Kia ora: As I sit to put together this month’s newsletter I see that today is the International Day of Peace. Facebook has a post with the admonition ‘Peace begins with Love.’ But, I am thinking that Peace begins with informed critical thinking and reflection on our behaviour. It is helpful to be able to place ourselves in another’s shoes. In our privileged country, and those of us with a comfortable existence, it is good to be reminded of the difficulties of others. On social media, a recent arrival in our country has expressed this dilemma with the following reflection.  ‘My friend. Tomorrow morning, when you are looking at yourself in the mirror, remember that on the other side of the world, doing simple tasks is difficult, Buying the cheapest item could cost you your life; even the smiling lips of others have lots of sadness in their hearts. On the other side of the world, falling in love is breaking the law, the law is unjust. Everybody is pretentious, hyenas rule over the lions and the crows fly higher than the eagles. My friend, tomorrow morning when you are looking at yourself in the mirror remember that on the other side of the world even the sun is feeling cold and sleepy.’

Monthly meeting: Monday 3 October 6.30 pm

Effective Altruism

Catherine Low from Christchurch, and the Effective Altruism Charitable Trust will speak to us about this concept. Effective altruists aim to consider all causes and actions, and then act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact. It is this broad evidence-based approach that distinguishes effective altruism from traditional altruism or charity. While a substantial proportion of effective altruists have focused on the non-profit sector, the philosophy of effective altruism applies much more broadly, e.g., to prioritizing the scientific projects, companies, and policy initiatives which can be estimated to save and improve the most lives. They bring together critical thinking, open mindedness and global empathy when considering how to help with the disparity that suffuses our world. Associated with this movement is Peter Singer, the Australian moral philosopher, who was recognised in 2004 as the Australian Humanist of the year by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies.

All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.

Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon, Wellington

Member Subscription for 2016: Thank you to members who have renewed membership. Your support is much appreciated and helps lend weight to our campaigns. Visit our website humanist. org if you are either renewing your membership or signing up for the first time.

  •     Free Film Screening: Tuesday 27 September 8.00 pm Penthouse in Brooklyn, Wellington

A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God’

  •       There is no God. Now what? If this is the only life we have, how does that affect how we live our life, how we treat each other, and how we cope with death. As a follow-up to one of Kickstarter’s most successful publishing projects, photographer and filmmaker Chris Johnson introduces us to some of the many voices from his book. In this fascinating documentary — learn the stories behind the book in interviews with some of our greatest thinkers. Join Chris as he explores issues of joy & meaning and travels around the globe meeting people from all walks of life and backgrounds who challenge the false stereotypes of atheists as immoral and evil. From Daniel Dennett and A.C. Grayling, to Julia Sweeney and Robert Llewellyn —learn the various ways many atheists have left religion for a better life filled with love, compassion, hope, and wonder!
  •       Come and enjoy watching this film with other persons with a secular, humanist & rationalist viewpoint.
  •       Napier: Wednesday 28 September @ 7.00pm at the Holt Planetarium Chambers St, Napier (gold coin entry)
  •       Auckland: Tuesday 4 October, please contact Peter Harrison  021 046 8700
  •    All screenings in New Zealand will include an introduction from the creator of A Better Life, Chris Johnson, as well as a Question & Answer session with him after the viewing. Chris has already presented screening events of A Better Life in over 60 cities on four continents. From London, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Dallas to Shanghai, Lima, Reykjavik, Copenhagen and Guatemala City. Now we are lucky enough to have Chris in New Zealand – don’t forget these dates.
  •   2016 AGM Saturday15 October 2016: Late Lunch with Guest Speaker @ the Thistle Inn.
  •    Mix & mingle from 11.30 am, AGM @ 12 Noon followed by lunch at 1.00 pm @ the Thistle Inn
  •       Health Committee hearing to consider evidence on the petition of the Hon. Maryan Street on Assisted Dying:

Our President Sara Passmore, recently attended this hearing to speak to our submission. Here is Sara’s presentation.

