Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.), PO Box 3372, Wellington, New Zealand – Registered Charity No. CC36074
The Humanist Society of New Zealand is a Member Organization of the International Humanist and Ethical Union
Humanist NZ Newsletter September 2022
Kia ora: At our August monthly meeting, Wendy Webber from Go Humanity gave us an interesting perspective on allocating grants for projects. It is their experience that the most successful projects were those where Go Humanity did not require that the project be ‘too defined.’ By recognising that the group applying for the grant knew their situation the best, they allowed the group to use their own creativity in developing and applying a tailored solution. Not one project with these parameters failed. Go Humanity does require reporting and accounting of how the funds were spent. This is a marvellous example of what can happen when people are trusted. I have an interest in Basic Income – an unconditional regular payment to every citizen of a country. A criticism levelled at Basic Income theory is that ‘people will waste this payment.’ I was delighted to hear of Wendy’s experience, of how well grant funds are used when there is trust.
However, the daily news continues with bleakness. We can only hope that the fighting around Ukraine’s embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant will not lead to a nuclear disaster. In our land, after days of unrelenting rain, we have had disastrous floods and landslips. Europe is experiencing an unremitting drought, with the Danube among the rivers with exceptionally low water flows. The high temperatures are causing fires, and in the USA, fires threaten the ancient sequoias. Pakistan experienced terrific summer heat before the monsoon arrived, and now the welcomed monsoon has brought terrible flooding. The death toll will surpass 1000, and thousands are now homeless.
Our thoughts are with all people around the world experiencing difficulties in many different situations.
September monthly meeting:
Monday 5 September 6.30 pm by Meeting and Zoom
Background to the Russo-Ukrainian War
At our October 2021 monthly meeting Alexander spoke to us on the subject “Islam for Humanists: An unbeliever’s introduction for other unbelievers.” Alexander will return to our September meeting and speak to us about the Russo-Ukrainian War which began with the shock invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on Thursday 24 February 2022.
Alexander Maxwell is Associate Professor of History at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. He studied at the University of California in Davis California, Georg-August Universität in Göttigen Germany, the Central European University in Budapest and the University of Wisconsin, USA.
This talk introduces the Russian invasion of Ukraine with a critical analysis of Vladimir Putin’s essay “On the Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” It explains the triune theory of Russian nationalism, the impact of Soviet nationality policy in Ukraine, the role of Stepan Bandera during the Second World War, the demography of post-Soviet Ukraine, the Revolution of Dignity, and the 2014 separatist movements. There will be time for questions.
If you can’t make it in person, feel free to join us via Zoom: .
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public-bring a friend
Wellington Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon-upstairs
2022 Humanist NZ AGM
And celebrating the publication of Maori Boy Atheist with author Eru Hiko-Tahuri
Monday 3 October 6.30 pm Thistle Inn
On 20 August 2022 Eru Hiko-Tahuri launched his book Maori Boy Atheist at Rationalist House, Auckland. It has been translated into Maori and French, with distribution throughout the Pacific Islands. At the launch, NZARH President Hema Paterson introduced Eru, giving a background to the publication of Eru’s book. Eru will talk to us about his book and there will be copies of Maori Boy Atheist, available to purchase at this meeting. The launch of Maori Boy Atheist at Rationalist House may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI_w5Tjj5Xg
If you are interested in joining the Humanist NZ committee and supporting the work of humanism in New Zealand please contact our President Tim Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org Now that we are familiar with Zoom, a useful consequence of the Covid Lockdown experience is that committee members can join us from other places in New Zealand.
Imprisonment of Mubarak Bala, Nigerian Humanist Society President:
We are now passing 850 days of the illegal detention of Mubarak Bala the President of the Humanist Society of Nigeria. He is being held as a political prisoner in Kano state by the Islamist extremist Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje OFR.
IN THE WORDS OF MUBARAK BALA, when he was free: “I realised that most of the answers I sought could not be found. That Humanism & Social Justice cannot be reached with religion in our midst. Especially the Islam & Christianity inherent in the country “
We stand with Humanists around the world as we wait, seemingly forever, for Mubarak’s release and reunion with his family and humanist friends.
· Humanists NZ – Palmerston North/Papaioea meets at 365 Albert St, Hokowhitu (Library) Palmerston North. To be in touch with this group, information is on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmyHumanists. Or email co-ordinator Keith at email@example.com
Humanist NZ congratulates Humanists International as:
Humanists International celebrates 70 years
This month, August 2022, Humanists International is celebrating 70 years since it was founded in 1952.
