Humanism Now

15. Scott Jacobsen on the Importance of Journalism plus Navigating Global Conflicts with Humanistic Values

January 21, 2024 Humanise Live Season 1 Episode 15
15. Scott Jacobsen on the Importance of Journalism plus Navigating Global Conflicts with Humanistic Values
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Humanism Now
15. Scott Jacobsen on the Importance of Journalism plus Navigating Global Conflicts with Humanistic Values
Jan 21, 2024 Season 1 Episode 15
Humanise Live

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"Peace is more than just the absence of war. Peace requires respect for the worth and dignity of our fellow human beings, tolerance among individuals, and harmony within each person."  Humanist International's Oslo Declaration on Peace

This week, AJ and Mark tackle Humanist perspectives on global conflicts  such as the current Israel-Palestine crisis and the role of religion in exacerbating or potentially resolving this deep-seated conflict.

Our interview with journalist Scott Jacobson, whose boots on the ground in Ukraine bring a raw, provided an evidence-based angle to our discourse and demonstrates the critical role of informed journalism in shaping societal discourse.

Join us on this exploration, amplify the conversation, and help shape a more humane approach to the global stage.

Episode References:

About Scott Douglas Jacobsen:
🔗In-Sight Publishing
Ⓜ️Follow Scott on Medium
📖Interview Series at Good Men Project
📧 scott.douglas.jacobsen@gmail.com

Scott's references:

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CLH are an official partner group of Humanists UK and an associate member of Humanists International

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

"Peace is more than just the absence of war. Peace requires respect for the worth and dignity of our fellow human beings, tolerance among individuals, and harmony within each person."  Humanist International's Oslo Declaration on Peace

This week, AJ and Mark tackle Humanist perspectives on global conflicts  such as the current Israel-Palestine crisis and the role of religion in exacerbating or potentially resolving this deep-seated conflict.

Our interview with journalist Scott Jacobson, whose boots on the ground in Ukraine bring a raw, provided an evidence-based angle to our discourse and demonstrates the critical role of informed journalism in shaping societal discourse.

Join us on this exploration, amplify the conversation, and help shape a more humane approach to the global stage.

Episode References:

About Scott Douglas Jacobsen:
🔗In-Sight Publishing
Ⓜ️Follow Scott on Medium
📖Interview Series at Good Men Project
📧 scott.douglas.jacobsen@gmail.com

Scott's references:

Support the Show.

Support us on Patreon

Click here to submit questions, nominate guest & topics or sponsor the show.

Follow Humanism Now @HumanismNowPod
X (Twitter)
YouTube
Instagram
TikTok

Follow Central London Humanists @LondonHumanists
Centrallondonhumanists.org.uk
Meetup
Facebook
X (Twitter)
YouTube

CLH are an official partner group of Humanists UK and an associate member of Humanists International

James H:

Hello everyone and welcome back to Humanism. Now, a podcast from the Central London Humanists for anyone active or just curious about the world of humanism. I'm your host, james Now. This week we hosted our first discussion group session of 2024, the theme of which was looking at the ongoing crisis in Israel Palestine, and we encountered a lot of range of views from our humanist members on what should be the position of humanists or humanist groups when it comes to global conflicts. So we wanted to use this week's podcast episode to explore some of those ideas in a bit more detail and to discuss that. I'm joined by our two of our regular panelists, aj. Good to see you again. Hi, james, glad to be back. Thank you, and happy new year as well. I think this is our first recording of 2024. What's your? Our eyes bake a question this week is what's your theme for 2024? I know you've got big plans ahead, so what's going to be your theme for the year?

AJ:

Oh, in some sense my theme for this year is the same as every year. I try and go for a consistency across across a longer period as possible. So I have certain watch words, kaizen, ikigai, for example, the Japanese philosophies that I really believe in consistency, finding your purpose and trying to get a little bit better each day. So I think these kinds of things that I really believe in and I don't think a Gregorian calendar sort of change has to, has to prompt rethink. Well, I suppose, as you said I will be. I think we discussed in one of the previous episodes I'll be traveling a fair bit this year, especially to Asia. I've been trying to cut down my traveling but I have to do it for work and but that's. I'm really looking forward to new experiences and new people and new horizons. So travel and exploration could be a theme that I'm it sort of being given to me, rather than the one that I've chosen.

James H:

So I like it to be one the year of exploration for AJ. That's great. Well, welcome back. And the host of our recent discussion group, mark. Happy New Year.

Mark A:

Happy New Year, james, and thank you for inviting me on this week, and also congratulations to AJ for his exciting new opportunities and exploring and travel albeit I'm sure it'll be as carbon neutral as possible in Asia. So yeah, that sounds like a wonderful opportunity.

James H:

And what would be your theme for the year ahead? Mark, what do you have on the horizon?

Mark A:

Yeah, so as it happens, it has coincided with the change of year rather than being a sort of New Year's resolution, but I am. I've been sort of going to be changing my activities a little bit this year, if I can. So I have a chronic pain condition which is very limiting, but I'm able to be involved with this group, which is extremely fulfilling. But I also help run a Penn support group, a peer support group, which I helped set up a few years ago, and I've somewhat neglected it over the last year or so because I've been so busy with other things. So I'm hoping to be more involved with that and to reset it and try to sort of develop that, because I think it's a very important area and it's also one that's peer support is within. Health is something which is very much to the fore, is seeing a lot of development, so I'm quite eager to be more involved with that.

James H:

It's great to a year of support and community.

Mark A:

Exactly.

James H:

So some good days, some excellent themes there. Thank you very much both. For me, it's going to be a year of engaging more authentically. I think fewer emails, more in person conversations is going to be my main objective for this year, so it's great to be joined by both of you for another insightful in person conversation. So I mentioned at the start, you know, 2023 was another year marked by global conflict, unfortunately, and we hosted this discussion group yesterday, very well attended events, obviously a very pressing issue for not just our members, for everyone at this time. So I wanted, in light of recent global conflicts, how do humanist principles guide your understanding of these issues and what insights Mark? How, if we can come to you first, what insights did you gain from discussing war, conflict in it, from a humanist perspective, from meeting and discussing and talking with other members?

Mark A:

Yeah, I think probably the thing which came out in so far as a consensus evolved in this discussion I said we focused on, we made it a two part discussion.

Mark A:

The first part was really about whether or not humanists should speak out, both institutionally really thinking there about humanist international and H UK and other UK bodies on that issue of conflict, but also other politically contentious, you know, immediate issues, and then looking very much at the conflict directly in Palestine, israel, and I think so the consensus that really evolved in that discussion was that we should apply almost a sort of a case I would say this is my terminology a quasi judicial, sort of humanist lens of being very objective and applying to both sides.

Mark A:

So, rather than sort of being overtly partisan, which I think a number of people aren't comfortable with, as long as we are very objective about saying these are the humanist values and these is how we apply them in this context, and I think there was a genuine, also a general consensus that certain things would be, you know, objected to by humanists. You know the killing of innocent people, you know unprovoked aggression and I think also those things which are deemed to be by relevant experts to be war crimes, crimes against humanity, so your breaches of international law. So I think that's sort of where we there were a range of opinions expressed, but that was probably where the sort of balance of opinion lay.

