Humanism Now

16. Anya Overman on Humanism's Social Justice Impact

February 04, 2024 Humanise Live Season 1 Episode 16
16. Anya Overman on Humanism's Social Justice Impact
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Humanism Now
16. Anya Overman on Humanism's Social Justice Impact
Feb 04, 2024 Season 1 Episode 16
Humanise Live

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This week on Humanism Now, Audrey & AJ join the panel to discuss personal and group activism and support for Social Justice campaigns. The panel discuss; How do humanist vales align with these causes? How do we prioritise issues to best influence changes? and what role should Humanist groups play in leading or supporting campaigns?

We delve deeper into these topics with this week's guest Anya Overmann. Anya is a writer, consultant, speaker and digital nomad driven by her values as a progressive humanist activist. As former President of Young Humanists International, Anya shared her evolving views on the movement, frustrations with organised non-profits and optimism for the next generation of activists. 

About Anya Overmann:
🔗 anyaovermann.com
Ⓜ️ Follow Anya on Medium
📷 @Anyaovermann
🐦@AnyaLOvermann
🎙️ The Nomadic Humanist Podcast

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Send us a Text Message.

This week on Humanism Now, Audrey & AJ join the panel to discuss personal and group activism and support for Social Justice campaigns. The panel discuss; How do humanist vales align with these causes? How do we prioritise issues to best influence changes? and what role should Humanist groups play in leading or supporting campaigns?

We delve deeper into these topics with this week's guest Anya Overmann. Anya is a writer, consultant, speaker and digital nomad driven by her values as a progressive humanist activist. As former President of Young Humanists International, Anya shared her evolving views on the movement, frustrations with organised non-profits and optimism for the next generation of activists. 

About Anya Overmann:
🔗 anyaovermann.com
Ⓜ️ Follow Anya on Medium
📷 @Anyaovermann
🐦@AnyaLOvermann
🎙️ The Nomadic Humanist Podcast

Anya's References:

Upcoming events:

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 and welcome to Humanism Now, a podcast from the central London humanists for anyone active or just curious about all things humanism. I'm your host, james, and this week we're delighted to be joined by our special guest, anya Overman, to talk about humanism's role in social justice campaigns around the world, to preview that talk and to discuss what's been happening here in London and the humanism around the world. I'm delighted to be joined by two of our regular co-hosts Audrey Simmons of Association of Black Humanists.

Audrey S:

Well, thank you, james.

James H:

And joining us live from Manila, my colleague at Central London Humanists and from Humanist International, aj. Hi James, audrey, good to be with you, so I'll break a question this week is what is your most overused emoji? So I chat on both on WhatsApp regularly, so if you don't answer, I can answer for you. But, audrey, which is your most overused emoji?

Audrey S:

It's the smile with all the teeth. It says just enough without being too much. So you can always end something with just a smile and if you say something and you think, actually I think they might have misunderstood it, you put the smile on and then you know that they're not going to be offended by anything that they say. So it's just this kind of in between kind of thing that says just enough.

James H:

Sounds good, and if you're watching this on video, you'll know that the big smile with all the teeth is certainly suiting Audrey today. Aj, how about for you what's your most overused emoji?

AJ :

Well, hopefully you'll be able to guess, but I would say there's two equal ones that I use a lot. One is the prayer hands, kind of like the namaste thing which someone's told me that was a high five, but I don't think so. I think that's actually meant to be like a being Indian from India. I'll take that and mixed between that and also the other kind of supplication prayer hand, which sounds odd coming from a again an agnostic humanist. But it just means you know, I appreciate you and you know I'm thankful and I'm grateful and sort of receiving what you're giving me. So I use that a lot. Well, way, way overuse. I use sometimes two or three in a row.

James H:

So that'll definitely make it overused. You can't have multiple, multiple, two handed emojis in your messages.

AJ :

We need to contact the International Association.

James H:

That is a very good point. I mean, there is the thinking face emoji. Potentially that could be one For me, the one I like. There's the standard ones that I use, same as everyone else, for reactions, but I think my most overused is the shrugging hands emoji. I don't know, I feel like too many questions that come across to me. That's my sole response. So definitely that's the most overused one. Our topic this week is looking at humanism's role in social justice campaigns and asking whether humanism should prioritize these movements and take a lead going forward. So and this is a topic that we've discussed between us, both of our groups quite a lot over the last couple of years, and I think it's one that is raising, being raised more and more frequently, and we'll definitely hear a lot more about that from Anya in our interview. But I wanted, audrey, from your perspective, having been involved in humanism for several years, in what ways do you see the principles of humanism intersecting with the goals of social justice movements, which is what I know you've been very much involved with?

Audrey S:

The principles are there.

Audrey S:

We are there to support everyone around us. We are supposed to be an organization, a philosophy of support, of altruism, of caring for our fellow human beings, for our planet, for all of those things, and I think the problem is at the moment that I suppose in its defense I could say that it's polarization. In saying something, you are then putting your head above the pulpit and kind of sorry parapet got my brain in gear. I think also, it doesn't feel as if we're living our values. However you view humanism and whatever humanism means to you, I don't think as a movement, as groups, that we really do anything, even on a local level, that really says that we're living our values and so social justice, whether we follow whatever's going on in the world at the moment or pick things that mean something to us, we don't seem to be doing anything. We don't even seem to have a voice in the room. We may send out a few tweets from some organizations about things, but I don't think we do anything on the ground, and I find that quite disappointing.

James H:

Yeah, thank you. And, aj, from your perspective, do you see that humanism should inherently include a commitment to social justice and, if so, how can this commitment be effectively integrated into the practice and philosophy of humanism?

AJ :

I would say humanism inherently, as Audrey says, contains a concern for others. That can be your neighbor, that can just be even in your family. Arguably the best charity begins at home raising kids properly. Many people don't have time to be involved in other campaigns coming home after a long day at work, so that concern for others has to be manifested in some way. To be a humanist, I think If we're talking about capital H, humanism as a movement and then social justice as like this sort of social activist phenomenon, then I don't think that's inherently deserving for all of you. Mrs Jones down the road should be a social activist because she's a humanist one, or she just may be a good grandma, maybe a good mom, sister, etc. So that and I think it's true that it only takes a minority of very, very motivated people to change the world it doesn't actually take everyone in the country. It can only need, really needs that core of motivated people and another sort of group around them who are able to then implement and volunteer and spread the message. Show by that metric Although everyone, we need maximum awareness, we can't be complacent and we can't sort of draw back from spreading maximum awareness. I think that's kind of the way that it should be, where the majority of people may have a tangential interest or daily activist schedule but they're still aware of and especially now with social media, it's very, very easy to be aware of and to keep in touch with movement as we follow the main people who are the drivers and the thrusters, the organizers, who are making sure to try and pursue a way forward. But I mean, audrey's been very active on this. I've taken a lot of inspiration from her with the Black Lives Matter UK movement and making sure that the humanist voice is being heard there, and she's been very active in calling for it, calling out when it's not been loud enough. And we did a young humanist association of Black Humanist Joint Event in the wake of the George Floyd protests and deaths, which I thought was one of the best events, the most memorable events that I can remember organizing in the past couple of years, and we need to do more of those.