  •      The Humanist Society of New Zealand is the only national charity working to promote Humanism, support and represent the non-religious, and promote a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief. The Humanist Society of New Zealand works on behalf of the 41% (over 1.5 million) of people in NZ who declare themselves non-religious, and who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity.
  •      The Humanist View
  •      We support changes to New Zealand law to allow physician assisted dying under certain circumstances with appropriate safeguards.
  •      Humanists are non-religious people who live by moral principles based on reason and respect for others.
  •      One of the aims of Humanist organisations around the world is to promote humanist views on public ethical issues, especially where others are actively promoting views opposed to humanist values or the non-religious voice is excluded or weak.
  •      Humanists use reason, evidence and compassion to form views on issues that arise as we develop new technologies and treatments to sustain life.
  •      Modern medical knowledge and scientific progress has enabled us to make more confident and reliable decisions about the management of health issues as we pass from childhood to adulthood and into old age. It is our usual experience that our progress from birth to death is gradual without need for conscious decision-making. But we can be faced with difficult choices when our bodies meet debilitating illness or injury causing permanent and incurable pain and suffering and the loss of personal dignity.
  •      Humanists put human wellbeing and the wellbeing of other sentient animals at the centre of our thinking.
  •      In public ethical issues we follow the humanist principle that individuals should have the right to live by their own personal values and the freedom to make decisions about their own lives, as long as these do not result in harm to others or to the general aim of minimising suffering and advancing human happiness.
  •      We do recognise that some values are not shared by everyone. Humanists do not share the attitudes to ‘interfering with nature’ or ‘playing God’ or the same definitions of personhood held by some religious believers. We respect the right not to participate in some procedures of those holding religious beliefs about the sanctity of life and the limits of medical intervention.
  •      Equally, we deny them the right to impose their beliefs directly or indirectly on others.
  •      Humanists defend the right of each individual to live by his or her own personal values, and the freedom to make decisions about his or her own life so long as this does not result in harm to others.
  •      Humanists do not share the attitudes to death and dying held by some religious believers, in particular that the manner and time of death are for a deity to decide, and that interference in the course of nature is unacceptable. We firmly uphold the right to life but we recognise that this right carries with it the right of each individual to make his or her own judgement about whether his or her life should be prolonged in the face of pointless suffering.
  •      People should have the right to choose a painless and dignified end, either at the time or beforehand, perhaps in a ‘living will’ – The right circumstances might include: extreme pain and suffering; helplessness and loss of personal dignity; permanent loss of those things which have made life worth living for this individual. To postpone the inevitable with no intervening benefit is not a moral act.
  •      In some cases, there comes a time when the disease process reduces life to unremitting pain and a complete lack of dignity. If after careful thought and consideration of all avenues a person wishes to have the help of assisted dying, then it is our thought that this option be available to them. Safeguards may include counselling, the prevention of pressure on patients, clear witnessed instructions from the patient, the involvement of several doctors, no reasonable hope of recovery – measures which would prevent involuntary euthanasia.
  •      Individuals should be allowed to decide on such personal matters for themselves; if someone in possession of full information and sound judgement decides that their continued life has no value, their wishes should be respected.
  •      The Humanist Society of New Zealand’s view
  •      The Humanist Society of New Zealand is supportive of reforming the law to enable mentally competent adults who are either terminally ill or those who are incurably suffering, permanently incapacitated and who find their lives intolerable, to have the choice of an assisted death.
  •      Under a reformed law, the choice of an assisted death should not be instead of palliative care, but part of a comprehensive, patient-centred approach to end of life care available to as many people who want it.
  •      Being able to die, with dignity, in a manner of our choosing must be understood to be a fundamental human right.
  •   Quoting from AC Grayling: ‘Dying is an act of living; it is indeed one of the most important events in life, and because it can be pleasant or painful, timely or untimely, tragic or desired, it is central to the character and quality of a person’s life as he himself experiences it. We do not experience death, which is not an activity but a state – a state of non-existence indistinguishable from being unborn. But we very much experience dying, and just as we hope that most of our acts of living will be pleasant, we likewise desire that the act of dying should be so too – or if not pleasant then at very least not frightening, painful or undignified.’
  •   Legalising assisted dying would ensure that strict legal safeguards are in place which would empower people to utilise their right to make rational choices themselves over their end of life care, free from coercion.
  •   Currently, the needs and autonomy of patients are often disregarded. Many people are in fact helped to die by doctors or nurses but without the safeguards that legislation would bring. Compassionate doctors, who follow the wishes of their terminally ill or incurably suffering patients by assisting them to die, risk being charged with assisting suicide or murder. The current system also results in close relatives being faced with the immensely difficult choices of whether, knowing that it is unlawful, to assist a loved one who is begging for help to put an end to their suffering or not to act and hence prolong their suffering.
  •   We do not believe that anyone should be put into the position of having to make such choices, or indeed into a position where they believe that they have no other option but personally to end the life of someone they love.