James H:

Yeah, I was lucky enough to attend as well. Very interesting discussion and conversation and I agree, I think, whilst there was disagreement in how, how outspoken groups or individuals should be, there was definitely consensus amongst not taking aside, for sure, but actually taking a humanitarian, humanistic approach to these matters. And then you can, you know, once you agree on those principles, you can start to apply, apply that and act accordingly. Aja, I know you weren't able to attend, but in terms of when we talk about humanistic principles or view, in this view, humanistic lens, what are the values of humanism that you see that are applicable here, and how should they be applied?

AJ:

Yes, it was extremely pleasing to see that we as central and humanists are being visible in talking about Israel, palestine and hopefully many more issues to follow as well, because I think, although there are certain issues of humanist priority, especially in the UK, and there are campaigning priorities that humanists UK and the partner organizations like us have, I think it's important for us to be seen globally and to see how humanist principles can be put in action, and I think Mark explained some of them very well there being nonpartisan, I mean humanists are political. We have to be. We're concerned with policy, we're concerned with social welfare, the ordering of society and how we try and solve civilizational problems, but we can't be party political. I think and that's part of being objective, having an evidence based approach. When we talk about a scientific underpinning to humanism, I think it may sound a bit weird to apply that to say a political discussion, but I think there is something to be said there Insofar as we should take a model based approach and have models of understanding rather than hills that we want to die on. Necessarily, with that comes a humility, I mean.

AJ:

I've been following the as a bystand conflict since 2006. There's a lot that I don't understand about, and I always, when I'm expressing a view, I always say well, this is my current model, is my concept, but I'm open to other inputs, either from democratic organizations, the UN General Assembly, other experts and authorities such as the International Court of Justice. We should always be willing to have that openness and think that's really key parts of the humanist perspective and including in that, as well as the rationality and objectivity, there's an equal balance and a measure of empathy. That's needed because we're not just automaton, we're not just sort of rational calculating machine.

AJ:

Sometimes, even though the logical point or argument may lead us to one conclusion, we have to understand that the reality of how human beings are in their lived experiences, in the consciousness of what's going on around them, there needs to be some consideration for that and allow for people to you know, have their intuitions and have maybe their emotional responses.

AJ:

And how do we factor that in into a loving, considerate solution, or at least working towards a solution in a problem like Israel, palestine or Russia, ukraine? And at the end of it, whatever we decide, whatever policy we support, it has to be correct for that individual person. We don't just follow the crowd or jump on a bandwagon or get swept up in a in a further individual, independent arrival, arriving at that model of understanding not claiming to understand the truth, I think is very important and at the end of the day we have to judge by results. If it's not having the result that we want, then we should be willing to change and adopt, and that's also feeds back into that humility and not finding heels to be prepared to die on. I think this is a very high level approach that I think serves me well in many parts of life, but also in my social activism.

Mark A:

And just to agree with AJ, I think that you know, you hear a lot of opinions expressed around. Well, it's not, it's not really possible to say who's right, who's wrong, or, you know, we, we shouldn't take sides and therefore we shouldn't really express an opinion. I think that's what I see as being rather relativistic approaches, and I think that you can apply I mean, you know governments, law, courts, you know administrations, they do this all the time. They apply a body of principles to a set of facts and come to some sort of conclusion. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to do anything.

Mark A:

So I think that we can do that as humanists, as long as we are objective, and I think that that which is, you know, reasonable, fair, valid, perhaps even true, you could say, stands up to the interrogation of a sort of reasoned analysis which considers all the evidence, looks at different points of view and then can come to a conclusion. As long as you go through that process, then I think that's fine, that's not partisan, you know, truth isn't partisan, I don't think. Or valid process is not partisan. So, and then, ultimately, you've got to stand by what you come up with and, I think, have the courage of convictions to say what you think and not worry too much about what people, what resistance or pushback there may be in the short term, because I think history will judge you by where you actually stand. You know at the moment of crisis rather than where you come to. Maybe you know five years later when, when everything has moved on.

AJ:

And what may be true for a UK activist maybe different for a US activist or for an Israeli or a Palestinian, and that's also part of understanding our situation what options are open to us. Having a evident, evidence based, sensible approach, rational approach to if I do this action, what's likely to be that consequence, what's the best thing that I can do, given my time, resources and individual, and also given my my connections to whatever government or other country I may represent or have links to. So not everyone I mean Rome wasn't built in a day and not everyone has to build in the same way, and that's also following a humanist principle. Again, these aren't excuses for inaction or dithering. Actually, I think it's quite the opposite. It's a way to filter, because I think often people are saying it's so complicated, so you know everything's the world's falling down around our ears. What do we do?

AJ:

Having a humanistic approach, using a mixture of empathy, solidarity and also rational, democratic approach, can help us filter through the myriad of options that are available to us and say, well, these are the. And obviously it's not, it's better in a group. So, like someone, a humanist or humanist UK or whatever group of movement you're involved in, struggling together with people and having that solidarity that forces us to filter and prioritize and it can make the task seem a lot less daunting and you can see what the results are as you start to progress on that path. But that's that's the task of us as community activists, as organizers to help people feel less alone, help them feel connected to a larger. Whether assigning a petition or going on a protest, or people have to express themselves in different ways artistic, protest, symbolic process but whatever they're doing, we can see how it fits into a larger movement and humanism can certainly offer that and it should be in the conversation.

James H:

Yeah, I think that voice is very important and I think that's what was the the conclusion that I came away with.

James H:

I must admit I went in fairly with a fairly open mind into discussion. I haven't really landed on, you know how I felt, what I thought the correct answer was in terms of how, how vocal humanist should be when it comes to global issues. But yeah, the other one and consensus, was that the humanist voice is very important because it does that, provides that space where people can feel safe and can share their views and, with those agreed principles of universal human rights, curiosity and compassion and evidence and reason, you can then start to construct some rational conversation around even very difficult, very, you know, potentially personally traumatic topics, because you know, because there was definitely a sense during that discussion group that you know everybody was was had a charitable and well meaning motivations. You know, even if we disagree, even if they were disagreements, and that's such a strong voice and I think was also a theme throughout of spreading, if not humanism but secularism, I think, and the idea of tolerance around the world is it is what is a key factor In the spread of peace.

Mark A:

I think one of the things that what exactly what you say there is one of the one of the issues that came up is that there was a couple of people so questioned and I've heard this before whether or not these conversations are of value, whether we should have the, because they can seem to some people a little bit self indulgent in a bunch of humanists sitting around having a nice cozy chat whilst you know terrible things happen in other countries and you know we should be actually acting. But I think exactly what you say, that those discussions are valuable because they do provide us with that opportunity to reflect, discuss and to, by engaging with each other, we we develop and formulate our own views and evolve those views. And so I think, if that's all we did, it probably wouldn't be enough. But I think I think that they are very valuable and, exactly as AJ says it's, it's an opportunity also to have some sense of solidarity and support when and connection, when addressing what you know, which are what are actually really quite troubling, disturbing issues.

