to no one, and ought to be freely available, rather than privately owned?

While I wouldn’t call metta-fueled resistance a universal prescription for all people in all circumstances, we can gain lots of inspiration from people and movements across the world that reclaim from a place of love and dignity.  The Movement of Landless Rural Workers of Brazil (MST) is just such an inspiration, for me.

Depending who you ask, the MST may or may not “steal from the rich.”  From their perspective, they take over vast “unproductive lands” and put them to use, feeding people.  From an article on “How Our Work Promotes Love and Forgiveness“:

In January 2014 the MST turns 30 years. During its existence there were organized over 2.600 mobilizations for the expropriation of large unproductive lands, resulting in more than 370.000 families in settlements from the Agrarian Reform, in over 7.5 million hectares conquered.

…People living in settlements cultivate love of neighbor helping others landless to conquer dignity. They collaborate in mobilizations seeking for the right of land access in more than 300 camps with 80.000 families across Brazil. Among the many solidarity actions of MST, it can be found food and blood donation to needy people.

It exist an articulation and solidarity with movements and organizations from the five continents that share a vision of love and respect for the land, exchange of popular knowledge, seeds guard, coexistence with nature and life, forgiveness as restoration of degraded people and nature, having the land as the only way for survival. Share and inspire other organizations through debates, publication of materials, exchange of knowledge and experiences, participation in international activities and mobilizations conducted jointly.

…The MST is considered one of the biggest social movements in Latin America and its leaders are invited for lectures and interaction with other organizations around the world to mobilize action of love, forgiveness and solidarity, to seek answers to the problems that affect the global population.

Watch the video above, read the rest of the article, and tell us: what movements inspire you, in their ability to mount effective resistance in a spirit of love and forgiveness?

Comments (2)

  • Jeff Gee

    Right on, Katie! Taking back what the rich have grabbed from us is restitution, not stealing. Just like returning a stolen car, or lands, to their rightful owners, it is a step toward restoring balance. I mean, who is entitled to owning billions of dollars worth of anything? Are we supposed to council the poor to suffer with dignity? Only the comfortable can contemplate that. Go, Robin Hood. Thanks, Jeff.

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