Living in Covenant and Overcoming Extremism
At a time when the powerful make use of extremes to polarize society, manipulate the insecure, hijack their capacity for discernment and dominate social and political currents, it is essential to awaken the individual's capacity for discernment, so that he can find the middle ground in the truth in the organic world, and thus, his path of intellectual and affective liberation, for his own benefit and that of society.
F. Afonso Wosny and Sister M. Nilza
18 March 2021
Healthy bonds as an answer to polarization
Every person needs concrete expressions of love, to have someone at their side who looks at them with tenderness and helps them in everyday matters. In an audience, Pope Francis said that technology helps communication, but tenderness is exclusive to human hearts. Technology “can do many things, but there is one thing it cannot do: give tenderness. Tenderness is the sign of the presence of Jesus, getting close to one’s neighbor, helping, sacrificicing oneself for the other.” 
It is urgent that we promote a covenant culture of welcoming the other; we all belong to each other as humanity. If we do not take care of each other, there will be no tomorrow. Pope Frances affirms: “There is no worse alienation than the experience of not having roots, of not belonging to anyone… a nation will bear fruit and will be able to generate a future only to the extent that it gives life to relationships among its members,”
Real personal bonds, even if virtual
When it comes to internet use, relationships and personal bonds are topics that are always on the rise, both in conversations and in scientific studies. It is perceived that the feeling of being hidden in internet interactions makes many people become aggressive.
The algorithms of social networks allow isolation in bubbles, where we only have contact with people who think like us and totally exclude those who have different opinions.
Extremism generates violence
Extremist thinking is always narrow and manipulative, it does not create healthy bonds. In a world with an almost infinite possibility of obtaining information and allowing everyone to express their ideas, it is paradoxical that such narrow-mindedness in the political sphere, and other areas as well, allows no other possibility but to position oneself on the extreme right or left. There is much intolerance, divisions, aggressive relations, and lack of fraternal respect or respect for the authorities; an unwillingness to accept what others think, believing that only our political vision is the right one and finding nothing positive in what those who do not belong to my bubble do or say.
In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis affirms that “today, in many countries, the political mechanism of tormenting, exaggerating and polarizing is used… others are denied the right to exist and to think, and, to this end, they resort to the strategy of deriding them, insinuating suspicions about them and repressing them. One does not accept their part of the truth, their values, and thus society is impoverished and ends up reduced to the arrogance of the strongest”.
The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman states that in the “liquid society”, evil also becomes liquid and people act aggressively, as if it were normal to deny those who are different the right to exist . In this way, all those who “belong to another group” are treated as inferior and enemies.
Let’s use the media to generate unity
“The Internet is not responsible for this contemporary wave of populism or ultra-conservative governments” , says Pierre Levy, philosopher of cyberculture. He reminds us that social media is neutral in itself and can be used for unity and peace. But, just as Nazism used radio to manipulate opinions and establish an extreme dictatorship, today’s extremists use the Internet to impose their right-wing or left-wing ideologies, and there are many people who think that these are the only two possibilities to govern, which forms a very tragic future where there are no free personalities capable of controlling this current.
Pope Francis stresses that virtual relationships complement but do not replace personal encounters. Thus, he expresses, “How good it would be if, as we discover new distant planets, we would also discover the needs of the brother and sister orbiting around us!” 
Love transforms reality
Our covenant of love with Mary is tested, matures and deepens in the daily trials of loving our neighbor, even when that neighbor thinks the opposite of what I think. How many of our brothers and sisters need our attention! Often, violent speech and extremist opinions are expressions of fear and self defense mechanisms by those who feel insecure and fearful. The wounded on the roadside, as Jesus narrates in the parable of the Good Samaritan, can be found within our home or in an app group, and the exercise of small virtues is the service we can offer them on a daily basis.
Let us reflect on what our Father and Founder says: “The point of view by which we will be judged is love of thy neighbor…. In the faces of those around me, I see the footprints of God the Father, the footprints of Christ and of the Blessed Mother. Here a whole world is opening up that we must conquer anew… we must strive to form families everywhere, so that man will once again have the capacity for attachment” .
Note: This text is a clipping and synthesis of the talk given at the October Congress of the Southeast 2020 Regional in Brazil..