Humanist Newsletter – July & August 2015

Kia ora: Our concern this month is the passing of the Harmful Digital Communications Act on 30 June. We have no quarrel with the intention of this Act. There is certainly a need to address the new and ugly problem of cyber bullying. However, as an unintended consequence, this Act has created an additional de facto blasphemy law moving NZ a step back towards barbarism, theocracy and the Dark Ages. This Act allows for proceedings to be brought if it is alleged that a digital communication has harmed an individual by causing them to “suffer serious emotional stress” because the digital communication has “denigrated the individual’s religion.” Because “serious emotional stress” is so subjective, it is almost impossible for anyone to asses before they publish, whether someone, somewhere will take offence. The Listener editorial of the July 18-24 2015 issue says “It is hard to see how the new laws could not have an inhibiting effect on free speech.” Gavin Ellis in his weekly slot on Nine to Noon on National Radio has also voiced his concern at the unintended consequences of this Act. The website page:, part of our blasphemy NZ website contains detailed information about this issue. Our website: nz and the website will give further information as the situation develops. This new Act already requires revision.·

Monthly meeting: Monday 3 August 6pm @ Blondini’s Jazz Lounge & Café,

On the first floor of the Embassy Theatre 10 Kent Tce, Wellington

“What is the point of The Arts?”

At our August meeting Sara Passmore will use quotes from humanists and others as a starting point for a guided conversation on a range of topics, from ‘can science explain everything?’ to ‘what is the point of The Arts?’.

Please note different venue

Instead of meeting at our usual venue, the Tararua Tramping Club, Moncrieff St, Wellington, we will meet again at Blondini’s Café at the Embassy Theatre. The meeting night will be the First Monday of the Month. Consequently there will be NO meeting on the 27 July as our meeting will be ONE WEEK LATER on Monday 3 August. Meeting time change to 6pm

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

· News from Society of Humanism Nepal (SOCH Nepal)

We have been waiting to hear from SOCH Nepal, as to how best, we may help the school recover in the aftermath of the April earthquake. We have received a request from SOCH Nepal asking if we can help with some funding towards help with building work at their school to ensure that their school students are safe and to allay parental fears.

Subject: Appeal for help,

Dear Well-wishers and friends,

We have started a Humanist school in Nepal which is the only one of its kind. Currently, there are about 400 students studying at our school. We have employed 27 staffs all together.

We were running the school with good reputation and trust from parents and local community. All of a sudden April 2015 earthquake broke the will of the school. Our main building is cracked. Parents do not want to continue sending children’s at our school due to the cracked building. Thus we have planned to make 8 rooms of fabrication. Our shareholders have raised US$11,000 out of US$15,000. Thus we would like to request you to contribute little amount of money through Humanist society of NZ (HSNZ). HSNZ is also sponsoring poor children at our school. Your contribution will assist a lot to brighten the future of hundreds of students

Sincerely yours

Kuldip Aryal, Vice-Principal

The present building is three stories. Because of the cracks, a result of the earthquake in April, and ongoing aftershocks parents are not happy for students to use the upper levels because the stairways are narrow, making a quick exit difficult in an earthquake. There is room on the school site for these classrooms to be built and still leave some outside hard surface playing area.

The Beatles sang: ‘Hands across the water, Heads across the sky’

There are 12,077km or 7,508 miles between our two countries.

We can reach out over this distance to help our Humanist Friends.

The current exchange rate with the US dollar is 1.51. The remaining US$4,000 needed to build the 8 class rooms, is in our dollar terms NZ$6,000. This is a worthwhile cause and all donations, regardless of size, will help make a difference.

Payments may be made to a dedicated Nepal Account BNZ 02-0392-0094973-001.

Email payment details to [email protected] Donations will receive a receipt for tax rebate purposes.

· To read more about the SOCH Nepal Humanist School visit our website:·

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Happy Human symbol & 2015 Happiness Photography Competition

2015 is the fiftieth anniversary year of the Happy Human symbol. In Humanist Life, BHA Communications Manager Liam Whitton has documented the origin of the symbol for Humanism seen all over the world today. Humanist Life is a webpage for the British Humanist Association (BHA) where daily content is posted giving a voice to humanists on all the topics that interest, inspire or concern them.

In 1965, the BHA made a simple request of its members-an invitation was given to create an internationally recognisable symbol of Humanism. Little did the Association know when it ran the advertisement in the April 1965 edition of Humanist News, that it would be creating a symbol which would stand the test of time.

The editor of the newspaper, Lindsay Burnet, described the BHA’s needs plainly: ‘A Humanist symbol has often been the subject of discussion, and is no easy prospect for the designer. Practical requirements are that the symbol should be simple, capable of being reproduced as a line drawing, and that it should be readily identifiable – but not with any well-known trademark.’

The BHA received around 150 drawings, varying in size from one inch square to one, 20 x 15 inches. Submissions included ones from Australia and Mexico and one from a Canadian firm of undertakers!

Many people were encouraged by the promised prize of five guineas! but a majority of the entrants were, less than great. From ‘time to time’, Lindsay recalled, staff would ask his opinion of a new image and he would say ‘Not much.’ But soon came the winning drawing, by Denis Barrington. The response to it was instantaneous and unanimous: they had found their winning symbol. The effect was electric, the common reaction of most who saw it for the first time. The artist was Dennis Barrington of North London.

The winning design was then announced two issues later, in the July-August edition of Humanist News. The winning entry was described as follows:

‘The successful entry, was felt to be outstandingly the best. It is simple, attractive and relevant. Everybody will find his or her own significance for it, for one of its good points is that it is not restricted to one interpretation. I think of it as a personable and happy anonymous gentleman, but to one member of the Committee it recalled an engineering section!’