And to end with some quotes from Terry Pratchet: ‘An individual’s personal decision should I think be honoured if it’s clearly been made by them when they’re in a state of compos mentis and in full control of their faculties.’  ‘I’m thinking of a sensible decision that at point x a life should stop without pain, without undue suffering. And I’m talking here about pain and undue suffering to those who are left behind as well. It seems sensible and generous.’  ‘Either we have control over our lives or we do not. I don’t believe that life is a gift from God, because I don’t believe there is a god in the sense that people think of that.’

 

Universal Basic Income Week: In February 2015 our Society sponsored the visit of Professor Guy Standing to address the ‘The Future Direction of Humanism’ Conference held in Napier. Professor Standing’s interest is in the promotion of the concept of the universal basic income to address the growing disparity within society. Following this conference, a fledgling society was formed- Basic Income New Zealand (BINZ). Eighteen months later BINZ have taken to the road with a Road Show. Beginning in Rotorua, a few weeks ago, the team have arrived in Auckland with a schedule of activities that can be seen at basicincomenz.net. On Wednesday 21 September the following statement was released at an address given by BINZ at the University of Auckland.

A BASIC INCOME FOR CHILDREN IS BETTER THAN TAX CUTS OR SPENDING ON IMMIGRATION

Lowell Manning, President of Basic Income New Zealand (BINZ) is calling for a Universal Basic Income for Children. “I like to call it a Kids’ Basic Income” he says. Mr Manning said that a Universal Basic Income for Children would work much better than tax cuts or alternative spending resulting from immigration, substantially reducing child poverty in New Zealand and boosting the economy where it is needed.

Referring to reports (Radio New Zealand 27th May on Nine to Noon), that Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English would like to cut taxes by about $2-3 billion*, Manning says, “if we are serious about eliminating child poverty here in New Zealand, the Government is well placed to lead the world in 2017 by implementing a Universal Basic Income for Children”.

“The Kids’ BI would be similar to the old Universal Family Benefit that ended in 1991 after 45 years of continuous use”, he said, “so the idea is neither new nor radical. What was radical was abolishing the Universal Family Benefit in the first place”.

“A Kids’ basic income of $40 paid weekly in addition to all existing income support to every child under the age of 18 irrespective of family income or assets would return about $2.6 billion annually to the productive economy excluding establishment and administration costs”, he continued. “That’s about the same as other spending the Government is considering. It creates a clear choice between substantially reducing the rapidly worsening child poverty that is causing widespread concern throughout the country and alternatives that poorly target child poverty.”

“Moreover, the $2.6 billion a year spent on the Kids’ BI would generate more government revenue because the Kids’ BI will increase national output, GDP, by about 1%, and the tax on that extra output will increase Government revenue as much as any alternative spending will”, said Mr Manning.

“The Kids’ BI is about the wellbeing of children, not family size or structure, ethnicity or social status” he concluded.

*A report on TVNZ Friday 16th September about Finance Minister Bill English saying that because of immigration, the Government surplus would be spent on schools and infrastructure instead of tax cuts still does little or nothing for child poverty in New Zealand.

Quotable Quote: ‘Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises’ Demosthenes, Greek Orator 384-322 BCE