James H:

Yeah, I think you can't. You can't say that this is too sensitive a topic, therefore we shouldn't talk about it, because that that can only potentially makes it worse. And there was in fact a lot of talk about actually, what can we, what action can we take to help people, again, helping the human lives affected in the region. I think it leads on to the next topic, I guess, which was again broadly a bit of a theme of the discussion, which is really looking at the limits, potentially, of anti interventionism. I guess, generally you know, humanists emphasize human dignity, autonomy and welfare, but what do you see as the limits of an anti interventionist approach, particularly when it comes to international conflicts outside of outside of us here in the UK? Aj, do you have any thoughts on that?

AJ:

That depends what we mean by anti interventionist. Maybe the common understanding would be okay, well, we have to send weapons or militarily be involved or some other kind of more macho form of intervention. If it's that, well, I guess that also falls into the category into under the rubric of that's considered the evidence base of it. Has it worked in the past? Is it lucky to work now? Consult military experts, consults, experienced diplomats and see what they're saying, and not allow confirmation. Bias lead us, but unfortunately, I think, interventions we often think quite narrow with them. The I think the logic here is usually express something like we can't do nothing, we have to do something and therefore we have to send aid or we can't. Why it's imperfect. Okay, we have to send military aid, but the world's full of, you know, villains everywhere. So if we didn't, you know, send, if we chose not to deal with or send weapons to or send aid to people who have a perfect human rights record, then we wouldn't be able to work with anyone. I think that there's some kind of a point to that. But sending weapons or military aid or troops or kind of special ops advisors isn't the only way to intervene. We can intervene in many ways. Sanctions is one diplomatically, culturally. We can send humanitarian aid and ask and insist that, okay, we're then building a broad network of support to then lobby other trade partners of an possibly offending country to do that, and then we can do that by effectively offending country to change their views and soft power. So all of these and diplomats both in the Russia Ukraine case and also in the Israel Palestine case are showing us, including hostage negotiators on the Israeli side.

AJ:

We've said we need to change the balance of factors and what the two parties are willing to get out of this and often an understanding of humanistic psychology points of view. You ignore people or parties, or if you put them into a box or into a corner, that's when they become dangerous. And then, when they become dangerous, they reach for whatever weapons they have, whatever means they have a striking out. So a humanistic intervention could be, for example, advocating for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, given the extreme tensions over decades in that part of the world, or advocating for more general disarmament on a wider scale, because that then lowers the risk factor. If there is a disagreement or if there is some kind of a flare up intentions, then people can't reach weapons because they don't have them immediately necessary, whereas when people do feel threatened from an external enemy, that then increases the chances or the ways in which they can persecute the home population and spend more money on building up their military armaments.

AJ:

So I think, if we say anti interventionist, as in be completely passive and literally just stick our head in the sand, no, I don't think. I think that will risk betraying humanist values of empathy, freedom, solidarity with those suffering, etc. But interventionism in a caution, sensible way, that's evidence based and that has an eye on democratic input. What does the UNGA say? What do other international bodies and regional bodies say there? I think it's, it's. There's definitely a case to be made for interventions.

James H:

Mark for you. How should humanist ethics inform when and where we should intervene in complex to prevent a humanitarian crisis?

Mark A:

Yeah. So I think I would broadly agree with what AJ says, that a sort of a balanced and reasonably objective perspective in invoking or applying humanist values of concern for human rights, you know, avoiding civilian deaths, genocide, persecution etc. And obviously, to a large extent we know that humanists have had a role in framing international law and conventions and so therefore, you know, secular values and humanist values are often pretty much the same thing, or universal values and humanist values are very, very compatible, at the least. So, I think, applying those principles in order to decide. I think that it's interesting that the humanist tradition is very much aligned with seeking peace and promoting peace, and the members of proto-humanists were members of ethical societies, and then humanists were often pacifists and the First World War quite a number of them refused, became conscientious objectors I mean, bertrand Russell was a famous example of that and paid quite a heavy price for that, I think, in terms of their psychology and the abuse that they suffered. But at the same time, in the Second World War there was much of a shift towards accepting that that was a just war and therefore humanists generally were prepared to get involved and to serve. But then after that, then there's a lot of support and involvement by humanists in CND, for example.

Mark A:

So you know, as AJ references the nuclear issue, so I think the humanist tradition is generally inclined towards peace and disarmament where possible, but also recognizing that under certain circumstances military intervention to support humanitarian cause is justified, or just war against an oppressive totalitarian regime.

Mark A:

But also I think that in recent times this whole issue has been sort of tarnished or complicated by some of the sort of less successful interventions. So we had what would be deemed to be successful ones in Kosovo and Sierra Leone under the, under the black government, which was generally regarded as positive. But then we had obviously Afghanistan and particularly Iraq, which was framed to some extent as a humanistic intervention to remove an oppressive regime, which is why they perceived it being a massive strategic blunder and caused enormous amounts of unnecessary suffering and destabilization. So that's the context, isn't it in which we operate, that this and then Libya again was, was a, was a, you know, postulated as a humanitarian intervention and it seems to have had some disastrous consequences for regional instability etc. So yeah, that's complicated a lot, but I think the humanistic principles, if we can sort of extract those, still essentially apply along the lines of AJ express them.

AJ:

In the 90s we had this mantra of the new military humanism which was really bolstering the Clinton, blair doctrines of OK, well now, especially after the Cold War, so even as fallen, the right side one, and that fed into a lot of self justification and self righteousness about how and where we intervene, and just by the very fact that we're doing it. You know we're the enlightened West, the US and the UK and NATO, and therefore what we do must go so that that military humanism we should sort of maybe make a throw up a flag and say that's quite unrelated to what we would say is as humanism. It's again understanding human psychology and going back to seeing us in that, what our psychological tendencies are, as we've said before in so many aspects of our lives. That informs my point of view as a humanist. Humans tend to look for justifications for their actions before and after, whatever their actions are. So just war, as Mark mentioned in arguably every war ever fought was a just war, because that's what the people who initiated them said they were, because they, they wanted to look in the mirror and believe, and this includes some of the worst people who ever lived. But that doesn't mean that it's a just war.

AJ:

Now there's obviously a spectrum of again, depending on how the results and the evidence base shows the consequences of that were. But certainly I think you bombing, for example in the Libya case that that Mark mentioned, those can't by any means that I'm aware of be seen as a humanistic intervention. And so that's that's one thing, that our tendency to self justify, that we have to be really cautious of, and especially when it's weird we're doing it, because the hardest thing to do is look in the mirror. And another tendency is this cost fallacy where once we sort of rush ourselves and g ourselves up into a further and intervene, we sort of say, well, we're already committed now and that's it, and then that then becomes an excuse for further and further interventions. And especially now, I mean it's not as it was maybe even 50 years ago, certainly 100 years ago, where war and military actions were quite distinct. That's what there was a ministry of war, and it's sort of very it can be more or less cleanly delineated from, say, peacetime.

AJ:

Now, especially the past few decades, we live in an age of endless war, of dirty wars, of mercenaries, of black ops operations, where we don't actually know many of these, many of these actors Are they are they? Are they intelligence? When Russia invaded Ukraine? Of course they call Putin, called a special military operation, rather than a war and invasion. I mean semantics we can be bandied around again as part of self justification of our actions.