There is no doubt that this universalism, has stood the logo in good stead; and by the next edition of Humanist News it was firmly established as part of the official design of the newsletter. But it did not end here. Other international humanist groups soon adopted this logo for themselves, and the International Humanist and Ethical Union was already 13 years old by this time. Not many years on from 1965, Humanist organisations across Europe, Africa, and America were using the Happy Human in their logos.

Barrington was already a successful designer. He had won several design competitions by the time he designed the BHA logo, and specialised in producing murals, collages, and assembles, but for the most part he earned a living as a window-dresser in London, where he lived with his wife and two children after living for fourteen years in Rhodesia. What was remarkable about Barrington’s involvement was that the Association very nearly missed him. He had only recently arrived in the UK and discovered the BHA in January that same year thanks to an ad in the Observer; had he not joined as a member when he did, he would not have seen the call for a new symbol!

By 1980, his creation was already truly established; there were Happy Humans (then known as the ‘Happy Man’) established in Holland, the USA, and South Africa. It was emblazoned in letterheads from all corners of the world in letters to UN ambassadors and to newspaper editors and government ministers; on the buildings of fine humanist organisations, certainly across Europe; and then not too many years later, on some of the earliest websites of any UK charities or civil society groups.

As is often the case it’s easy to overlook precursors and originators and see the story as beginning with Dennis Barrington’s design. But as Lindsay Burnet said when the competition was first announced, the idea of a symbol of Humanism had already been widely discussed. To think that for over a dozen years, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) could have operated with no symbol of its identity as it worked across continents and language barriers is remarkable.

The charge to come up with a logo is largely credited to Tom Vernon, the BHA’s Press and Public Relations Officer, who commissioned the competition to find a symbol. Vernon later became a popular BBC radio broadcaster, known to millions for his travelogue series Fat Man on a Bicycle. Lindsay Burnet joked about Tom’s place in the annals of history saying, ‘he qualified perhaps as “the onlie begetter” of the happy Human symbol. The onlie begetter is a reference to a dedication to a booklet of Shakespearean sonnets which can be also written as “to the one who alone inspired”

But while Tom was heavily involved in the competition and in the process which found the logo, it should also be remembered as a story of two Margarets. In a 1980 letter to the same publication he once edited, Lindsay Burnet rebuked himself for omitting an important piece of the story in his previous write-ups. Shortly before Tom’s competition, BHA member Margaret Dootson had presented a motion at a BHA Annual Conference that steps should be taken to find a symbol, and her motion was seconded and championed by another Margaret, the psychologist Margaret Knight who was already well-known to post-war Britain for her BBC radio presenting, and for shocking the nation with her (now uncontroversial) suggestion that religion and education should be kept apart. With Margaret Knight’s support it was quickly passed, and this ‘set in train’ the process of poring over dozens and dozens of designs in what seemed like an impossible task: creating a symbol which, with time, would come to stand for the whole of human endeavour, and for all it meant to be in charge of one’s own destiny.

Our New Zealand logo incorporating the Happy Human symbol was designed in the 1980’s by Martin Vize, brother of Des Vize, a past president of our Society.

(This article has been taken from the Humanist Life website and Liam gives special thanks to Nicola Hilton at the Bishopsgate Institute for helpfully providing scans of archived BHA documents going as far back as 1965.)

2015 Happiness Photography Competition

50 years on Tom Vernon’s 1965 competition is the inspiration for a new 2015 BHA competition. This competition, like Tom’s, aims to find visual images for a concept which can be hard enough to pin down in words. In May, the BHA announced it would be hosting a competition for the modern age, asking for photos which symbolise all that it means to be happy. Whatever our background, wherever we come from, we all know what ‘happiness’ is. But for each of us, happiness means something different. We are all unique! The celebration of happiness and sharing what it means to us is one small way in which we can build mutual understanding and identify common ground amongst people of differing backgrounds.

The BHA Happiness Photography Competition is only open to persons residing in the UK and the Channel Islands.

However the Humanist Society of NZ after discussion with the BHA competition organisers has decided to hold a Happiness Photography Competition here in NZ. We will follow the same rulings and dates as the BHA competition.

The Competition is free to enter with the following categories:

Ages 11 and under*
Ages 12-16*
Ages 17-18 (including college photography students)
Over-18s ( excluding university photography students and professional photographers)
University photography students
Professional photographers

* If under 16 you must include written consent from a parent or guardian to enter. Proof of eligibility may be required at a later date.

The winner of Ages 11 and under, and Ages 12-16 will receive a cash prize of $50. The other categories will receive a cash prize of $100

All winners and runner ups will have their photographs posted on our Website and Facebook page, and we hope to arrange an exhibition to display the photos.

The BHA organisers will include our wining photos in their exhibition at a central London gallery in November. It is possible that the BHA winning photos may be able to be included in our exhibition in NZ.

Your photo

Your photo should be based on the theme of ‘happiness’. How you interpret this is entirely up to you. For example, you could:

Show what makes or has made you happy
Tell a story about what brings happiness to you or others
Reflect on the things that make you feel good about being human, either individually or as a community

The competition is now open for entries.

How to Enter. There are more Terms and Conditions at:

Email your entry to [email protected] by Thursday 15 October 2015. Each entry should be in a separate email. Please include in each:

The title of the photo (if there is one). Maximum 100 characters
Which category you are entering in (see above.)
Your name
Your contact telephone number (if 18+ – we will only use this to contact you regarding the competition)
If you are under 16, written consent from a parent or guardian

Your entries should be in a jpg format with minimum size of 1200 pixels on the long edge and no larger than 3mb each. Please use a filename of your name, e.g. EmmaJones.jpg.

You can enter up to three photographs. If you send more we will take the first three.

Gaylene Middleton