AJ :

So I think humanists, that being that active voice, it's very easy to do in some sense, especially for the activists that are more on the ground, it gets a bit harder and harder and we'll cover this, I think, later on in the episode when we discussed the sort of the aftermath of the Anniers interview and the points that she brought up.

AJ :

It's harder as you go up the bureaucracy chain, sort of at the UN level, un Human Rights Council level, where humanists international my organization does have a voice. There. You need to be a bit more careful about what you're saying and I think there is a place for that. There's also a place for the local activism which is speaking to the lived experiences of people and humanism definitely needs to be. That's why I'm again taking an inspiration from Audrey in being active on TikTok. I started a TikTok a few months ago just to make sure that there are young humanists or humanist voices of any kind, but certainly young humanist voices in the UK on these platforms that can reach people in a different way than how people are reached with YouTube or Twitter or Insta. So that's, I think, a key priority for us going forward.

James H:

Yeah, thank you. That's definitely true that not everyone can't be an activist on every topic, so I think that's very important to highlight and I guess Audrey, as someone, as I mentioned, who is proactive and out there and definitely listener do follow Audrey on TikTok to keep up to date. What would you say is most supportive for you?

Audrey S:

When someone said something, it goes into the air. But if someone adds to it and it's just those added voices it adds layers to the actual topic and so that when someone's saying something can highlight in something, to add your own thoughts, to add your own point of view to it, highlights it and brings it around to other people, to then think that they can add their voice. And I think it isn't about what you do, it's the collective voice to actually make things go further. But you have to start somewhere and that single voice and someone looking at that and just adding to it. That's the most important thing because, as you say, not everyone's an activist, not everyone wants to be on TikTok, some people don't even know how to get onto TikTok. But things get passed around and it's just bringing those conversations into different spaces so that different people can add their voice and different people can be thinking about these topics. And at the moment I don't think that that's what's happening.

James H:

Anyone can have a voice and actually you really don't know the impact of your voice until you put it out there.

James H:

And that's one of the wonderful things about social media with all its flaws is that we found this through the podcast channels as well is that once you put things out, you get followers and you get views from all over the world and you don't quite know who's going to hear what you have to say and you may change someone's mind.

James H:

And if enough people change a few minds, then that's how you can implement change, despite being one voice amongst eight billion. So it do keep it up. And, yeah, I agree, everyone should join and support and promote and join the conversation. But I wonder, given there are so many pressing issues and, of course, we're much more aware of the number of issues in the world now because of this interconnectedness how do, should we approach the prioritization dilemma and avoid overwhelm when it comes to dealing with these issues? So, aj, I wonder, from your point of view, given the spectrum of issues that's encompassed by this sort of broad term of social justice, how should humanists, or how do you as a humanist, prioritize which issues you feel like you need to really lend your voice to?

AJ :

I think humanism, in its principles already has an inbuilt toolkit for filtering down these issues. We follow the evidence, we follow the results. If I'm doing a certain action, what results are coming out of that? We try and think skeptically. Just because there's a massive protest going on today in my city for a certain issue doesn't necessarily mean that I have to be. That's the place I need to be If I need to for my own kind of self-esteem or mental health, or just because I'm so outraged by what I'm seeing. Yes, that is a certain place for expressing a certain outrage and living that experience and sharing and finding solace and comfort in a big group. Okay, sure, that's, that's certainly there, but there could be other things that it with my skeptical humanist. How to maybe thinking well, that's maybe my system one thinking system, one system two, sort of behavior, dynamics and economics and psychology, human psychology, but the system two, thinking which maybe sort of a bit more. Step back a bit, use my neocortex a bit more, think about the long term and try and question myself and what my emotions are telling me. If I look at that, maybe I might think. Well, actually, because I'm you know, I'm from an Indian heritage, I have these connections? I'm a UK citizen. Maybe that particular issue halfway across the world where I that I can't directly influence with my taxes or with my political influence or diplomacy my country, the UK, has what my country, the UK, as it happens, has a lot of diplomatic connections around the world. So that's another issue. But what's the what's the most proximal thing that I can affect? So these kinds of these are the ways that I try and approach my activism.

AJ :

So we've discussed two key issues that relate to this recently, I think in the previous podcast Israel, palestine and Russia, ukraine. So there are many sides to each of these issues, but if we accept that all human life is precious in some way, and there what I can do may only be to affect one side of the issue, because that's the most proximal to me, and I've given the example of this is UK arms sales to Israel. Uk doesn't sell arms to Russia. It doesn't sell arms to Hamas. We do sell arms to Israel. We are contributing to that conflict that's resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and regardless of how those deaths may be placed on one side of the other of a dividing land or the tribal line that's a separate issue, but our contribution to that is a certain policy that I can affect with my UK government. I can lobby, I can, I can put pressure on my elected representatives, etc. So that's one way that I try and approach it.

AJ :

The other way is looking at certainly the other humanist principles of utilitarianism what's the, what's the biggest bang for my buck? I can get In some sense effective altruism, although that has been given a very bad image of like, quite rightly, but something along that calculus where it's nothing very fancy. I mean effective altruism probably is a too grand a name for it, but just saying what's the? If I do a certain action, it will that actually lead to the consequence that I want? Or am I just doing it to make myself feel good? There is a, as I say, there is a point to make me yourself feel good going on a protest, symbolic process, joining hashtag movements, etc. That's a certain part of it, because we have to look after ourselves, but there's also are we actually helping the people in need? So number one I'd say is that is a thing exceptively about where I can have the most input.

AJ :

Utilitarianism is another issue, is another principle, I would say, and also a number three, perhaps listening directly to the victims and having empathy with the victims.

AJ :

So what the victims are actually saying may be quite different to the protests that we're sort of jumping on the bandwagon soft here in the West, because actually they're. They may be single, actually, the more you and we know this directly from many humanist international cases of people at risk, where the big Western bandwagon you know, bang or jump on the wagon and bang the parts and create a lot of furore, actually can have a negative effect in Nigeria, or negative effect in Nepal or India, where they'll accuse the person who is at risk of being in cahoots with the West and it's a conspiracy and it's a foreign enemy, etc. Etc. So these are the considerations that then come into play, which also, I think, has to do with empathy, has to do with looking at the evidence, has to do with listening to the to the victims. So those are some of the ways that I try and propose, but I agree that there's no 100%, certain formula that's going to get us through this. We have to treat each case on its merits.

James H:

Listening to what is actually going to have the most effect, what? What do people actually want? What help do they actually need? And I think you know I would defend the original principle of effective altruism, I think in its purest form. You know how can I? An individual contributes and have the most impact with the time and the resources that they have available makes a lot of sense, and also a lot of it was also built around allowing people their autonomy. Audrey, I wonder, from your perspective, how do you deal with this prioritisation dilemma? How do you decide? This is something that I need to make a TikTok video about and then my I hear AJ being very logical.

Audrey S:

I'm a bit more from the heart, I'm a bit more grassroots about things. Who, how many people have affected? What is the effect on those people? I think for the heart of me, it's about people. I do think I need to be a little bit less from the heart and more from the head on these things. But, as you say, when you see lots of people that are being affected, it can make you want to react and I suppose there is the knee-jerk reaction.

