Kia ora: Over the summer holidays we visited Nepal and met members of SOCH, the Humanist Society of Nepal, and visited their school – Ambience International School. As a family we did a four day trek, through some of the mountain villages of the Annapurna region. A favourite memory is seeing the constellation Orion in the night sky. Venturing outside in the early morning hours, without light pollution, an upright Orion is a stunning vista. Another revelation was seeing the natural growth habit of the poinsettia. Here in NZ, I am accustomed to the poinsettia as a pot plant, making its appearance before Christmas. In Nepal, it is a tree with the brilliant red flowers hanging delicately from the ends of slender arching branches. Life is hard for the Nepalese people. There is a serious clean water shortage. The electricity supply is disrupted daily with load shedding – power is only available for 12 hours a day spread over several short periods. With no wind to blow smoke and traffic fumes away, pollution is high in the Kathmandu valley. But, cafes and restaurants sell refreshing freshly squeezed orange juice and lemonade from fresh lemons. Delicious!
Monthly Meeting: Monday 24 February 2014
Open to the public – All interested people are welcome – bring a friend
Sophisticated Nonsense: A Fundamentalist Christian View of Biblical Prophecy and Historicity
Mark Fletcher will be offering a critical analysis of an interpretation of biblical prophecy, particularly of how History is cherry-picked, simplified and even rewritten to make it fit a prophecy.
He will also show how a confident fundamentalist speaker, who appears to have a sophisticated biblical and historical knowledge, can actually be quite deceptive.
This presentation will include the viewing of a fundamentalist video and there will be time for audience discussion at the end.
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend..
We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm
*** Please note the day and venue ***
Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff Street, Wellington.
Moncrieff Street is off Elizabeth Street, which is off Kent Terrace, Wellington – a short distance from Courtney Place on trolley bus routes 1 & 3.
Meetings this year will be on the 4th Monday of the month at the Tararua Tramping Club rooms, 4 Moncrieff Street.
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.
We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm
Radio Access: Humanist Outlook is broadcast at 10:30 am on Access Radio, Wellington, 783 kHz, every fourth Saturday. Next is 1st March.
If you are outside the Wellington area, go to www.accessradio.org.nz to listen or to download as a podcast after the event.
Last Months Meeting At the last meeting of 20013, on the 25 November, Peter Clemerson tackled the questions: why do we have weeks, what are weeks, and why does ours have seven days? Answering these questions also asked: what are the origins of this cultural universal, how connected are they to religions, which ones, how many, how old, from which ancient cultures, and how were their contributions merged? Peter says that there are a few surprises awaiting someone who investigates the week. But why does the week start on Sunday in some countries and Monday in others? Peter’s interesting talk was a reduced version of a 2 hour presentation that Peter recently gave to the Community Continuing Education unit at VUW.
Darwin Day 2014 Humanists and Skeptics joined to celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday on 12th February with a social evening at The Foxglove, Queen’s Wharf, Wellington and continued the discussion at a nearby restaurant. We thank Dr Geoff Chambers, Senior Research & Teaching Fellow at the School of Biological Sciences Victoria University who joined us for an informal discussion on evolution.
NZ visit by Professor Guy Standing: Professor Standing is professor of Developmental Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a founder member and co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), a non-governmental organisation that promotes a citizen income for all. The May 2013 Humanist Newsletter included short summaries of some of Professor Standing’s observations and analysis of our modern world, which he outlines in his book The Precariat, the new dangerous class (2011). This influential book introduced the Precariat as an emerging mass class, characterized by inequality and insecurity. Professor Standing outlined the increasingly global nature of the Precariat as a social phenomenon, especially in the light of the social unrest characterized by the Occupy movements. He outlined the political risks they might pose, and at what might be done to diminish inequality and allow such workers to find a more stable labour identity.
Professor Standing has written a new book to be published in a few months – A Precariat Charter: From Denziens to Citizens (Bloomsbury Academic, 10 April 2014). This book takes the debate a stage further, looking in more detail at the kind of progressive politics that might form the vision of a Good Society in which such inequality, and the instability it produces is reduced. A Precariat Charter discusses how rights – political, civil, social and economic – have been denied to the Precariat, and the importance of redefining our social contract around notions of associational freedom, agency and the commons.
Professor Standing will be speaking on ‘Towards a Precariat Charter’ there is no charge & no RSVP required for both university talks.
