Why do I choose to call myself a humanist? I could be many other labels. I am a Husband, Dad, Brother, Son, Atheist, Bradford City fan, Teacher, Man. Yet I would choose this label because even at this very time where I occasionally lose my faith in people, I know that humanity will win through.
Our current political problems, in this country and worldwide are from an identity crisis for states and politicians. What it is to be British, American, Turkish or Russian? What stereotype do we need to follow to allow ourselves to be called this label? White? Christian/Islamic? Democratic/Theocrat?
These countries, and many more, use rhetoric about nationality to galvanise their core support, yet the frightening thing is they are just dividing the country into the bullies and the victims. I could not imagine trying to force students in the UK to pledge allegiance to the flag or that they had to stand for the national anthem. How weak must some Americans be if they feel this is what makes America great? It makes a mockery of democracy and has nothing to do with nationalism, just bullies telling supposed weaker members of society what to do via mob mentality. In the UK individuals who oppose Brexit are called undemocratic and this week it was suggested the Chancellor should be ‘tried for treason’, because he dared to speak the truth. Yes, it is rhetoric, but it creates an atmosphere where fear to speak one’s mind is becoming the norm.
Humanity at its best is always moving forward. Intelligence and reason have been the drivers of reform and equality. We will look back at these times, even if they get worse, and learn from the mistakes of ignoring knowledge and democracy and putting our trust in the loudest voices or cower to the bullies.
The current crop of politicians are struggling because of globalisation. Throughout history free trade has brought peace and enlightenment*1. This is the very reason the EEC was created. It was logically always going to become more political. Just look at Winston Churchill’s remarks on Europe. *2 He recognised that although we will never be central to the development of Europe, that we had to be part of it so we were not left behind and to support through our experience of democracy.
The lack of vision is causing the current problems in the west. We need to see ‘foreigners’ as humans who are no different from ourselves. As humans who will want the same as ourselves; security for our family and security in our lives with jobs, crime, health and education. We need to stop seeing people as commodities and see them as people who are striving to improve their lives. That is not to say we should have open borders, but if we showed our humanity to Africa especially, then maybe many would not need to leave their country to try and live here. We continue to ignore their plight, and so we have the repercussions through the mass immigration and modern-day slavery in Europe.
It is disturbing how Putin (anti-western/homophobic), Trump (liberals, immigrants, anyone who dares to disagree with him), Erdogan (anyone who speaks against him) and Brexiteers (politicians and tabloids screaming at anyone who has issues with the vote) try to deal with dissenting voices and galvanise support. They all follow the same principles. Bully, abuse and diminish the roles and views of anyone who disagrees with them and threaten them if they fail to back down immediately. This is because they see themselves as superior and drive the idea that their country is superior, more patriotic and more capable than any other state. It is pathetic. The problem with these people is eventually your group could soon be the one that they don’t like anymore. As this post war US video shows.
This is why I like the label humanist, because I don’t identify with my label solely, but identify with all my labels and quite often identify with many other groups. Politically I see the benefits both on the right and left. Just not the extreme ideology. I even agree that the EU is not democratic, but I would change it within, not leave like a spoilt child. I sympathise with communities who are directly affected by immigration and struggle to cope, but know that better government support would greatly ease those issues. I also recognise it is not the immigrants fault for these issues and that they need our support as well. It should never be a choice of who to help, but how we can help all in our communities.
I also don’t think because I am British I am better than anyone else. It is not my nationality that defines me, but the way I treat people, which makes me the person I want to be. I am heavily influenced by my Britishness, but not defined by it. Anyone who thinks differently is deluded and will have their opinion swayed by the current political rhetoric.
When we finally sit down and talk to each other we rarely struggle to find something in common and this is what should drive us, not the petty differences. I have been fortunate to travel to a lot of countries and it is these common values that I have constantly found. We are a unique species, and we should remove the additional labels and drive equality and democracy forward. Stop building walls between people and start accepting we are in a global mix that can thrive with unity and diversity.
*1 Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined- Great book uniting numerous sources showing how free trade is part of the drive to a more peaceful existence.
*2 What Churchill really thought about Britain’s place in Europe – The conversation.com- Shows how both sides have tried to manipulate Churchill’s words, but there is no doubt he was pro Europe increasing ties in trade and politics.