AJ:

So I think, because we're getting into this, we're in this era of dirty wars and the line between peacetime and wartime is blurring, we have to be extra, extra careful about even, I think, dipping a toe into intervening into another country's sovereign affairs in that kind of a very aggressive way and using violence, and violence can be economic, violence can be military. Even so, sending military advisors can be seen in the wrong way. So I think favoring of diplomatic channels into believing in international for like the UNGA, like the International Court of Justice, using the already existing frameworks that we have as imperfect because they are, and lending out our support towards that, has to be the best way forward, because otherwise we just open ourselves to might, to makes rights, and the strong do as they wish and the weak do as they must.

James H:

Yeah, certainly, in the modern age of disinformation it's it's much more challenging to conduct that virtue of evidence and curiosity and make sure you're making evidence based decisions. And I think it's absolutely right to flag the the dangers, I think, as we often mentioned, the dangers of righteousness from any point of view. You know, even those of us who are non religious, and if we humans are excellent at rationalizing and justifying their decisions once, once, once they come to an emotive decision. So, yes, definitely trying as much as possible, as you say, to really try to consider as much evidence as possible and take that approach, and it's becoming increasingly difficult. I wonder, just before we wrap up on on this topic, one of the interesting points I think of of discussion, whether there wasn't a broad consensus yesterday was really how much we should, whether we should refer to this as a religious conflict.

James H:

There was certainly some strong opinions that it's unhelpful to talk of this Israel, palestine you mean as Israel, palestine as a, as a religious war, and others who felt that it's. It's unavoidable and obviously you remove the religious element from the region and you have much more an opportunity to deescalate the situation, aj, from your point of view. You know you're very much involved in in interfaith dialogue Do you see a big role? Personally, I guess, how much do you think it's right to emphasize the role that religion plays in the Israel Palestine conflict? And secondly, what role do you see the, the, the, the growth of secularism and, in particular, more interfaith, not necessarily saying that people have to be he missed it or a district, but but actually promoting interface dialogue as a route to greater understanding and potential and a long term route to peace.

AJ:

This is something that I really try and focus on in my interfaith work and I think it's the high watermark and the goal of all of the interfaith community building and the time that I spent with With religious colleagues and friends. It leads towards things like this in times like this is when we really show what a humanistic love and a spirituality that crosses faith and belief boundaries and where the benefit of that can be. It can save lives, it can reduce suffering, it can break down barriers of ignorance. I so, having said that, I wouldn't necessarily say that Israel, palestine, is a religious war. I don't, that's not my model of understanding but religious arguments are deployed to exacerbate it Again. As we said, just war theory. And we've we've seen the Israeli government use biblical Amalekite references when it comes to how they view the Palestinians. So when, especially, it's it's overcompensation, isn't it's projection? So that's another very understandable and relatable human trait. When we're unsure of our ground legally and we can see that the anger within us, or the response we that we sort of seem to be carried away with doing, is inflicting so much harm upon others, we need to reach for very, very powerful, millennia old arguments to fortify ourselves against the evil that we're committing and I say we, isn't humans. So I can see that that trend certainly on both sides, both on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, where then you get a war of words and one up and ship saying, well, you know, we will fight to the last. You know, our God is better than your God, or they're fortifying themselves to do, because humans I think most humans naturally are very averse to violence. So when people have to feel they are backed into a corner, like a tiger being backed into a corner, it needs to G itself up to then try and strike out at its perceived attacker. So that's, it's the crime is putting people in that situation and it's not surprising that people will reach for this religious argument. But it's putting people in that situation and I think, one way of de escalating tensions.

AJ:

I found, as you know, I want to help facilitate a weekly Quran class and the past two weeks which is why I couldn't attend the Israel Palestine discussion group that the humanists hosted yesterday, focused on Israel, palestine, and sure there are some avenues that we can say well, let's take people out of the political very tense situation and atmosphere and look at how actually Islam and Judaism have so much in common. They're both Abrahamic and there's a history there and a theology and I'm quite interested in that. Many humanist may not be, but it's it's to do with human beliefs and human welfare and human well being, and a lot of people place a lot of stock in that. So I'm interested in it from a human welfare point of view and how we can build bridges and, through dialogue, trying to build a better society. So from that perspective I'm interested in it and I think there is a beauty to be found in how people can find solace in, in these, in theological and divine doctrines. But so there is some way to unlock tensions using that.

AJ:

But it's not the only way. There also has to be political solutions. It can't just be let's have a Bible study, let's have a Torah study or a Quran study. We also have to address real, on the ground realities such as water, fences, walls, borders and land. Ultimately there has to be a practical solution that's offered in the real world, not just a change of theological perspective and kumbaya and increasing love. It's an apposite background, but I think the dialogue can take many forms. For example, we can just even sharing food, sharing culture, sharing music, humanist UK which I'm sure we'll have a Jeremy Rodell on later on this year the dialogue of humanist UK for a podcast. He's he's a very experienced person. He often says it's not a debate, it's not meant to be a debating club dialogue, it's meant to be understanding, just exposing each other to that, to have that interface and have those interactions and trust that our common humanity will come out and we'll be able to connect and overcome our differences Absolutely.

James H:

Yeah, that mutual understanding and understand that shared human experiences or shared human origins, the more you can spread that you do start to build bridges and and men fences for sure. So, Mark, I guess to close, you moderated the discussion yesterday. What were the any of the key takeaways, and often you learned that you'd like to share.

Mark A:

Yeah, I just wanted to come in on that religious point actually, because that was one of the points that a number of people in church have A number of people including yourself sort of discussed in the in the conversation and it was, I think that probably the consensus was that it wasn't really wasn't necessarily a religious conflict, but it certainly was a conflict in which religion was involved and probably in a way which wasn't positive in general. And so one of the people talked about, obviously Hamas itself is an Islamist organization. So and Islam is as a form of political Islam is often it's the. I think there's a general perception or understanding that probably it's political and then, and as some people somebody said in the conversations about it's been using religion as a galvanizing, activating force for political ends to a large extent, but, you know, but at the same time it does it does, you know, promote quite an extreme version of that religion as a way of governing society, I think. So that that aspect came in and then also we talked about we have quite an interesting contribution from a member there who's involved with humanistic Judaism explained a little bit about the operation of religious political parties within Israel with their PR system. They up and have a quite a lot of leverage within the system.

Mark A:

And so there was talk about the Shas, I think they're called, which is this group which is highly religiously conservative, which is primarily consists of Israeli Jews of Arab Jewish extraction who are often economically disadvantaged and have lower levels of education and in general, and tend to adopt a more religiously conservative perspective. So obviously that's feeding in as well. And then the other interesting point was made by one of our committee members attending was around the role of evangelicals in America and their particular religious agenda, which isn't really in the interest of either group, arguably, as it has a rather apocalyptic attitude to those currently living in the Middle East. And so, yeah, it did show that the religion is actually quite an important factor in this, even if it's not a religious war per se.

Mark A:

And it's arguable that there never has been a religious war, pure religious war. There's usually. There are always other factors, and religion gets mixed up with strategic and ethnic and nationalistic factors as well. So, yeah, that was a very interesting take, and but I mean, probably the main take away was just how well mannered and respectful the conversation was, and I genuinely thought it could be quite a difficult, bumpy ride, but actually, as with pretty much every other discussion we've had, people were just, you know, just behaved with incredible consideration and respect for each other and it was a really orderly and good natured discussion, even though there was quite sharp differences of opinion. So that was very heartening.