Audrey S:

But I also think there is something about being in the moment and dealing with things as they turn up, because I think sometimes what happens is we kind of go should I be involved in that? Is that something I should be involved in? And that moment has passed and the moment that we had to Galvanize and to be a part of something being and adding our voice. And I think the thing is that we don't have to make a big splash, we just need to be part of the conversation. We just need to say that, as humanist, this is our point of view and be added to the mix. And I think it isn't necessarily about changing hearts and minds and everybody you know jumping with us. It's about saying this is who I am, this is how I feel on this topic, this is these are my views and being part of that conversation so that people recognize what is humanism. How does it play a part in Individual lives, in communities, but in those wider conversations about the world?

Audrey S:

And I think those are the things that are silent at the moment and how do I prioritize them? It's just about looking at what is happening now. Who is being affected, how many people are being affected? Is that affect a short-term thing that will pass, or is it something that is long-term? Is it something that's been controlled? Controlled? Can my vote do something, can actually change it? Can you know, just being part of another organization that is doing something that is more effective? Can that, you know, be something that we can prioritize and saying I'm with, we know we're standing with this and standing with that, I as a social nutrition of black humanist, I as a humanist, and with this organization because they follow the values that I do as a humanist. So how do I prioritize them? It isn't a really a kind of it's from the heart. It's about who's affected, how many people, and what can I do to minimize the effect of that.

James H:

It's for and I don't think you need to apologize in being more ruled by your heart than by your head, and I and I totally agree I think authenticity and immediacy Really really does help Join, influence people in the conversation. I think I certainly agree, if you wait too long, it can almost seem like you're More joining a bandwagon or being more opportunistic. So, definitely, immediacy and, yes, authenticity. And people change their mind through their feelings.

James H:

As much as we like to say that we are more rational and that people that we're doing things logically, as van Agnes explained it very well, I think, when it comes to changing hearts and minds, you have to stop hearts and then people will rationalize their decisions later. So you have to, you have to try and, yeah, be authentic with your emotions and that that is more likely to have a positive Effect on people we will speak with. Well, certainly they will make a decision, they'll make a view one way or the other and hopefully you can spend with your way of thinking. With that in mind, how should we seek Leadership and collaboration within Humanist groups like the ones which we run, you know? Should we humanists and the groups that we're involved in seek to take a leadership role in social justice movements and campaigns. Audrey, as a organizer of the group what, what's your?

Audrey S:

I don't necessarily think we need to take the lead. I think there are other people who are more equipped, have more knowledge. Then you know them than we. Then we do. Um, I don't think every topic is something that we need to be involved in, but there are organizations, there are people who are already involved with those things and already taking the lead, and I think being with them and being being able to lend support to that from our humanist perspective, is a way to go forward.

Audrey S:

I don't necessarily think that we should automatically take the lead, unless it's something that, actually, we're the only ones who are really going to say anything about it. Oh, you know, I mean, there were some subjects, as humanists, we need to take it by the ball, by the horns and just be going with it. But there was lots of things climate change, you know, I mean, what's going on in Gaza, all of those things. I don't think we need to take necessarily Take the lead. We need to have a strong voice. What is our opinion, what is our view, what? You know? We're in the fence, on this fence. Are we sitting where in this? You know? Where are we Taking the lead? I don't necessarily think so, but I do think we need to have a strong voice out there as part of this conversation.

James H:

Adjai, I wonder if you agree with with Audrey's stance there and also you know how can we Be most effective in either either leading or supporting social causes?

AJ :

Perhaps we can look at it in two ways if we talk about within the humanist community, within the global humanist community, and then outside of that, so people who don't subscribe to or aren't kind of card carry humanists, as it were, and not a part of that community. Within the global humanist community, we can, or at least we should be able to reach them in a very special way, a very direct way, because we share their values. There may be parts of the global humanist international network, for example, and their structures, their membership, networks and collaborations and so on. So in those channels I think we should well obviously humanists should try and lead other humanists or make sure that at least our house is in order Before we go and tell you know another faith and belief group or whatever, to sort of get the house in order when it comes to you know moral, altidism or other values etc. We need to be sort of trying coherence about humanism being Not just a global kind of bureaucratic, ngo type Entity, but it can also, how needs to have a daily relevance in people's lives, from Papua New Guinea to the Amazon, to Canada, to everywhere it needs to. How can humanism actually work in a village, in a town, in a city, in a mega city. So for that I think we need to show some leadership and I would say humans international. I've been very inspired by the democratic way that it's structured. Of course there's improvements we can always make, always striving towards a better representation, but we try and act not as a here we are with a global leader, it's more. We're a global forum and a network, kind of a un general assembly for Humanist organizations who are the specialists in their region still the net police humanists or the Indian humanists or the Russian humanists or Maltese humanists, and they will be giving to us the ideas, the problems, the solutions they're finding, they're facing in their particular area of the world. And we can when the trying. We had our planning meeting earlier last year when we try and map out what's our strategy, how we handling, how can we manage the humanist resources in the world, the problems, how can we shift attention to where it's needed. For example, central Asia is unfortunately quite a bit of a dead zone at the moment when it comes to humanist organizations, which I try and I'm hoping to try and have an effect on in my trips to Asia this year and going forward. So those In that way, I think being a leader, being a leader is a.

AJ :

It's a worthwhile thing and, again, I think, being called to leadership, rather than forcing ourselves upon upon it, whether it's human International, any one person there's no one person that's emerging or sort of being forced onto the stage as a leader, whether it's one organization or one person, it's we're being called to humanist international as this authority from the democratic institution of the general assembly that meets every year, outside of the global humanist community, I would say there's certainly room for collaboration. I mean we do that, even human rights council. I've spoken often of my interfaith work with amazing, inspirational people from the Bahá'í community, from the Christian charities, who do a lot of great work. Even though we differ on some theological issues or Ideologies, that doesn't stop us from saying this and human lives are valuable and we need to come together to try and set aside differences and work on these things, so that we need to be collaborating. I think I really agree with Audrey. We just being part of the conversation will be. It would be a great first, first start and I would say yeah. I mean I would say climate change and nuclear war are the two standout issues of this century and after, or even of the previous century. In those we definitely should be leading Inside the humanist community and also being a collaborative, trying to be a leading role outside of the humanist community. But many other issues, yeah there's.

AJ :

I mean humanist uk had, I think, a poll of members maybe a couple of years ago when all of the you know give us all of the issues that we should be working on kind of thing, which probably a bad idea.

AJ :

But it came up with 70 different campaigning issues that the humanist uk members maybe 150 000 or so members and supporters in the uk came up with. Now you can't take 70 issues to a politician or to a parliament or to a working group. We narrowed that down to maybe five or six. But and and again, humanist uk has to be democratically accountable to Do it in some way, have structures that the board, the trustees, its members, annual conferences and other working groups and so on. There has to be structure of accountability there to try and give some democratic input to make sure that these things aren't just pie in the sky but they actually matter to people's lives and they do. But the problem is when there's 30 issues that matter to people's lives and you're only focusing on six. There's always going to be some that you leave out and it's going to be very bad and you do do that. But you know we, we're no worse than that than any other organization or movement.

Audrey S:

Now is the opportunity. There is so much going on. Um, now is the time to be putting our voices out there. Now is the time. If we're not going to do it now, then when? What is the? What is the issue? We could just, you know, open up a newspaper, wiggle our finger around on land, on something and go with it, because there is just so much. So if we don't do anything, if we wait for that perfect issue, we'll do nothing. So let's just choose one and go with it and then see what happens and just kind of put our voices out there.

