Brazil has recently experienced two events of historic magnitude: it elected a laborer as President, and, immediately thereafter, a woman, the daughter of Bulgarian immigrants, a resister to the military dictatorship who has been tested by torture. That is worth noting. After 503 years of uninterrupted power, during which the elites dominated this country, the concrete political and social conditions were created to break that continuity. A son of poverty, Lula, broke through with an overwhelming charisma that changed the Brazilian political scene.
Now a woman succeeds him, Dilma Vana Rousseff. In the first place, she is a woman. To all those who come from the patriarchal and andro-centric culture that still dominates society, and who have not noticed the cultural revolution ushered in by women more than a century ago, the fact of being a woman means nothing. Many of their heads still nurture what Aristotle taught, Thomas Aquinas repeated and what is still preserved in the Canonic Code and in Freud’s psychology: that woman is a half-developed man who has not yet reached full status. Therefore, her place is only that of a helper. Then… there appeared a woman who broke with this prejudice and presents herself as a President who consciously assumes this role. Moreover, she is a woman who has proven her courage, when she opposed those who kidnapped, tortured and killed in the name of State of National Security (understood as the Security of the Capital.) Dilma Vana Rousseff is a woman who helped build an open democracy, without bitterness and without hate, as was seen in the Presidential campaign, of very low ethical level, and who brilliantly demonstrated her qualifications as administrator in several public functions.
Dilma does not have the same type of charisma that Lula has. His is the charisma of the head, that expresses things more than words, that speaks the truth directly, and gives convincing speeches. She has the charisma of the hands, the charisma of actions: correct, well planned, and rigorously realized. Without losing a woman’s tenderness, she is demanding, as she should be.
There is charisma and there is charisma. The category charisma cannot be monopolized by one type of charisma, that of the creative word and the fascination it arouses. There are other types of charisma that do not necessarily pass through the spoken word. Otherwise, Chico Buarque, from Holland, would not be the unquestionably charismatic man that he is, because his charisma is not revealed through the spoken word, but in novels, in poetry and often in music.
Let us better explain this understanding of charisma, that goes far beyond the meaning given it by Max Weber. Rarely found in Greek literature or that relating to the Old Testament, it was introduced by Saint Paul, who used it scores of times in his epistles. Charisma is related to other two realities: Spirit and community. The Spirit is understood as the fantasy of God, the divine principle of all creativity and invention. That Spirit elicits all types of charisma, such as those of intelligence, of counsel, the consoling of the infirm, teaching, conversation, the guiding of a community. Charisma does not belong to the realm of the extraordinary, but to the ordinary things of life, such as singing, making music, and entertaining the community. There are no idle members: «every man hath his proper gift, some in one way, and others in other ways.» (1Cor 7,7).
Charisma comes from the Spirit but is directed to building and awakening the community. It is not for self-promotion, but for the service of others. It may be defined as follows: charisma is the concrete function that each performs within the community for the well being of all, (1 Cor 12,7; Ef 4,7), a function understood in faith as the work of the Creative Spirit within the community.
Let us apply this to the case of Dilma. Her charisma, as understood above, is the work of administration, that of governance, the planning of a program for Brazil and the diligence to realize with a sense of social and ecologic justice, of the inclusion of the destitute, with public ethics, transparency in decision-making, and control of the proceedings. Perhaps it is appropriate that the charisma of the head be complemented with the charisma of the working hands.
Dilma’s will alone is not enough for this charisma to be realized. What is needed is the support of the society, the general good will of all and from all who work for the well being of the people, starting by the least among us.
– Leonardo Boff, Theologian, Earthcharter Commission
(Free translation from the Spanish sent by Melina Alfaro, email@example.com, Refugio del Rio Grande, Texas, EE.UU.)