- Auckland University: Monday 24 February 2-4pm at the Owen Glenn Building
- Victoria University: Wednesday 26 February 12.30-1.30pm in Lecture Theatre 2 Rutherford House
- Fundraiser for Living Wage campaign: Friday 28 February 4.30pm-7.00pm PSA House 11 Aurora Terrace Wellington Professor Standing will talk about how to reduce inequality and instability and the progressive politics to get us there $5 koha entry (waged) RSVP to [email protected]
IHEU World Humanist Congress Oxford 2014: The British Humanist Association is hosting this gathering Friday 8 August until Sunday 10 August 2014. The plenary sessions will be held in the Sheldonian Theatre designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1664 & 1668. Speakers include Taslima Nasrin, Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling, PZ Myers, Philip Pullman, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. More information is on the IHEU website www.whc2014.org.uk . The IHEU General Assembly will be held in two parts before and after the Congress, Thursday 7 August and Monday 11 August.
SOCH Nepal Humanist Society’s activities & Ambience International School, Kathmandu:
Superstition and unsafe cultural practices still exist in Nepalese Society and SOCH has been assisting work on a Bill to be put before parliament on Improper Cultural Practice and Law. SOCH have identified and provided a list of 57 such harmful practices with women the victims in most cases. The Norwegian Humanist Society sponsored a Seminar on this issue in January this year that was attended by representatives of the Nepal Women’s Commission who drafted the law, the Human Rights Commission and the Law Commission that must consider the Bill, members of parliament representing major parties, Human Rights activists, members of the media, SOCH members, and other interested people. Five members of the Humanist Society of New Zealand also attended. The purpose of the seminar was for all parties to meet together to discuss the issues and possible problems with the Bill to facilitate rapid progress through parliament. In Nepal there are many remote villages and people are still accused of being witches and treated horrendously. Last year a woman accused of being a witch was force fed faeces. One attendee at the seminar described how she had to flee her village after being accused of witchcraft. It was pleasing to see that there was agreement on the need for the new law and general agreement that it should be passed. A young Humanist pointed out the need to cover those, such as witch doctors, who incited violence against or persecution of others and the representative of the Law Commission said he would ensure that the Bill was amended to cover this. Later we visited villages in the hills near Pokhara and saw evidence of animal sacrifices and other superstitious practices.
In 2012 SOCH purchased a school as they wish to provide an opportunity for students to receive a secular education with a strong emphasis on reason and modern learning. HSNZ is considering sponsorship for the school. A student may be sponsored at the small cost of US$15/month. Options are being considered for sponsorship with the possibility of individual members sponsoring a child. If you are interested in this possibility please let us know. More details to follow.
Pastor Enoch Adeboye: Pastor Adeboye arrived in NZ on a private jet on Thursday 14 November. Letters from individual Humanist members and the Humanist Council were written to the Honorable Michael Woodhouse, Minister of Immigration, requesting that his Visa be revoked. The Minister has replied to say that in this case the freedom of religion and freedom of speech were considered more important than the public good! We were pleased that there has very little media coverage of Adeboye’s visit.
The Philippines and Typhoon Haiya To help the devastated Philippines donations may be made directly to PATAS, (Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society) at their website http://patas.co . PATAS is an Associate member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union and recently hosted a regional International Humanist Youth Conference. Eleanor Middleton represented the Humanist Society of New Zealand at this conference.
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Obituary – Heather Jean Dakin
(18 May 1925 – 16 September 2013)
Jean, as she was known, was born into a well off family in Hampshire, England, the second child of Alfred and Lilly Vair-Turnbull. Her parents had met during the Great War in Marseilles where they were both ambulance drivers. Having grown up in Scotland, Alfred became a ship owner and later was appointed Consul for Holland. Her mother was a keen golfer and when they moved to Surrey their house backed onto the Wentworh golf course. Jean’s older brother Stanley John St John (1923-1992), known as John, was educated at Glenalmond College, Scotland. During World War Two he served in the RAF.
Jean’s parents followed their own busy lives and as was the custom she was brought up by a governess, whom she called Squibby, was extremely fond of and stayed in touch with all her life. She saw little of her parents. Summers were spent at the family lodge on Loch Rannoch in the Scottish Highlands where Jean was at her happiest having only her pony Taffy and her lamb Milly for company. She roamed the moors and walked around the loch with these faithful companions.
When Jean was eight years old her father died suddenly and life changed drastically. Due to death duties both houses (in Surrey and Loch Rannoch) were sold and her mother bought a modest house on the Sussex coast. At the age of twelve Jean left home to attend boarding school, The Warren, at Worthing, Sussex where she was very happy. Later she went to Heathfield School at Ascot, Surrey, which she did not enjoy. At school she excelled at languages studying Latin, German, Spanish and French, and Jean was offered a scholarship to Oxford.
