Humanist Perspectives: issue 190: Whatever the odds — just do what you have to do!

Whatever the odds — just do what you have to do!
by Madeline Weld


n the last issue of Humanist Perspectives, Chris Clugston in The Most Endangered Species made the case that the increasing scarcity of economically viable deposits of the non-renewable natural resources on which our global civilization depends spells the doom of that very civilization. Taking up, in a manner of speaking, where Clugston left off, Tony Cassils looks at globalization as a key concept defining our era and one that drives up the consumption not only of those increasingly scarce non-renewables but of everything else. That’s because globalization is all about the expansion of international markets and the removal of controls on the flow of goods and finances, in addition to the privatization of public enterprise, the deregulation of the economy and the control of organized labour. As described by Cassils, globalism is an outgrowth of the ideal of continuous economic growth whose roots go a long way back to the Renaissance, the flowering of science, new discoveries, and the rise of corporations. Like Clugston, Cassils is gloomy, foreseeing that globalization will have an unpleasant encounter in the not too distant future with the Limits to Growth that the Club of Rome introduced us to in 1972.

Like Clugston, Cassils is gloomy, foreseeing that globalization will have an unpleasant encounter in the not too distant future with the Limits to Growth that the Club of Rome introduced us to in 1972.

John Meyer examines why governments continue to pursue growth when the evidence that the limits have been surpassed is becoming overwhelming. Political leaders, he says, have sold out to globalist interests, which are to import massive levels of cheap labour, export the highest paying jobs to the cheapest labour market and minimize investment in people. As the globalism imperative chases maximum cash flow to the benefit of the elites, governments have set aside clear national goals, but these are critical to establishing sustainable progress and to benefit society as a whole. A sustainable egalitarian society will require a new mindset – a change in our societal DNA.

Henry Beissel asks what humanists can do about all this. Can we find a viable road out of the morass we got ourselves into, despite warnings from Rachel Carson (Silent Spring, 1962), the Club of Rome (Limits to Growth, 1972), and others? Unlike religious believers, humanists think that what we see in this world is what we get. But despite an increasing number of non-believers, registered humanists are few in number and heterogeneous. Beissel proposes that humanists focus on the fundamental principles that unite them, be more proactive in meeting like-minded people, provide some form of social services, and work to overhaul our political system to render it truly accountable to the people. We humans will fall victim to our own folly and greed unless we smarten up and create truly sustainable communities, recognizing that our own fate is linked to that of our fellow creatures.

Eric Thomas in his report on the Imagine No Religion 4 (INR4) conference, held in Kamloops, BC, in May, takes a more optimistic perspective, given the spread of non-religiosity in societies (at least Western ones), as highlighted in the soon to be released documentary “The Unbelievers” by Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, shown at the conference. But still the difficult question of “herding cats” remains: “What tactics should leadership use to serve humanists when dictating doctrine and central control is rejected?”

My article concerns one of the most intractable problems of our time as exhibited in the recent flare-up between Hamas and Israel: the religio-political ideology of Islam that preclude there ever being peace between Islam and Jews – and ultimately between Islam and the rest of us. The tendency of many humanists to lump together Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as equal partners in an unholy Abrahamic trinity is incorrect, in my view. (I define “Islam” as the theology it has always been and still is, as understood by all mainstream Sunni and Shiite theologians, not as it is interpreted by your friendly hijab-wearing colleague.) I am aware that my perspective on the conflict in the Middle East differs substantially from those expressed on more than one occasion in Humanist Perspectives, but the very name of our publication suggests the possibility of reasonable people holding differing points of view. Sophie Dulesh’s short science fiction story “God’s Wrath?” provides a vivid and entertaining illustration of the nihilistic Islamic ideology. As we are finding out these days with almost every news report, while religiosity may be slipping in Western countries, its fires are still burning brightly in many other parts of the world – literally so in those areas where Islam is on the march.

The way forward is fraught and, faced with so many looming catastrophes, we might take to heart a quote from the Dutch Prince William of Orange: “It’s not necessary to hope in order to undertake, nor to succeed in order to persevere.” Through our collective efforts, we might just make things turn out a little bit better than they otherwise would have.

— Madeline Weld, Ottawa

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