To mark the occasion, Humanists International has launched the updated Declaration of Modern Humanism; the Amsterdam Declaration 2022. The declaration sets out the values and principles which unite our global movement, as agreed by Members and Associates of Humanists International from around the world, at the 2022 General Assembly in Glasgow. The full text of the updated Declaration of Modern Humanism was included in our July 2022 Humanist NZ Newsletter and can be read at the following link to the Humanists Intentional website: https://humanists.international/policy/declaration-of-modern-humanism/
As part of the celebrations, Humanists Intentional has also created a new video for Members and supporters to be shared on social media: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93KpvZWL5fA
Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, has made this comment:
“In 1952, at the first World Humanist Congress, the founders of Humanists International agreed on a statement of the fundamental principles of modern Humanism. They called it “The Amsterdam Declaration. Of course, the world has changed significantly since then, and in keeping with the democratic and progressive values of the organization and movement, the declaration has been reviewed and updated over the years. While opinions and definitions of humanism may differ slightly from person to person, or between organizations and groups, the Amsterdam Declaration is adopted by all Members and Associates of Humanists International, as our definitive guiding principles”
The updated Declaration of Modern Humanism is outlined in four sections
The Amsterdam Declaration 2022/
1. Humanists strive to be ethical
2. Humanists strive to be rational
3. Humanists strive for fulfillment in their lives
4. Humanism meets the widespread demand for a source of meaning and purpose to stand as an alternative to dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism
The expanded sections can be read at: https://humanists.international/2022/08/humanists-international-celebrates-70-years/
Work will now begin on translating the updated declaration for humanists around the world.
The Golden Rule guides people to choose for others what they would choose for themselves. The Golden Rule is often described as ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes’, or ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. The viewpoint held in the Golden Rule is noted in all the major world religions and cultures, suggesting that this may be an important moral truth.The Golden Rule underlies acts of kindness, caring, and altruism that go above and beyond “business as usual” or “usual care.” As such, this heuristic or ‘rule of thumb’ has universal appeal and helps guide our behaviours toward the welfare of others. So why question the Golden Rule? Unless used mindfully, any heuristic can be overly-simplistic and lead to unintended, negative consequences.
In the following article ANYA OVERMANN /AUGUST 23, 2022 explores the unintended, negative consequences that can develop.
We need to talk about the dark side of the Golden Rule
Elitists abuse this moral philosophy to preserve power imbalance.
Overview: With the Golden Rule, the bar for “doing good” is so low that anyone can do it. Here’s how elitists abuse that moral philosophy.
The Golden Rule, that much-loved staple of low-calorie morality, does more harm than good.
Humanists UK posted this on their Facebook page as part of their #HumanistVoices campaign:
It’s day nine of our #HumanistVoices campaign, which ends on Friday! The Golden Rule: Treat others how you’d wish to be treated. Almost every culture in history has developed some version of this idea. It’s a naturally occurring moral principle based on reason and empathy. And one, as humanists, we see as available to all – as our patron Dan Snow alludes to here:
“Be Kind It’s really not complicated Don’t do anything to others that you wouldn’t like being done to you We don’t need priests, monks, gurus, imams, shamans or druids to tell us that.”
Dan Snow Historian, broadcaster, and humanist
A naturally occurring moral philosophy based on reason and empathy,” says Humanists UK about the Golden Rule.
“It’s really not complicated,” says Dan Snow.
Is that true? Is it really “naturally occurring” to believe that what’s best for you is best for others?
Are your individual needs and desires universally applicable?
Is it truly “being kind” to do what feels good for you?
I suppose if you think all of this is truly natural, then indeed, it’s “really not complicated.”
The Golden Rule is not “natural”
It’s high time that nonreligious people challenge the idea of the Golden Rule as an ethically superior philosophy. Many already challenge it with “the Platinum Rule”: Treat others how they want to be treated.
I prefer the words of Felix Adler, the founder of Ethical Culture: “Act so as to elicit the best in others and thereby in thy self.”
Adler cleverly pokes a hole in the weak spot of the Golden Rule through this exchange:
Member: Some might say why not just apply the Golden Rule? Treat others as you would want to be treated. There, that was easy.
Adler: How might it work if I simply assume people from other genders, ages, cultures, and circumstances want to be treated in a manner that would meet my needs? Upset, little girl? Here, smoke this cigar.
While the point of this exchange is to emphasize the consequences of projecting your individual needs and desires on others, I want to draw attention to the attitude of the member here.
“There, that was easy,” they said. Just like Dan Snow said of the Golden Rule: “It’s really not complicated.” This is another problem with the Golden Rule. Supporters want to make ethics and good-doing into an easy and simple practice that involves as little thought as possible. “Look, it’s so easy and common that all the world religions advocate for it!”
With the Golden Rule, the bar for good-doing is so low that you can almost trip over it. That’s how easy it is! You barely have to lift your proverbial foot! Even a child can figure it out!
But holding onto this philosophy is causing more harm than good.
Nefarious use of this “moral” philosophy
It’s so easy to think you’re doing good when it feels good. And that’s what is at the bottom of the Golden Rule: if it feels good to you, then you’re doing good.
But the truth is that doing good is more complicated than that because intent is not synonymous with impact.
Empathy is not a “one-size-fits-all” practice. It’s not a “set-it-and-forget-it” ethical installation to your life. It’s an ongoing commitment. It’s not easy. It takes dedication to not just do good but do better. It requires an acceptance of responsibility when your impact fails to align with your intent.
