President sounds alert “dangerous selfishness” of current times

President Marcelo used the weekend’s anniversary of 50 years of religious freedom in Portugal to warn against “dangerous selfishness” that has crept into modern life.

The most recent ‘crises’ have been “very hard, very difficult, prompting egoism”, he said at the end of an ecumenical mass in Lisbon on Saturday.

“Social concerns are inseparable from the construction of a just democracy”, he continued – referring afterwards to Portugal’s pact over immigration and refugees, and the consequences of the current pandemic.

“Sadly we live in a time of some intolerance, some xenophobia, some distancing from others. We are living in a dangerously selfish time”.

The relatively short but incisive reflection on Portugal’s developing reality comes as the ‘rise’ of right wing parties in Portugal are seeing politicians refuse to comply with established rules.

André Ventura of Chega, for example, was recently ordered by a court to make a public apology to a family he branded ‘bandits’ during the presidential campaign, yet has solidly refused to.

Meantime, he has been fined almost €3,500 by the Commission against racial discrimination for insulting Portugal’s gypsy community.

Iniciativa Liberal also held a ‘traditional street party’ over the weekend when these have been specifically ‘banned’ due to the continuing pandemic. (By law, political gatherings are not bound by DGS rules, but the practice has been that political parties tend to respect them anyway).

In other words, changes are creeping into society in such a way that a recent poll conducted by researchers at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon for the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has revealed national citizens are now showing themselves increasingly ‘open’ to the idea of an authoritarian leader “who does not respond to parliament or the popular vote”.

Investigator Pedro Magalhães explains the tendency isn’t exclusive to Portugal. It is happening elsewhere. What is curious however is that Portugal is now “closer” in its overall thinking “to democracies – and even some authoritarian regimes – of eastern Europe”.

Daniel Oliveira, a regular columnist for Expresso, suggests this is “interesting and concerning”. Portugal is not keeping step with the western world, in this regard: “We are on a level of countries with democracies less than 20 years younger than ours…” he says.

And when it comes to nationals’ perception of others, drug addicts, alcoholics and gypsies were listed as the topmost groups respondents would least like as neighbours, ahead of Muslims, homosexuals, Jews, immigrant workers and ‘people of other nationalities’.

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