James H:

It was indeed, and thank you both for an orderly and good natured discussion on this, as you say, challenging and live topic. I'm sure it's something we will be revisiting in the future, but thanks both for your time and we'll be back with Mark and AJ. After this week's Concrete in Ukraine also raged on, and our guest this week is a journalist, scott Jacobson, who had last year visited Ukraine as part of a humanist group to better understand the conflict and the situation for people there. So I'm delighted to introduce this week's guest interview with Scott Jacobson.

James H:

Scott Douglas Jacobson is the founder of Insight Publishing and the editor in chief of Insight, an independent interview based journal. Scott is a research associate at the University of California, irvine and a freelance independent journalist with the Canadian Association of Journalists. Scott Jacobson, thank you so much for joining us on Humanism Now. Welcome. Thank you for having me. We met a couple of weeks ago as part of your interview series which you've been doing, conducting interviews with humanists globally that you've met through Humanist International. It'd be great if you could introduce yourself to our listeners and just provide a bit of background of your journey to humanism and how you got involved, particularly in humanist journalism.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

I would say, and I think I've only told Andrew Copson this my first introduction to humanism was, inadvertently, probably around the age of 14. It wasn't a book on humanism, it wasn't a humanist, it wasn't a humanist organization, it wasn't the humanist movement. It was simply the values of humanism in a comedic way, and I have to thank the Brits for that. I was in the Walnut Grove Community Library, a tiny library attached to a pool, a community pool. I walked in there. I forget for what reason. I might have been skipping class. Probably I ended up going to a section, for I think there was DVDs at that time. I remember pulling out one and it had this very strange looking group of men. It turns out it was Monty Python live at the Hollywood Bowl. As it turns out, as Andrew confirmed for me, several of them are humanists. I find a lot of their comedy, which I love, very humanistic in its orientation. It's sort of absurdist but grounded. I find that very enjoyable. That was probably the first inkling I had of humanism, at least in sort of the global zeitgeist sort of seeping out from the Brits over to Canada who we politely asked to let us be independent From there. I didn't really come across it in high school.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

In university I probably had some experience with the United Nations. So there's probably over 800 or so United Nations per year. I took part in a lot of those, both as a delegate and on the not quite secretary of a more sort of chairing committees side, with health organization, security council etc. I remember one was a Harvard World Monty was probably the third biggest. They have two to three thousand delegates. It's a five day event. It's an excuse for sort of young and up and coming students around the world to both get a lot of practice in a simulation of the United Nations as well as to have a wonderful, expensive party, a blown, a lot of money late at night most nights, and there's tons of events that they plan out and so usually they have Harvard University followed by a secondary host university of that host country and city and then they coordinate to make that happen and that practice of debate, dialogue, cooperation.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

That's really around the time of the foundation of a lot of the modern organized humanist movement. As we know, with the most recent Amsterdam Declaration 2022, there is more of an acknowledgement of patterns, tendencies in the global history of humanist values popping up. So it is a universalist ethic within that recorded human history. Yet it's organized movement just happened to have happened within the last century or so, and with the United Nations, west World collapsed. People were trying to prevent those sorts of atrocities from happening again, and so, after the collapse of the League of Nations, we had the foundation of the United Nations, and that orientation really fits well with the secular humanist or humanist worldview and so that kind of practice at those multi-united nations I found was sort of a precursor to getting into that.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

I was in three psychology labs at that time. One was the Lifespan Cognition Lab, one was, I believe, a gender and sexual auto lab, but it was more on the media, and the third was around crime and things like that nature. So there actually was coordination with the lead researcher and the local police and so I actually got to interview three times this is the first in clean of the journalistic bend One gentleman who was part of the RCMP, the policeman in Canada, you see on horses in parades, and he was the first individual to be able to wear a turban, I believe, in the armed forces Huge controversy, I think in the 90s, and I got to interview him a few years probably before he retired and that was really, really cool. That was in Surrey, british Columbia, canada, and so I ended up writing for the newsletter of that psychology department, doing some interviews with people, and then I figured why don't I just start up my own thing? So I started doing that independently and of course you have to sell fun and time for it and I was doing well in psychology.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

I was looking forward to doing a lot of work on individual differences and that at some point came to a crossroads where I figured I like doing this more, my talents and proclivities are there. I was getting certainly scholarships and doing really well in that area of study and research. Yet I found that certainly there was a lot more interest and passion with journalism and so I just decided to jump ship, switch degrees and get on journalism. So I switched from basically psychology philosophy to more general studies where I can kind of survey a wide range of things and then use that base of knowledge to apply to journalism. Especially in a question construction and then response on the fly, you need at least a base level of knowledge and a wide range of fields to be able to sort of converse with these experts in different areas. So then I was writing for a lot of different publications, just reaching out to people hi, can I write for you, I'll write for free. And the free part was the biggest thing, I think, for a lot of people when they're getting an email, oh, this person can write based on the samples, and then they say free, they go ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, come on in. So it becomes a thing like that For me.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

I was writing a lot, I was spending a lot of time just honing craft, learning how to edit, learning how to write, learning how to transcribe, learning that grueling process of transcribing and other things as part of just coming to a final product. That really came to a head, probably with Canadas News. There was one woman who I got in contact with I forget off the top if her name, but it was this particular person, if I remember it all. She got in contact with Benjamin Davis who was editor-in-chief at that time of Canadas News and over the year and a half of the year period I wrote several hundred articles for that publication and I began to be more formally introduced to the human movements there. So people like Macie Grayling is interviewing a lot of these Stephen Law, these humanists who covered different areas, whether it's philosophy or public engagement of science and so on, and I found that was really a point at which I found a lot more natural, this conversation with people, because I didn't have to have the assumptions of the sort of the surrounding culture in British Columbia and to provide some context for that.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

The area I grew up in was in Langley, british Columbia, canada, in particular Fort Langley. It's a national heritage site, national historic site. We call it the village of Langley and next to it is Trinity Western University. It is the largest private university in Canada. Most are all private universities in Canada are Christian. Most particular Christian private universities evangelical and they are the largest private universities. Therefore they are huge.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

They are evangelical, christian oriented, not particularly of the American brand, but leaning that way. They are political, they are social in terms of wanting to impact culture and there have been some studies not a lot looking at how, as Canada or Canadian society became more secular, not only with the decline in religion but changes in the things that remove the blasphemy of the law and so on this particular university and its culture became more conservative. So it wasn't that they were reactionary, it's that the emphasis was of conservativism or the orientation of conservativism. Religious conservativism was in reaction to the liberalization of the culture, right. So with Kanata's news, that was really. Then I started writing and I connected with one woman, anya Overman, who was involved with.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

Yeah.

James H:

She's going to be on the show very soon actually.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

There you go. So thank you, anya. So she was the first entry into doing some writing, for I think humanist voices was up and running at that time, but somehow she was the entry point to Young Humist International. Then things started picking up with Humanist Canada, centre for Inquiry Canada and Humanist International and then that story sort of developed from there.

James H:

You mentioned, you've interviewed many experts, many of people who are quite well known in the humanist space and newcomers like myself. What have you learned and how has conducting these interviews shaped your views on humanism or your worldview in general, through having so many conversations with experts in the field?