James H:

Well, thank you both for putting your voices out there on the show today, and we will be back with Audrey and AJ after our interview this week with our special guest, anya Overman. Anya Overman is a writer, consultant and speaker driven by her values. As a progressive, humanist and activist, she's an active voice in both the us and global secular communities and, as a former president of the young humanists international, she works with a number of humanists and atheist organizations that seek to uphold the dignity and worth of every human being. Anya is a digital nomad who has been working from her laptop in different parts of the world since 2020. Anya overman, thank you for joining us on humanism now.

Anya Overmann:

Thank you for having me appreciate it.

James H:

And, as a digital nomad, what we're about to be finding you in the world today.

Anya Overmann:

I'm currently in Guatemala City. This is my third time here and it's a place that I am very attached to, partially because I have humanist friends here.

James H:

Oh lovely. Yes, they're building a humanist. There's a good humanist community in the area.

Anya Overmann:

Yes, there are. There are humanists here, for sure.

James H:

I think the term digital nomad might be Uh new to many of our listeners. Do you mind sharing your journey to how you became a digital nomad, what it means to you and and how it's influenced your work as a human rights activist?

Anya Overmann:

Yeah, sure, uh. So I first read about the term, uh, digital nomad back in in 2017, and I was actually living in london at the time when I when I read about this. Um, and I was working Full-time, remote at the time as well, so for me, this was an option and, just for anybody that is unfamiliar With that term, a digital nomad is somebody that is able to work remotely, um, around the world, because their work is, is, is internet based, so that you know that, really, what's just required as a laptop or a computer and some kind of internet connection. So that is, uh, work that I do. I, I'm a writer Um, so, yeah, I, I fall into that category, um, and yeah, I, I, like you said, became a digital nomad in 2020 and started working on my computer, kind of Wherever I traveled and without a home base.

Anya Overmann:

Yeah, so I read about it in 2017 and at the time, I was living in london and, as you know, it's very expensive and, um, it can kind of feel like you're kind of boxed in sometimes. So, uh, you know that really appealed to me because it was, you know it, it it fed this desire To experience new things, new cultures, new people that I would not experience Um in my, in my hometown, st Louis Missouri, uh, which is, you know it, not a very diverse place, um, so it, yeah. So I was really like enamored by this idea of exposure to um. You know other parts of the world that I would not normally be exposed to, um while working and like not struggling to survive. So, um, when I read about it, I was like, oh, that's me to a T. I just need some time to like really stabilize the situation, because I was new to working remote Um, I was, I don't know, maybe five years out of college, maybe a little bit less than that, when I was really committed to this idea. Um, so my, my, my, my.

Anya Overmann:

My previous plan was to like kind of Wait and save up until I felt comfortable, kind of like cutting roots and going off and being a full time digital nomad. And then 2020 happened, so that really threw a wrench into the plans. I mean, there was no comfortable anymore. Um, so, and then I ended up meeting my current partner, who I travel with um in my hometown in st Louis Missouri, where I was at the time, um, and he had actually just started living nomadically. So, you know, we met and I was like, oh my god, like I'm aspiring to do what you do and you're doing it already. This is amazing. Um, and then we decided to leave the us together In august 2020 because, actually, because we were not feeling safe with the way that the us was handling, so, um, the pandemic.

Anya Overmann:

I mean, there was, uh, really poorly enforced mass mandates, if mass mandates at all. In the part of the country that we were in, there was not really enforced mass mandates, um, and then, you know, people were very, uh, you know, timid and not very skeptical about getting vaccine, so that was making it difficult to feel safe. So, instead of starting this journey in like a very like comfortable way, it was more of a, like, you know, seeking safety, which is not how I envisioned, how I would start all of this, but that's some helpful background for, kind of, I guess you know what we're going to talk about later with my activism and how this, this has sort of shaped that.

James H:

Absolutely. What a lovely, wonderful story about meeting your partner in your hometown and then having the same goal. I mean, humanists aren't known for their beliefs in fate, but that's probably about as close as you can get. Sure, yeah, so you've traveled now to more than 20 countries, so you must have, you must have gained so much, you must have met so many different people. What perspectives have you gained, particularly on global human rights issues, and how does that influence your work?

Anya Overmann:

Yeah.

Anya Overmann:

So I think, prior to to the travel that I've now experienced, I was under this impression that that the work that we're doing as humanists is has more impact than it actually has.

Anya Overmann:

And then, through these travels, I've sort of realized that the world is not as as it's not as I thought is the best way that I could put that and I think one of the unique perspectives that I've gained through all of this is that global human rights and the advocacy work that is done for them are tightly controlled by global, global elite, and and humanist organizations unfortunately fall into that, and I do want to talk about this a little bit more deeply later on.

Anya Overmann:

There's a concept called non-profit industrial complex that I want to talk about, but that is really like the center of a lot of these ideas that I've come into with my travel is that there's this really limiting perspective that I think is largely coming from Western culture, that I think really it hurts humanism and it hurts the way that we can advocate for global human rights. So that's really been the largest lesson for me is that, oh, the way that I thought advocacy worked, the way that I thought resources and support flows, is not the way that it actually is, and there are a lot of factors controlling advocacy that I did not see before and that I see now.

James H:

Let's dive into that a little more now, I think, because that's a fascinating area. So could you explain this term, the non-profit industrial complex, and what you've discovered from your travels?

Anya Overmann:

Yeah. So this term non-profit industrial complex it was popularized in 2004 by a collective of radical feminists of color, with this group called Insight exclamation point, if you're looking to google it, and this term really means that non-profits function as this form of soft social control to essentially placate masses and maintain order. So really, basically, this term non-profit industrial complex is framed by the argument that the state uses non-profits to professionalize organizing and curb activism's ability to disrupt the status quo. It also encourages social movements to really model themselves after capitalist structures rather than to challenge them, and to funnel money that would otherwise go toward taxes into private foundations. And it really allows corporations to perpetuate oppression under the guise of charity. And really, this really puts a chokehold on social justice movements and unfortunately, in my experience I have found that humanist organizations fall victim to this non-profit industrial complex.

Anya Overmann:

Now, that isn't really the fault of humanist organizations. This is a structure that we are all subjected to. I mean, we don't have in the US, for example, the structures in place legally to support us with healthcare and with really basics for survival. So to compensate for that, it gives rise to non-profits, and some of those non-profits are humanist non-profits, and so that means that there is really this element of money and control that's involved in non-profit organizations, that keep a tight lock on what those organizations are able to accomplish, what they're able to talk about and what they're able to stand for publicly, and that really, I think is going to further cause damage to humanism as time goes on. And I can get into why. There's a question I know you have prepared about young people's role in humanism and this really ties to that.

James H:

If we want to kind of make a jump over to that, Sounds to me like saying this is almost more an unintended consequence of these organizations than intentional form of oppression, but still it requires that structural reform. So, yeah, certainly I mean certainly be useful to know, as your role, your former role as president of Young Humanists International. I know you're very much involved with humanist international movements and organizations globally, so I think this is a fascinating change of mind, which is again something we like to focus on here. So, yeah, what do you see as the reforms that are required and I guess, who's going to drive that and what role does the next generation of young humanists play in that?