The Golden Rule does not uphold this responsibility. In fact, it shirks the responsibility of impact entirely. For that reason, the Golden Rule is not only inferior to the Platinum Rule or Felix Adler’s philosophy, but it also causes more harm than good.
Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk claim they are good-doers for society. They claim that their wealth and influence are being used for good. It’s an extension of the Golden Rule—they are attempting to cement the idea that their needs, desires, and interests are aligned with all of ours.
But who are they to say what the masses actually need? Who are they to make decisions for the rest of us? We didn’t put them in charge of fulfilling our needs or making decisions for us. Even if their businesses or philanthropy are doing some good (I would argue they aren’t), that “good” does not offset the amount of decision-making power they’ve stolen from regular people by privatizing social goods.
As author Anand Giridharadas in the book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, states:
“In an age defined by a chasm between those who have power and those who don’t, elites have spread the idea that people must be helped, but only in market-friendly ways that do not upset fundamental power equations. The society should be changed in ways that do not change the underlying economic system that has allowed the winners to win and fostered many of the problems they seek to solve.”
The Golden Rule plays right into this. It’s just so easy to think you’re doing good when you claim to be treating people how you would like to be treated. It’s even easier still when you get the feeling of “doing good.” But so many following this individualist brand of thinking fail to understand that just because you get a good feeling from taking action doesn’t mean it is actually good. Your impact is not synonymous with your intent just because you said it is so.
The Golden Rule helps support image laundering
When powerful people and organizations “do good,” it’s not so they can make positive change. It’s so they can keep us plebians from thinking they’re screwing us while maintaining the power imbalance.
That’s image laundering 101.m
“Well, look, they aren’t that evil – they’ve got a social responsibility programme!” Yes, and how convenient that they get to look like heroes in the public eye and continue to keep their exorbitant wealth and decision-making powers.
Former CEO of Gravity Payments Dan Price is a good example of this. Price has built a reputation of being the “only moral CEO,” advocating for far better treatment of employees than almost any other CEO in this age. He wanted to show that capitalism can have a heart. He did this by taking a more socialist approach to capitalism — which appeals to my generation and Gen Z like moths to a flame. And yet, Dan Price is a narcissistic abuser whose private life does not at all reflect the ethical hero image he has put forth in the public eye. His fame allowed him to get away with years of physical assault.
As the article, “If The “Only Moral CEO” Is an Abusive Narcissist, What Does That Say About Capitalism?” states:
The Dan Price story provided the illusion that all we need are better bosses. While it is true, and important, to note that the rich could redistribute their wealth if they chose, and their high status is a choice rather than a product of the laws of economics, it is also the case that “more Dan Prices” will not make the world better. As we have seen, such people are often simply self-aggrandizing and even abusive in private. The only solution is to expropriate them.
This leads to the question of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious folks who promote the Golden Rule as being ethically superior: what good are they actually doing if they’re thinking along such selfish terms?
Time to push back against the Golden Rule in secular circles
Are they actually doing good, or are they doing just enough to make it appear as if they’re doing good?
It’s so easy for anyone with money to use it to protect their “do-gooder” imagery rather than to use their money to actually do good. It often only takes one advocate of the Golden Rule in a group of decision-makers to justify some form of image laundering. “Well, if I was in this marginalized person’s position, I would want us to spend this money on——_(fill in PR opportunity here).”
Again, I refer to a quote from Winners Take All:
“The only thing better than controlling money and power is to control the efforts to question the distribution of money and power. The only thing better than being a fox is being a fox asked to watch over hens.”
Capitalists use the Golden Rule to justify their elitist sense of “doing good.” So how could we say, with confidence, that non-religious people who follow the Golden Rule aren’t doing the same thing?
The Golden Rule gives the follower the feeling of “doing good” without having to take any accountability for their impact. It’s the perfect moral philosophy for someone who wants to feel like they’re doing good without having to work hard at it or make any personal sacrifices. And that’s why we need to dump it completely.
We must be wary of those who try to sell us on easy ethics.
Without the acceptance of accountability for impact, people can do whatever they want and justify it as “doing good.” So let’s retire that childish philosophy and replace it with a more mature and nuanced approach to doing good. Yes, the Platinum Rule requires more effort, but the “right thing” is seldom, if ever, the “easy thing.”
Anya Overmann is a digital nomad, writer, activist, and lifelong Humanist. As former President of Young Humanists International, she continues to work to advocate for inclusive young humanist communities around the globe by means of connecting. Anya grew up attending the Ethical Society of St. Louis, which led her to garner a fiery passion for human rights. In August 2020 when the pandemic was making for bleak conditions in Missouri, Anya decided to pull the trigger on her dream to become nomadic and seek countries handling the pandemic better than the US. She sold nearly all her possessions and is now living out of two bags while running her content marketing and ghost-writing business from her traveling office.