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

The biggest trend internationally is everyone agrees on the same values. That's why everyone seems to be more or less okay with Amsterdam, decorations, things of this nature or the shorthand version of humanism. The difference per region, even per country within a region, is emphasis on what values. That's where the rub is for most people. So in certain areas, freedom of expression is more important. Others, democratic values and fighting for those, are more important, because it's what's more critically important for building the humanist movement in the country at that time. So it's almost like they found humanism as a salve for particular issues in their country. So when freedom of speech or freedom of expression seems as if it's under attack in a country, you'll see those types of humanists pop up and be arguing for that, and it's like that on a wide range of issues.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

And that's really the only time when I see humanists argue with each other. If they do actually argue with each other, I don't mean and like, for instance, the Corbyn Hagin. There was a very respectful debate over the potential to introduce a resolution as a new policy reemphasizing the Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine, when there was already one in 2022. It was a very respectful way among people who disagree with one another. So that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about real arguments and it's really just over emphasis of the values. So the values of the same is the rank ordering that people put on them, and so that's a qualitative difference that I've noticed internationally. That's the biggest lesson that I think is important into, personally or organizationally, when you're approaching from one organization to another or as a person to another person or an organization who is a humanist Sort of try to find out what value are they emphasizing the most. Then you have the common ground and then that's your way to really effectuate the diplomacy as you would get like in the nation.

James H:

I think that yeah, I think you used the term earlier when talking about multi-Python in it being grounded right, I think a lot of the views, a lot of the debates, people are grounded and they have the same foundations and the same general goals that we want to achieve. And starting from the same belief system helps as well. But I agree, it's the weighting that you put on those different issues and, I guess, the roots that you get what's the most important issue to address first in order to achieve our mutual goals that we all share. And on the Russia-Ukraine point, I know you spent some time last year reporting in Ukraine. How was that experience? What is the, I guess, the humanist movement that you found in the region when you were visiting there?

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

That's a mixed question. So that started in August, visiting Copenhagen for the World Congress and General Assembly of Humanist International. One of the keynotes was Remus Kerania, from Romania, and then another was Aleksandra Romazova, who's the Executive Director of the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine and that Institute won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022. And so I talked to both of them, got interviews with both of them, and Remus, entirely to his credit, offered for me to travel with him to Ukraine. That seemed insane at the time. I said yes and literally I scheduled from August to late November to get things organized for time off from work, and we went there eventually at November 22nd to and I got back on December 6th. So, given all the travel time, we were probably there for about 11 and a half, 12 days and the rest was straight travel, because you can't fly straight in, obviously. So I'd fly into Kishinau, moldova, and then bus into Odessa and then we'd go and travel from there. And Remus, he planned the whole trip, he organized everything. So, again, entirely, the credit goes 100% to him for that trip.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

The humanist movement that I found there was going there with Romanian a former parliamentarian, romanian humanist so it was more the resilience of people. That was probably the most humanistic element that I found there, because we would go with the city for a day or two. Then we would see areas that were bombed and we are talking even areas that have no military targets around. We are talking residential buildings, administrative buildings, unesco heritage sites, cathedrals, schools. So these are campaigns of terrorizing a public, and the air raid alarms would go off every night. I'm out of the city somewhere between 2, 3, 4, 5 am, 1 am, and so I think it's a very sleep deprived for a population from any of these cities, and it's really being aware of what is happening in the moment. It's not holding a rose group and praying for God to help you, it's really finding out. Ok, we're in this city, what has happened recently? Well, they're targeting critical infrastructure. They bombed the water system. Ok, it's poison, don't shower too long, you'll get a rash. So it's really finding the practical elements of daily life. And then, ok, what was the purpose of why we came? We came to report, let's go to the next bomb site. And so he would be on his TikTok at the site talking to people, reporting, and then I would be sort of taking pictures, and then those pictures I would collect for myself, for articles I would write later which are incoming, and he would have those videos that he would use for some of the online stuff.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

So the elements of humanism that I found in Ukraine were mainly us traveling there and then seeing the resilience of people and things of that nature. I remember in one city it was like 2 in the morning air raid and our alarm goes off. I got into the habit of half-sleeping, getting up and going to the bathtub like it was going to help, like an earthquake drill or something. And I remember, maybe two kilometers away, just across the River Mead 3. Boom, boom and this way the air raid and the bomb goes off.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

Ok, we're on the way to the station to go to the next city. Our bus trip is at 9.50 AM. We're walking or dragging our luggage along with us, we're only going along, but 9.30, the air raid alarm goes off. We're pretty much at the bus station, we're just looking for a particular bus and all we hear again is boom, boom, even closer, and civilians everywhere. We're just going to look at each other and then everyone. So people are quite used to this campaign of terror against the public, and the further east you go, the more soldiers you see. Naturally because this huge front line of that is there.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

So I think so that let me answer the question on humanist elements there?

James H:

Yeah, it sounds like there's a community spirit which is just keeping everyone getting through in this, as you say, this terror regime. How did that experience change or shape your view on whether humanist groups should be more outspoken or involved, or what the humanist perspective is on international conflicts?

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

I think a lot of the rules of international law and international humanitarian law and rules of engagements internationally apply in this frame. So I think, going back to the United Nations, they have stipulations in various rights documents about the right to self-defense. So if your country is being invaded, I believe you have the right to self-defense armed self-defense and some of those. If someone has a particular nationality and if that particular nationality is tied to a government which is making stipulations to justify unprovoked aggression or even provoked, unjust aggression against another nation, humanists may have to speak out against their country. In the reverse case, when the vast majority, looking at the resolutions at the General Assembly of the World, the members of the United Nations, speak out against aggression by the Russia Federation against Ukraine, then I think it's appropriate for humanists to side with the majority. In that case and in this particular case, I think the humanist international put up that 2022 policy on, or approved the resolution of the human policy on, the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine, and they spoke quite openly about the Russian invasion, the need to withdraw all troops and so on, and I think more or less the countries that are against that are mostly you're mostly going to find humanists in them.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

So I think we have three possible paths internationally to take on that One, we simply do one-offs. This has already been done through that policy in 2022 on humanist international. I haven't looked at other policies that might be relevant to wars and aggression like that, just focusing on that Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine. It could be a one-off and then we leave it at that. It could be a one-off and then we update it as new rights abuses and resolutions come out from the UN speaking out against that. A third one would be we provide a perennial statement that becomes a policy for humanists at international that we can then reference every time we have a war considered through a democratic process of debate by the international and humanist community as unjust, then they can sort of reference that and individual condemnations could come forward as well. Yet they could at least have that foundation of a blanket condemnation.

James H:

A little closer to home. You mentioned growing up near possibly the most religious school in Canada, by your description.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

The most religious post-secular school, I would argue.

James H:

Sure. So how would you describe the state of secularism in Canada today? Are you seeing threats to secularization the same way that we are seeing them rise around the world?