Anya Overmann:

Yeah, that's, it's a really solid question and, like you said, like I think this is not it's not humanist fault, but that organizations are in this situation. It's just the structure that we find ourselves in and you know that is, you know, it's kind of like. You know you're not responsible for what you inherit, but you are responsible for how you move forward with that. So, with that in mind, you know, I feel very strongly that youth are at the crux of everything humanism. And I just want to clarify I don't really mean like youth, like me. I'm 30, I'm a millennial. I feel like I, you know, am middle age at this point. And, and when I say youth, I mean like Gen Z, gen Alpha, I mean like genuinely younger people, because I really think that those generations are going to be pivotal in deciding how humanism is situated in the world. As we move further into global crisis between you know, climate catastrophe and fascism on the rise and you know unprecedented global wealth disparity. So youth are really, they're going to be, the ones that that really decide whether humanism has a place in the future. And if young people decide that, you know, humanism does not serve them and this movement declines and honestly I'm not, I wouldn't be surprised, and the reason for that is because I don't really see older humanist leaders being able to deliver what youth need, and I think that is really a large part due to this failure to look inward and address biases, and those biases are really upholding white, heterosexual patriarchy and capitalist and imperialist systems. And if humanism really has a chance at relevance in the future, there will need to be more space for young people to shape it, and at present I do not see adequate space being made. Nor do I see young people being trusted with resources or with power, and I really hope that that changes. But if it does not, I think young people will make their own movements outside of humanism and possibly leave the older generations to die with an irrelevant movement Like that is and I'm not trying to be alarmist or anything that is just the way that I see youth responding to humanist ideals, and that's really sad because I mean there are some really great ideals in humanism that I think are very aligned with a lot of the values that young people hold, and I just want to kind of bring this kind of from you know, kind of high up philosophical talk to some more specific you know real life examples, and the most obvious real life example I have right now of humanism failing to appeal to young people is in the way that humanist organizations have either like fallen silence on genocide in Palestine or equated Israel and Palestine as if they have equal power in the genocide being waged on Palestinians.

Anya Overmann:

Palestinians and I will say, you know, humanist International has remained silent since October 7th, but they did make a statement in 2014 about the Israeli Palestine conflict, and it does equate the two sides. So young people notice this, they notice this type of thing and they aren't impressed by it. They're really confused why, you know, an organization that prides itself on on humanist values and really championing them at an international level wouldn't speak out with a proper analysis of power about a situation like this that involves such egregious human rights abuses. So young people notice this and and they, you know they're they're analyzing this and, in fact, they're very disillusioned by all of that. So if humanism dies out in future generations, it's.

Anya Overmann:

It's going to be clear that it's because that it was not able to appeal to young people in a way that they saw that it could be shaped.

Anya Overmann:

Because I think that you know there, there are ways that, you know, when I was a little bit younger, I could see, you know, like there are some things about humanism that like aren't great organized humanism, I should say, because humanism is an ideal, like that's just kind of this like nebulous, right, like anybody can engage in, but like humanist organizations are this very like tangible, you know thing that we can speak to and and that is what I think is going to going to really have an effect is seeing that young people don't want to engage in these organizations because they they see through the lack of of consistency in purported values, verbalized values, values stated in declarations and active values.

Anya Overmann:

And that that is, I think, gen Z maybe maybe be just a little bit too old to to quite bring down the hammer, but the way that I see Gen Alpha moving through the world, I think they are the generation that might, you know, make or break humanism. They, they really might come in and say you know, this isn't what you say it is and you either need to make it align with what you say it is or we're done.

James H:

You've got to be relevant, you've got to evolve, you've got to adapt with your communities. I definitely see it as well. The amount of people, the younger the generation are typically the correlation with not being affiliated with organized religion, and yet you still see the drop off with those who want to associate with a movement like humanism. So there is really a disconnect and you only solve that by listening to what people's real concerns are and whether they think the movement is speaking for them.

Anya Overmann:

Yeah, and I've been in a lot of these conversations. It's a repeat conversation that happens a lot, where the generations sit down, older folks are saying what is it, why are we struggling so much to attract young people? And then some young voice will say, for XYZ reasons, and XYZ is not accepted. And that's really a problem. And I think there's going to have to be a reckoning, I think internally within these organizations, to really commit to becoming more relevant and that process. I think what's slowing that process is an unwillingness to turn inward.

Anya Overmann:

I think a lot of humanists would just really, really really like to believe that it's a marketing problem and put it on the fact that, oh well, we don't like to proselytize, we're humanists, we're not like the religious people who go out and try to recruit members. We're a lot more humble and that makes it harder for us to recruit. Well, as true as that may be, it's also just not appealing enough. So, while it might be partially a marketing problem, if you're not able to have the self-awareness within to be able to say, yeah, we do kind of drop the ball over there, don't we? Maybe, if you join, we could work on that together.

Anya Overmann:

That is a really appealing offer. That is not an offer that I'm hearing in humanist organizations. It's very defensive and protective over what's been built already. So I'll be curious to see if older folks and when I say older folks I don't mean much older than me or you there are people that are in their 40s and 50s that are even kind of gatekeeping the way that humanism is done, and so that's why I've kind of lost hope for millennials being the generation that holds people to account in any substantial manner, and that's why I've sort of turned my hope towards younger generations.

James H:

Don't lose hope. I think I just about qualify as a millennial, so don't lose hope in us all just yet, I think. But similarly, I do have incredible faith in the next generation. I think they're so politically engaged and motivated and they're sort of passionate, and really I think what you're referring to is Gen Alpha. I've heard the term coin that they will be the polars, because they'll be defined by two real issues One, the polar ice caps and two, the polarization matter leading into this kind of justice, which I think was a nice term for that generation. And I think those are the two key issues that again it's people are looking to humanist groups to really be a headlight rather than a tail light on these matters. And we have two of our regular members. One of our regular members, audrey, who leads the Association of Black Humanists in the UK, is constantly saying you know, humanist groups should have been out there with Black Lives Matter right at the forefront.

James H:

And I know it's a continual point of frustration for her, but with the debates and the conversation and raising these issues, I think we can help to drive that conversation forward. And listening, as you mentioned, you describe yourself as an intersectional feminist. I just wanted to, based on some of the points we spoke about there. Would you mind just defining that term, perhaps for some of the listeners who may be unfamiliar. And then also, what challenges do you see in advocating for many of these social justice rights issues from within humanist communities and how can we course correct that?

Anya Overmann:

Yeah. So the term intersectionality that was first coined back in 1989 by a woman named Professor Kimberly Crenshaw, who's a US American lawyer and civil rights activist, and the idea behind all of this is all inequality is not created equal. So that's the basic idea and what that really means is intersectionality describes how race, class, gender and other identities like, intersect or overlap. So it's really a description of how each of our identities interact with each other to create our unique experiences. So the feminist movements have historically centered white, cisgender, able-bodied women's voices and experiences and have largely left out black and indigenous women of color, lgbtq folks and disabled non-men. So the feminist movements also have largely been tinted by capitalist worldview.