With the war in progress since 1939 Jean gave up the idea of going to university, instead she decided to look for a job where she could apply her linguistic skill to the war effort. On her own initiative she went to the Foreign Office in London where she was given a cross word puzzle to complete after which she was offered a job. Returning a second time she was interviewed by MI6 and having signed the Official Secrets Act was told to be at Waterloo Station at a certain time under the clock where she would be met and taken to a secret destination for training. This appealed to her sense of adventure. By this route she entered the world of Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, when she was aged 18; for her the war would involve decoding and encoding secret intelligence messages.
Her MI6 work eventually saw her posted to Naples and later to Trieste, Italy. While there she met a Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent Captain Hugh Byrd who had spent much of the war in Yugoslavia working with Tito’s partisans. John Hugh Linley Byrd (1916-1977, always known as Dicky, and Jean were married in 1947. After their marriage, when they could talk about their war time experiences, Jean discovered that she had often decoded her husband’s messages.
They decided to make a life for themselves in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. They were not happy living there and moved for a while to Tanzania and then on up to Kenya, where Dicky worked for the Colonial Service in the Agricultural Department until 1963, when independence was declared. Their children, Nicolette (Nicky) born in 1951 and Hugh born in 1954 went to boarding school in Kenya until 1963 when the family moved to the UK. Jean’s mother and brother had moved to Kenya in 1947. Her mother bought a farm where she lived with her sister and niece and her brother flew aircraft as a test pilot.
On their return to the UK Jean and Dicky bought a house in Devon where they lived until they moved to Portugal in 1968. Portugal appealed to them and they were very happy there until Dicky’s premature death in 1977. Jean decided to leave Portugal and was invited by some Kenya friends now in Tirau, New Zealand to visit them for a while.
Once in New Zealand she found her estranged brother John, who was living in Taupo virtually destitute; she helped him to get ‘back on his feet’ again with a new business. She bought a house in Cambridge where she lived happily for several years before moving for a brief period to Auckland. When she was back in the UK she visited friends in Cirencester in the Cotswolds who had a great friend of theirs staying from New Zealand, Jim Dakin (1908-2005). A retired professor of adult education and a widower, Jim had spent much of his early life working for the Colonial Administrative Service in British East Africa. He urged her to contact him during her forthcoming holiday to New Zealand and said he would like to show her the South Island.
Returning to New Zealand for a holiday Jean contacted Jim, who, true to his word, took her around the South Island, always her most favourite part of the country. They were married on 29 May 1993 by Jeanne van Gorkom, a Marriage Celebrant and President of the Humanist Society of New Zealand. For the next 12 years Jean and Jim lived happily in Wellington, Jean supported Jim in his activities within organised humanism and she also became a New Zealand citizen. Later she would ensure that his collections of material on secular education, adult education, and freethought were deposited in the Alexander Turnbull Library.
Following Jim’s death in 2005 Jean returned to the UK and lived in Sidmouth, Devon, for two years. She decided at this point that she needed to live where her memories of Jim were and she returned to New Zealand and lived at Eastbourne in Wellington. At the same time, her son, Hugh and his family moved from Malaysia to Auckland, so she later moved there to be nearer to him.
In 2012 Hugh took a job with an English university. Not wishing to leave his mother without any family in Auckland, it was agreed that she would return to the UK and live with her daughter and son-in-law in Wiltshire. She returned in December 2012 and enjoyed the period she spent in Wiltshire and the opportunity to get to know her grandchildren and visit old friends. Jean died suddenly from a heart attack on 16 September 2013. In accordance with her wishes a simple non-religious service was conducted by Hugh at the Kingsdown Crematorium Chapel, Swindon on 8 October 2013, where he explained Jean’s views:
Our mother expressly wished not to have a religious ceremony and she would have wanted you to know why ….. Today we pay our respects to her. It is her day and we should respect her views. Although she was born into the Catholic faith, she did not follow that calling and was a free-thinker throughout her life. She saw no evidence for the existence of a supernatural being and consequently, at death, saw no evidence of the separation of body and soul, no life-everlasting, no heaven, no hell and no ascendance. This is a courageous view to take as you can take no comfort in the concept of meeting somebody again after death in a better life and in a better place. Indeed it was this idea that she found most difficult for if one truly believes that there is a better place and a better life after death, then this life and this place are second best and treated accordingly. She saw the evidence of this in the way that mankind can cause destruction on each other and to this earth, all too often in the name of a god.
In her heart she had always been a Humanist. It was after meeting Jim that she learnt to intellectualise this.
Wayne Facer with Nicky Zawila and Hugh Byrd.