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

Canada is a bit weird. It depends on a humanist and it depends on the issue. On some issues you'll get a very different answer from the Quebecois humanists than from danglephone humanists. I saw this when I was on the board of humanists in Canada. This was a constant argument that I saw. But it was also generational because those were an older cohort and for their generation in Canada that was the era of Pierre Trudeau and putting in the charter rights and freedom in Canada and making the federal documentation anglophone and francophone bilingual. So for them it's a much more sensitive issue. For younger humanists it's not as important of an issue.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

Within British Columbia, the British Humanist Association, they tend to be very active. They tend to punch quite above their weight. We're speaking of Ian Bushfield or Dr T L Phelps-Bonderhoff. So Ian is the executive director of the organization and T L is really on the research end of things. Ian is known for being very good at organizing. He had a little bit of controversy but I haven't heard much about that since. And then with T L he's very robust, especially with documenting municipal prayers. It was one big move and they found that there was a lot and it was like the end of the Blasmy Laws campaign, the Humanist International, where it actually has been quite effective in ending Blasmy Laws. You can argue that it was just like it was on the books or whatever, but in Canada we had one. It was only used once. Do you know what it was used for or attempted to be used for?

James H:

I'd have no idea, I'd be guessing. So educators.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

Decades ago, when the life of Brian came out, people tried to use it, of course. But back to Monty Python. It all goes back to them.

James H:

And again it points out, pointing out the absurdity of these laws.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

Yeah, I mean it's. If someone wants to abide by that law and if they are that religion, go for it. Why does the rest of a society of religion that were dip into nomination or no religion have to abide by a religious law? For others who have no religion, it's an imaginary law. It's an imaginary crime, but it has real effects. Think of Mubarak Bala. Think of Ayaz Nizam in Pakistan. He's been in jail for since I was writing for Canandist News. It's one of those cases where people don't speak much about. It's a pen name. Or Abdul Wahid he's actually on the listing for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and he's still in jail. I think it was in 2021, in January, january 6th, 7th or 8th, he got the death penalty. Three other men got the death penalty. These were the first class of cyber terrorism, because it was an application of blasphemy under terrorism laws in that case.

James H:

Do we know if they have any right to appeal still in those?

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

cases. I don't know enough of the legal set up to know what kind of rights they would have, but I would assume that they would have the ability to do so, maybe at international level, maybe with a little pressure. But even with Mubarak Bala, where we had very prominent people and prominent news reporting on it, that pressure still probably wasn't quite enough. But countries and national leaders hate bad international press, so that kind of push can really help. So these cases in Canada that was used at one point, somebody's coming to the UNIS Association they're certainly on the more central, left, left end of things and the Kewa Kwa. They tend to be more central, central right and there are a couple individual people who run an organization that they speak on particular issues and concerns around Islam and Islamism and then there are some that focus purely on political matters and they all bring together a coalition of people actually to put forward appeals to the federal government. So SCS I forget the name on the top- so it sounds like it's quite structured.

James H:

It's quite well organized. There's a robust movement in place.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

There is the disagreements. Organizationally tend to be personality disagreements.

James H:

That's the same everywhere, for sure. I just have a couple of quickfire questions before we go. Obviously, I'm sure our listeners will want to read everything and hear more from you. Where's the best place to find you or follow you?

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

I would argue. I'm publishing more in the Good Men project right now, so I'd look there and listen to me. I barely do audio interviews. Isn't that terrible? I should do more. I told Leo Iguay. I said I'm following your lead and so I started doing my interviews. So we have a wonderful podcast in Humanism. Now you can be heard there.

James H:

We'll share your social handles in the podcast description as well. And finally, our usual question just before we go what's something that you've changed your mind on recently?

Scott Douglas Jacobsen:

Two things. One sort of practical. I'm transitioning out of working in the question industry. So I live in the horse capital of British Columbia. I decided to do a journalism project, working and writing on that industry, because it's very interesting to live here and it was a very steep learning curve. It's still a very steep learning curve so I changed my mind on thinking I could get super far in this field. It's definitely not an area of expertise for me In terms of just how to work with a horse, yet I can do sort of basic intermediate tasks. I can be comfortable around a horse and I'm proud that I made it that far Intellectually. That international change isn't going to be happening as fast as I would like it to and there will be significant setbacks, especially the human rights abuse in a lot of areas where it's life or death. It's not about other important issues, but less immediate, like respect for an individual's sense of personal identity and autonomy. It's more just getting people the basic needs that they need to live a dignified, ethical life.

James H:

And I guess that just highlights the importance of reporting and getting these stories out there and, as you said, publicizing all of these issues and keeping the pressure on and hopefully keep up the great work, scott, and hopefully we'll see that change happen, hopefully a little bit faster than it has been recently, but thank you for everything that you do and thank you so much for joining us on Humanism Now. Welcome back to Humanism Now and thanks once again to Scott Jacobson for joining us after a long day looking after horses, which you could see Sorry to take his top by the time we were chatting there but it's a fascinating range of experiences and definitely do check out his interviews and blog. He's spoken to some amazing people and he's just a really fascinating guy. Mark, what did you take away from that interview there with Scott?

Mark A:

Well, first of all, I was very impressed by the fact they come to Humanism via Monty Python, that was.

Mark A:

I'd never thought of that as a conduit to Humanism and as a Python enthusiast myself, I now start to see the parallels and connections. So that was, yeah, you've got to love that, I thought he. I mean it's interesting how he had a lot to say about the issues we've just been talking about and touching on in terms of sort of, you know, humanistic values as being universalist and informing sort of you know, sort of international conventions and definitions of just war, et cetera, and that and the way in which humanists, international, you know, have a sort of a you know a sort of a model or a template of what constitutes or they should do anyway what constitutes just war, what constitutes grounds for intervention or condemnation of state actions in terms of international conflict. So that was, yeah, I assume that's a happy chance, but it was a very, very interesting and relevant to what we were discussing before and I thought, broadly speaking, what he was saying was pretty much consistent with what we've also been discussing. So I mean, I was also I like the fact that he talks about publicity, negative publicity, having a strong impact because you know, as humanists, we sometimes feel quite powerless, but maybe we underestimate the extent to which just speaking out can embarrass and make, you know, regimes very uncomfortable when they, when they, when they, when they engage in bad actions and persecutions and persecute innocent people.

Mark A:

And yeah, and and finally, just, you know the situation with regarding humanism and you know religion in Canada and what he discussed around the evangelical university was not entirely surprising, but very interesting insight into the situation there and the way in which you know it varies across different provinces within within Canada as well. That was that was really interesting.

James H:

Yeah, he really emphasized the power that the human voice can still have. You know, individuals can speak up and use their voice and be a force for good. So, yeah, I agree that it can seem, with so many huge challenges in the world, in the climate crisis and conflicts, you can feel hopeless and powerless sometimes. But he certainly gave me a sense of hope. And, aj, I know you know Scott, I think you've also been featured in the interview series, so what did you take away from that?