Anya Overmann:

So, for example, we've ended up with terms in feminist spaces like girl boss and women pop stars that equate feminist empowerment with exploitation. I mean, I don't know if you've ever heard Cardi B talk about how. You know, don't talk to me, because I'm not a stripper anymore, I make money now. To me that does not feel like feminist empowerment. It's kind of icky. So intersectional feminism really takes a different tact from that and centers the voices of those experiencing these overlapping, concurrent forms of oppression and it's to understand the depths of these inequalities and the relationships among them in any given context. For example, rather than censoring the voice of a privileged and incredibly white sorry, incredibly wealthy white feminist like Taylor Swift, intersectional feminism would posit that the experiences of a queer, black, non-binary feminist are more worthwhile to center because representation of their experience is missing from feminist spaces. So that's really the like the birds eye view version of intersectional feminism. So there's lots of different intersectional things, but that's kind of what intersectional feminism is all about.

James H:

Yeah, no, that's. Thank you very much for the definition. Could you also draw out this term centering, because I think that gets that gets used quite a lot and I don't think it's often sort of explained what is meant when we say centering someone's voice.

Anya Overmann:

Yeah, that's. That's a really good question. I, you know, I think that does kind of get lost in translation and it is sort of a young people's term. But I think what we really mean when we say centering is, you know, bringing someone into the, into the spotlight, into the. You know the, the the focal point, and you know, in, that could mean in media, that could mean in an organization, specifically like bringing forth, you know, voices internally that are not, you know, necessarily represented as well. But centering is really this, I guess, kind of an umbrella term for reorienting focal points around different people and voices and experiences. So I guess it is kind of a vague term, but that's because it is, I think, encapsulating you know, many different contexts for for, you know, shifting that focus.

James H:

That's helpful. Thank you, and, and so returning to the theme, I mean, what would you like to see? I'm sure there's many things, but if you could pull out one or two key changes that you would like to see within, you know, humanist groups, the humanist movement that could prioritise some of these matters, or reform, restructure the way in which aid and support is managed, what would those be? What would be the sort of priorities that you'd flag?

Anya Overmann:

Yeah. So I think one of the most pressing priorities is to take firmer, harder stances on on certain issues, like you mentioned. You know the disappointment of your colleague and not seeing humanist organizations out there on the front lines with Black Lives Matter. And then you know engaging as an afterthought I mean that is a optically looks really bad and I don't know that. I don't know the extent to which humanist organizations consider that when you hop on a human rights or social justice bandwagon and you are already positioned as this voice for human rights, it makes you look unprofessional, it makes you look like you're not paying attention, it makes you look like you don't actually mean what you say. So taking a more proactive approach is really vital, I mean, and that catches young people's attention when you come out at the forefront of an issue and you say, no, this is wrong and I don't need to wait around for other people to say whether or not it is. I know it's wrong and so you know.

Anya Overmann:

I think the question then becomes well, why aren't humanist organizations already doing that? And that kind of comes back to the thing that I've been saying before, james, is that you know there's a lot of tension internally. There are. You know, the reason that those things aren't happening is because, internally, people disagree about them. And when I say internally, I don't even necessarily just mean between people, I can mean within a single person. Like there's a lot of, you know, dissonance and difficulty coming to a firm position on something.

James H:

So I think it's a natural part of being human, though, isn't it? Mine's changed slowly, and there's always a variety of influences and, yeah, these things do take time.

Anya Overmann:

They do and that makes it really hard to be responsive to a world that is pumping out human rights abuses. I mean, and it doesn't help that we tend to be a very academic community that really can just beat issues into the ground, like talk, talk them to death, and at some point you got to stop talking and like do something. And often that point comes far too late in the process and by the time that humanists have agreed to say something, it's not as relevant as it once was, it doesn't have the same power that it could have in timing and it just again, it makes us look slow, makes us look well. Why did it take you so long to come to this conclusion? You're supposed to be at the forefront of human rights. So you know, I think that that is one thing, that is one of the most pressing things.

Anya Overmann:

And yeah, like you said, this is part of the human experience to really like wrestle over ideas and try and, you know, take, you need some time to process. But you know, I think there are some basic things that we could all come to agreement on and that would kind of facilitate the process. But again, if we're not willing to look inward and really question within ourselves like, okay, do I have some biases that may prevent me from coming to a conclusion faster on this issue, then it's going to be really tough. I think that's going to be really hard.

James H:

So so, yeah, I think there we all have to accept that we have biases, right, and we have to put it, put in place measures to make sure that we, we we're able to overcome any, any inherent biases that we may have, and that's that's we're setting up some.

Anya Overmann:

It's really hard it's hard to hear, it's hard and it's hard to act on yeah, yeah, both of those things, and it can be, um, emotional to confront that stuff in yourself. I mean, I feel emotional when I confront dissonance within myself, so I can understand why other people feel that way, and that surely slows down the process of coming out, you know, at the front of a of a movement, um, so so, yeah, I mean, I think that that's kind of the. The issues that that humanist organizations are are going to have to struggle over the most is really this like how do we, how do we position ourselves more proactively? Okay, we have to confront some things in ourselves. How do we do that effectively? How do we support each other in that process? Because it's very hard, it's, it's uncomfortable, like I said, it's emotional. So how do we do that? And do we have the tools available to us now to be able to do that?

Anya Overmann:

Because I think a lot of us may not, uh, you know, as, as a lot of you know, a very academic, uh, community. Um, you know we tend to think of things. You know we try to rationalize and and logic our way out of things, but you can't do that with emotions and I don't know that we're we have the tools that we need to be able to, um, you know, work through those emotions while also, like, come into logical conclusions about things, because you know you can't just shove your emotions down while you're doing this work. Like they come up and that's where those biases come in, right, like that's how they come in, and so it's really tough, it's a really really hard. It's hard work, it's internal work, so that's what makes it so hard. Is that, like, it's not a matter of just having a really fruitful debate with somebody? It's, and it's a constant process.

James H:

It's not like there is. You're gonna get to a point where you go okay, I've dealt with everything. Now I know I've got all my opinions are settled.

Anya Overmann:

My views are completely mutual you joke about that, but I think a lot of humanists have come to that conclusion, and this is something that I've spoken about a little bit more in the context of of the US and people leaving religion in the US.

Anya Overmann:

But what I've noticed a lot with with folks who have left religion in the US is that they, they, uh, not not all of them by any means, but there is this, this pattern of coming away from religion and then concluding that you made it um, and like yes, coming away from religion and and unlearning is a huge accomplishment, it, it should be celebrated and it's very important. Uh, but the work doesn't stop there, and I think that that's where a lot of people, um, they don't they, they miss that. Um, they miss the. You know the, the ongoing life's work of unlearning, you know, and the in the, the long, arduous process that comes with that. I mean it. It's hard and, um, you know, I think a lot of people want to rest their laurels on. Well, I'm not religious, so you know I did my part and like that's great, but it's it's not enough, it's just not.

James H:

Certainty is very comfortable, and it is that point of being just just used to being continually uncomfortable and questioning and with that in mind, our usual final question is always to ask what's something that you and you have changed your mind on recently yeah, so this might be uh kind of controversial, but, uh, I did have changed my mind on this.

Anya Overmann:

Something, something that I've that I've changed my mind on recently is, uh, joe Biden. Uh, I've conclusively rejected the idea that he is the lesser of two evils and that I must vote for him this year if we're to preserve democracy in the United States. Um, I don't trust uh a world leader who flouts congressional powers twice in mere months to murder people in the Middle East. Um, and I am certain that we're going to look back and be utterly horrified that we put someone in office who proudly identifies as a Zionist. So I plan to vote for the party of socialism and liberation this year.