AJ:

Yeah, scott, I met for the first time in Copenhagen last year, as he mentioned, for the World Humanist Congress and General Assembly. I find him to be such an immediately likable person and really, really driven as well. So he's just one of many humanists, along with Leo Iguay, andrew Copsson, just many others too many numerous to name that just put in the hard yards and just do the basics, sometimes hidden behind the scenes, work very, very well. And yeah, we connected on Monty Python as well as many other things. I mean we had a previous podcast episode last year looking at comedy from a humanistic perspective and Python really featured, featured in that. I mean I try not to have heroes myself, but Michael Palin certainly is someone that I've always looked up to and just his approach from comedians can often we mentioned this a bit in that podcast comedians can often give us an insight into other aspects of our society and social discourse, even politics and philosophy, even though they're not politicians or philosophers themselves. Just the attitude and the way their brain can work I think is really nice and Scott definitely has that in. He's going to kind of brings that to his journalism. Maybe he could say you know he's doing for in a humanistic journalism, what Python did for comedy in some sense, and his the importance of journalism really came out to me listening to him there and whenever I read his work he's so passionate about, as many journalists are. But we need more humanistic journalists like him who are flying the fly for humanism. He's relentless. Again. He traveled all the way to Ukraine, put himself at some personal risk there to go and meet Remus, another colleague in front of us also came to Copenhagen really, really brave journalists in his own rights and pleased to follow him on on Tiktok. Romanian journalists who's really trying to document what's going on in Ukraine. Because ultimately, you know, we know, I think it's true Democracy dies in darkness and we're seeing that with the Israel Palestine Convert, or at least a good portion of it.

AJ:

When journalists are not allowed in, when on the ground reporting is restricted, then it's difficult for especially humanists who want to try and make an informed decision and having informed, rational, evidence based ways forward, it's difficult for us to understand. I mean, luckily, because of technology, the actual victims are broadcasting their own suffering, which is horrific in some sense. But I think journalistic inputs are also needed there and it's quite useful for Western journalists to be able to come all journalism all over the world, because then they can connect with their own populace in a way that they know the message will ring true at home. So he's Scott's embodying a lot of what I think we need in journalism humanistic journalism. And another thing that he embodies is the internationalist aspect of it. You can see if you look at his series of interviews. It's everyone and anyone from all corners of the globe, and prioritizing those global connections and stories, showing that humanism isn't just a Western, us, uk, french, european or Anglosphere project, but it has roots in so many cultures natively and they can express humanism and teach us a lot about it and we can share with them. And it's a bi-directional process. It's not just a project of the global north. It's something that I really admire about Scott's work.

AJ:

And also in that vein as well, and with Copenhagen in mind, I should give a tip of the hat to a lovely lady that I met there and had dinner with, marta Sperklund, who listeners may want to look up.

AJ:

She's a Norwegian journalist and she's an editor of the magazine of the Norwegian Humanist Association and she, I think, unscot. Both, in my mind, embody the importance of progressives getting better at narrative storytelling, which often is pointed out, that the right-wing or anti-progressives or conservatives are very good at speaking in narratives, very good at having that kind of grander narrative and tell that people can then feel a part of, whereas maybe the progressives we speak more in again, this narrow version of humanism being a wedges rational, we focus on the facts, where we kind of don't want to be weakened by emotions or intuition or giving in to sort of other sympathies. I think that's a narrow and weakened humanism for a reason Humanism, as you said before, has to be embracing both the empathetic and also the rational, the emotional and also the logical, and focusing on human beings to find and amplify their stories and tell the story of humanism that way, rather than maybe just in non-fiction or reporting, is something that I think Marta and also Scott embody perfectly.

James H:

Yeah, we certainly need more liking and agreed, it's quite a skill. And yeah, I think actually the role of the free press and the role of storytelling and these are interesting topics for us to explore in future episodes in terms of their importance in the humanistic movement Great Well, thank you both for your feedback and with that we've come to the end of another episode of Humanism Now. So thank you to both of our guests for joining us here today. Mark, is there anything happening with any of your groups at the organizer, particularly with CLH, that you'd like to plug?

Mark A:

Yeah, so in terms of the discussion group, as mentioned, we will be having another one. It's on the second Thursday of each month, so we have yet to specify a topic, but we'll be making an announcement on Meetup about that quite soon. And obviously the exciting event is we've got our AGM coming up, which would be a fantastic opportunity for the group to come together and to enjoy each other's company and a summary of the activities over the last year, including my treasure as a report, which will be, I think, the highlight, and also free food and drink provided. So what's not to like? So that should be as well, of course, as well, I'll let you describe, but we have a really exciting speaker as well who will be taking over the second part and presenting the second part of that meeting.

James H:

Absolutely yeah, as mentioned on the podcast previously, we will have Madeline Goodall joining us from the Humanist Heritage Project to talk about London's rich humanist history. So very much looking forward to that, and you can catch up on Madeline's episode of the podcast as well if you'd like to find out more. And AJ, very good to see you again, and I believe this is our last recording before your next travels. So where will you be heading to and, is there, what exciting humanist or interfaith projects will you be getting up to?

AJ:

That's always a pleasure to join you, james. I'm glad to be back and I thought I could have done more last year and I want to, despite my traveling and commitments. I do want to be more of a regular feature on the podcast, despite the time zone. So happy to kick off the year in the right way. Yeah, so I'll be. I'll unfortunately miss the CLH AGM next week as I'll be traveling, but I'll be back just in time for one of the highlights of the spring, the first half of the year, which I've been going for a few years now, which is the Youth Interfaith Summit organised by the Faith and Belief Forum, which humanists UK and young humanists have good links with, and also religions for peace UK, on which I help out with the steering committee, and there's a special focus on climate this year as well. That will be, I think, the first week or just maybe the 8th of February, if I can check that quickly. Yes, it's the 8th of February, so I'll be back in just in time for that. So if listeners are curious about that or planning to go, please do connect with me.

AJ:

In Asia this year I'll be hopefully making several trips, one of which will be to the Humanist International General Assembly. Last year was in Copenhagen, this year will be in Singapore, but that's in the summer, but there'll be a few trips around that as well. So if you are in the Philippines or in Kuala Lumpur or Vietnam or Singapore or Bangkok, please do get in touch because I'd love to hear, especially in Malaysia and in Thailand, what humanistic and secular projects are going on there. There was a humanistic institution in Malaysia which I think has had, was went dormant and had to be removed. As a member of Humanist International in Copenhagen in our annual review of all the members, so I'd like to reconnect with them as well. There's various sort of Facebook groups and and which is that I've made, but having some on the ground and knowledge there would would certainly really help.

AJ:

But as part of being a director of Humanist International, the scope and the brief is really global and especially in Asia, we see a massive black hole. I wouldn't be traveling in Central Asia, unfortunately. I hope to do so in the future, but if I'm for happy, the opportunity. But it's just in Central Asia, where we have a dominance of religious republics and theocracies.

AJ:

There is a stranglehold and a suffocation on, as the Freedom of Thought report released by Humanist International said it was the end of last year on even just the counting of secular, rationalist and religious people, let alone trying to provide for their human rights and trying to provide for their civic needs. They almost are a non-factor and I think especially youth have a really important part to play in that, using things like social media, tiktok, telegram to get around state censors and restrictions to try and make sure that their voices are heard. That feeds into the parts of what we were saying before, with people like Scott and Martyr and others, so they can have people to go and interview and amplify their voices and tell their stories, because humanism really needs that global aspect emphasized as much as possible. So whatever small part I can play in that this year, I look forward to doing it, as we said year of year of exploration.

James H:

Fantastic. Well, thank you both once again for joining us and thanks again, listener, for joining us on humanism Now. If you like the show, please do like, rate us and share it with anyone you think would be interested and contact us to submit your questions or nominate guests at humanizelive at gmailcom and we're now live on most social outlets as well. The links will be in the show notes as well as the links to anything referenced in today's episode. So thank you once again for joining us and we will speak to you next time on humanism now.