James H:

That's my hard change thank you, yeah, thank you for sharing such a some such honest feedback there. So, um, anja, thank you so much for your time. It's been incredibly interesting and insightful. Um, if our listeners would like to find out more, I know you have your your own podcast or the, the the nomadic humanist podcast um, where else would be the best place to find and follow you?

Anya Overmann:

uh, I have a website, anyaovermancom. All of my social links are available there. Um, I'm active on Instagram at Anya Overman. Uh, I'm on Facebook, but I'm less excited about accepting friend requests there, so Instagram is the way to go fantastic.

James H:

Well, anya Overman, thank you so much for your time and thank you for joining us on Humanism Now. Welcome back to Humanism Now, and thank you once again to Anya for that um varied and very interesting interview. Aj, I know you've worked with Anya previously with the young humanists and the humanists international. Um, what did you take away from Anya's interview this week?

AJ :

I really enjoyed it and I'm glad that we had her on. So Anya held the post of president of Young Humanists International, which in some ways is the she's occupying the same position that I am now. There was my predecessor, anna Anna Raquel, from Guatemala, who will also have on later on in the year, and she's also a really just vibrant, inspiring person, and then before Anna Raquel was Anya in the same position, but now that president of Young Humanists International, that position has been turned into a board director position, which is what I'll keep by now. Yeah, I was hoping that Anya would cover all the topics that she covered, exactly as she did in the interview, and I was really one over by as soon as I met her just her passion, her outspokenness, her willingness to take humanist principles to even uncomfortable and unpopular levels, especially when it comes to fitting in with the NGO bureaucracy, as she says, to all of that I think it's really fascinating to dive into and it's very important that we do listen to people like her both within and also outside of the humanist movement.

AJ :

Even in the UK we have people who are part of humanist UK and the partner groups and affiliations and branches, and we also have humanists who are outside of that because they disagree with how humanist UK is operating, which is fine. I think that's that's the health of our movement and we're not like other religions or faiths and beliefs who suddenly say, well, if you're either with us or against us or other political ideologies, that says, well, you know, if you believe what we do, then we love you, if we don't, then you're going to hell or something like this, or you know you're the worst or you're some kind of you know awful person. So I think that this is I'm really celebrating the fact that we're doing this in relation to what humanist international does and the NGO, the broader global humanist movement and the bureaucracy of building a movement, which I also share. I think I share a lot of her views relating to that and nevertheless, both she and I have both joined at one point and work with that bureaucracy and try to achieve things within it, even though she may be a bit disillusioned now.

AJ :

So I came into humanism a bit late, so I wasn't actually aware of humanism as a movement before 2016 or 17, when I started volunteering locally in London in the UK and then started being more of an active volunteer and ambassador and national coordinator, so I came into it from a social justice point of view. So I started waking up around the Iraq war 2003 or so. So I started learning about what do international institutions do? What is the UN? What's the weaknesses, what's the strengths? So what I found? Humanism. And I found humanism also had an international presence. I wasn't surprised in some ways that she describes oh oh well.

AJ :

Humanism is suddenly shock, horror, not the perfect exemplar of its principles when you get on to that international level. I mean, politics is dirty. The real politics, I mean someone once said I think was Eugene Debs in the US politics is the shadow cast upon society by big business and in some way that's right, especially in the US. So this idea of a Washington consensus and the Overton window, what you can and can't discuss, it's there, it's nefarious and I think it needs to be. And, as you were saying, generation Alpha is really breaking through that and that's why so happy to join them, even though they've led the way, joining Audrey as well and other other people who are of a different generation but are still coming on to TikTok with its different algorithms, which are a different way of working than YouTube and Facebook and the other media monopolies. Tiktok has a way of cutting through that. I mean, it's still not by any means kind of an angelic, altruistic charity, it's not. It's a mighty making organization. But there's ways through TikTok to reach people in ways that you can't in in other platforms. I think so she was right about that. I do agree with her about that. The media monopolies and manufacturing consent has been written about by many social commentators. That's certainly there.

AJ :

But on the other hand, just in any movement as you get, even if you go from I do martial arts, you go in jiu jitsu, from the local martial arts circuits and seen to the international competitions, you're gonna get politics, you're gonna get kind of bureaucracies. You can get things you can say. Can't say egos will come in. What are you, are you with? Are you this school of thought? Are you that school of thought, even in martial arts which? And that there's virtually no politics there at all. So if that's gonna be the case, even with those kind of movements, organization certainly will be the case.

AJ :

When you have something is Intriguing, woven with the human experience, with the leaves and values and religion and background and ethnicity, nationality as human is a missus. I think there's a necessary bureaucracy, what there is, a bureaucracy that comes in, I would say, partly annoying. It's frustrating because you can't get things action as well as you can't on at the local level as you can the national level. On the other hand, I would say that's frustrating. On the other hand, I would say in some way it's necessary and I think it was now explain this in a way that I quite like. It's almost a necessary bureaucracy that comes with democracy, so that you don't just sort of, you're not able to just jump in like a dictator, maybe working, and in that something you have to go through the process of trying to convince me to go out.

AJ :

All the time in In h I international, if we're deciding something as a board wanna say, well, okay, that's good. We're not sure about that, what they might be. Even if we're completely unanimous as a board, there's something that we want to actually take to many things, all thing we want to put to the general assembly and say vote on it. Let's put ourselves open to the wild winds of democracy, democratic input, which may slow down things show, and there has to be a filtering process of okay, if there's someone really at risk, we need to make an executive decision to help that person, not wait to go through the general assembly, but larger things about Turn limits and how the board behaves and other rules and change the constitution. Those things I think that necessary bureaucracy and has to be there now Is.

AJ :

That is that an affair is conspiratorial curbing of activism by the global elite. I'm sure that there's a point in there as well. There is an aspect to that. It's not just black or white, it's not just one thing or the other. Part of it is in the ferris curbing Maybe the previous generation trying to hold back the young people. That always happens. The previous generation trying to hold on to the position of power and influence and authority and not willing to see Through to the younger generations coming through. In any organizational movement that's always going to be there. But I would want to make a case for the necessary bureaucracy as well. Now see necessary. I'm not saying that has to be necessarily evil or bad. It's necessary to make us think a bit more. But certainly if there's things, for example, like if we're not speaking up on a zero ballast time, then that's a real issue now.

AJ :

H I has taken a position on it before, as you said before in previous conference and flare ups in the region and has it released official statement on this one. But if the general assembly wants to, or if the members want to and h I'm especially the regional blocks which are going to develop more they get their free to take a position. And again, h? I is not the leader of the global humanist voice in that sense. That's not it's role. It's role is more of the general assembly, you and type Organization representing various other humanist associations. So it's for them to take the role.

AJ :

And I would say especially let's listen. To go back to our in part one we talk about let's listen to arab humanist, listen to Israeli humanist. Let them take the lead on what's happening there. Let's listen to you. Can you miss on? You can? I'm sales to israel. So there's humanist, there's a role to humanist to play in every single aspect.

AJ :

But certainly if people are pointing to us in saying here's a humanist principal in your answer declaration and here is a place where you're not applying it, we have to have an answer to that. We have to be conscious of the question. We have to say well, here's what we can do. Is we are doing let's defer to humanists in the region and that's because we can't answer for other other people and stepping over their culture and national boundaries. I think it's not a humanist organization there, then that then that is our problem. We have to make sure that there is one by drawing go that way, rather than it just being Some kind of the global north NGO type position. But she's absolutely right brain drain, especially NGOs trying to professionalize and trying to defan activism in many ways, which shouldn't, can be a bit messy. Just stay radical and stay true to people's experiences. I think there is a way to capture that Without sacrificing, you know, any appeal to generation alpha. I think we can. We can have a bit of both.

James H:

It is possible the larger the organization. What you've got to be conscious and careful of acting to rashly. I'm too quickly on certain things unless, as you said this and that the speed is necessary, change can be slow and require consult, consultation and make sure all the right voices are heard before you say you can. You can broadly act on consensus and I think it's that's. Then the emphasis is on the individuals who can be more immediate, as we're talking earlier, to be part of that conversation and help change the consensus and drive the institutional trains. But yes, definitely, institutions are always, I think, by definition, going to be slower and that's always going to be frustration to those who want who want to see the change more immediate. That's why the voices matter.

James H:

But yeah, I definitely think her passion really shone through and I think she's got a very good skill of navigating. She say being willing to take the conversation from comfortable places Without causing it to be getting into a position of one that might want to shut down the conversation or might make people feel like they're being judged or shamed. I think she is still willing to. That willingness to engage On the uncomfortable topics and try to change minds is hugely important, I think, sometimes lost in in discussions around these topics, but some order. What did you take away from that?

Audrey S:

Well, thank you for the shout out. I was much appreciated. I loved her. It was as if she'd been rummaging around in the back of my brain somewhere and hooking things out. I think she was much more articulate than I, I. She kind of had took the things that I've been kind of mulling around in my head and took them to another level. And really I think what she what struck me was the fact that she was talking about I don't know if she meant it in that way or she was, or maybe just the way I've interpreted but this kind of collusion that we have when we become larger organizations or when we try to do anything.

Audrey S:

She was talking about governments and I think she was really aimed at charities and how they behave, and we kind of latch on to this idea. Charities and I know, you know charities start out as good things and then, as they get bigger, they become protectionist. We need to do this, we need to get involved, we need to stay, make sure that we stay relevant and all of these kinds of things, and then take on the role of government and things like that. And then so and I think humanism has to be careful and how we approach things and you say, I think, staying grassroots and not being protectionist, being able to say, actually, you guys are doing fine, we don't need to be involved, I'm actually being able to not be precious about things, having our voice, being a part of that conversation and then just going, actually you guys have got this, you guys understand it. I think the problems are is that we then think that we need to be in the conversation for we need to be. You know, gung ho, all the time right up there and I think she was amazing in kind of thinking about what do we do next? And I think the humanism that we have now and the humanism from way back, it's had.

Audrey S:

You know it goes in in in matching the time, what we, you know what needs to happen at that time. What needs to happen now is there needs to be a gear change and needs to be a shift. And maybe you know I'm I'm too old to be part of the young humanists and I hold my hand up, that's fine, but I'm a little bit older. I'm a little bit older, but I'm actually okay with the idea that you know to mean that that legacy is in safe hands if and is the one that's going to be taking it on. Because I think there's an idea that we can get a little bit too complacent and that we've done our thing, we've said our thing and we're just going to bump along and just pick little bits and pieces that don't really rock the boat. And I think when we started out as humanists, we were rocking the boat. We were, you know, to mean we were blowing up things, not physically, but just kind of changing the whole landscape, and then we kind of settled into a rhythm that we kind of got our feet on the ground. We're now talking to governments, we're talking to various people and we're kind of not wanting to rock the boat. But I think if we become too complacent or too comfortable with this position, we will lose all relevance. And so we need to then start sort of banging on doors and saying you don't mean, these things need to happen.

Audrey S:

And so I was right with her. I was right with her saying, yep, and you know, with my wobbly knees are probably not going to be, you know, on any picket lines any soon. But the actual idea that you know she was actually saying we need to do something different and we need to start today. We need to be at the front of the forefront of conversations, be in the mix, saying what we need to say, saying it from our perspective. If your feelings get hurt, you know me, that's your problem. You deal with that. This conversation needs to happen. So, yeah, I love her, we're in safe hands, we're going forward. We need more. We need more of her replicator fantastic.

James H:

I've reflected a little bit on the point she made about the generations. I mean, I think I think it really takes voices across across all generations as well, to drive this, and people do change their minds at any stage. Our membership is is very intergenerational and I do think there are voices that support me across the board. So anyone who's listening, I do think, do get in touch with us or, if you'd like to get in touch with anew, we can definitely facilitate that as well because, as I've been doing, we do need more voices out there. Yeah, that warning that she meant, that she said was was very clear. I think it's it's adapt or die. It's actually quite timely.

James H:

We had our AGM Last night as we were recording and we had madeline goodall of humanist UK, who's previously been on this podcast, and she came to talk about the rich history of humanists in London, stretching all the way back to the 1890s right through to the present day, and humanists were on the front line of the gay movement, as it was was called the time, you know, standing up to Mary White House, and that really was. It was. It was her actions. That was actually the foundations of the gay humanist which went on to become the LGBT humanist group that remains today, people like James Baldwin in the civil rights movement as well in the state. So so humanists have been on the forefront of these Campaigns in the past and it is on.

James H:

It is always the case that it is on the younger generations to progress and challenge and push the current generations and then, as you say, take it to uncomfortable places sometimes. So I'm looking forward to seeing what's next and certainly, with ania, very much looking forward to seeing what's next for her. So that brings us to the end of our time for this week. So, audrey, aj, thank you so much for joining us. Before we go, audrey, what is happening with Association of Black Humanists over the next few months?

Audrey S:

Association of Black Humanists is having a social on the 27th of January and we check out our meet up page for more details. It's really just an opportunity to come together at the beginning of the year. We don't really have social, so there isn't a plan. It's if you're new to humanism, if you just want to be in the space with people like minded people, if you're not a humanist and you just want to come and, you know, meet a humanist and just ask questions and do feel free to come along. There will be some snacks. We, you know we like to feed people, so you know, do come along, we will feed you, we will water you and we will chat to you. I don't think we can offer anything else other than that.

James H:

Absolutely come for the food but stay for the conversation for sure. And AJ, anything you'd like to highlight with any of your many humanist groups that you're involved with?

AJ :

Just the one. Today, young humanists, and also central London humanists, are going to be having a social to accompany the Darwin Day lecture in London. That's on the 6th of February. Darwin's birthday is just a few days before Valentine's Day, so it's always easy to remember. So come and celebrate with us if you're in town, and the topic of the lecture will be humanity superpower looking at community and empathy from 4 million to 40,000 years ago. And it's with Dr Rebecca Ragsikes and also chaired by Professor Alice Roberts, who is just greatly inspirational figure. That's, I think, is a is a great boon to the humanist movement, so that's one not to miss.

James H:

Fantastic, so we hope to see many of our listeners there. So thank you Audrey, thank you AJ, and thank you, listener, for joining us on another episode of Humanism Now.