Another Wed. evening really well spent….. Hope those of you who couldn’t come, join us when possible.
The topic was broad and almost comical, the meaning of life. The conversation travelled from the future of AI, to the realities of aging, to climate change and the effect of religion, the fact that there is not really an inherent ‘meaning’ or purpose to any one life.
The meaning of our life is what we give it!
We ended with a fascinating introduction to, and discussion of the one celled ‘blob’ or slime mould. It has not yet given a scientific designation, being neither animal nor plant. Google ‘slime mould’ for further information. Truly fascinating!
Some recent decisions:
We will not be participating in the Santa Claus Parade as no one came forward to march. We will however pursue participating in the One World Festival and the Pride Parade next year.
Bob Hope leads us in understanding what Natural Burial is and compares it with Humanist values. For the last 7 years, Bob has been promoting the idea of having Natural Burial available at Owen Sound’s Green Wood Cemetery. It could be that we are getting close to succeeding!
Thank you Michael Craig for your research and ongoing information during the discussion. Settlers have caused hundreds of years of disruption- including genocide. It is no surprise that many Indigenous groups experience family breakdown, addictions, violence, high rates of suicide, early school dropout, poor health, poverty and more. More recently, settler attitudes linked to residential schools (“get the Indian out of the child”) have resulted in further tragic multigenerational dysfunction.
Over the centuries in every country on earth, privileged humans have felt entitled to overpower others in cruel ways. What is this about? Why do we do this? People felt that we need to focus on solutions, and that it does not help to lay blame. Others commented that in terms of ‘what we owe’ it is the primary wrong – doers who must take responsibility, from sincere apologies to financial aid.
The Indigenous communities across Canada are different, some wealthy and quite independent, and some impoverished. There are many languages and ways of relating, celebrating, eating, praying, creating, etc. What do we owe them?
Michael suggested that we petition our leaders, both federal and provincial, to:
- review the agreements
- -review the treaties
- -make an official commitment to act
- -devise new agreements
- -honour the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations
We owe the Indigenous communities what any Canadian is owed- respect, dignity, access to housing and health care, a listening ear, and action- for as long as any Canadian requires those benefits.
Some of the areas that we covered were:
- The importance of ‘symbols’- the cross, stars, turbans, hijabs, etc. Our symbols appear to be very important to us. How we exemplify our individuality is often exemplified by our choices in clothing and symbols (religious or otherwise).
- Forbidding outward expression of religious or cultural symbols eliminates Sikh’s, religious Jewish males, and observant female Muslims from public sector employment.
- How mature are we? Would those who define themselves by these symbols drop their personal perspectives when encountering the public? Are we as the public, mature enough to drop OUR prejudices when faced with a person who wore their symbols? Would we attempt to ‘gain favour’ if we recognized our own symbols in a teacher, judge, etc.? Some felt we would not, others felt it would be possible.
- Some expressed distrust, knowing that the individual we are encountering (in the public sector) places their religion, or cultural symbol, ahead of their role as a representative of Canada (a government worker, teacher, political candidate, etc.)
- Children are highly impressionable. Should we permit teachers to have this influence on their classes? We need to educate the teachers to present themselves as non-biased.
- We wondered whether people are less likely to be any less biased, if they work without their visible symbols? Would this help in the long run?
- A member commented that prejudices seem to be more prevalent in rural jurisdictions around the world.
- We talked about being mindful of human rights- a value that must remain front and centre when discussing these issues.
- As usual we concluded that there is no one right answer. Taking into account human rights, we need to make laws that honour secularism while not openly discriminating against particular groups.
Some of the important topics we covered:
- Bots, what are they and how to we recognize them? (Automated responses to key words)
- We have reached a point where we no longer trust what we read and see in the media. Social media creates ‘silos. We receive what they know we want. Can newspapers be trusted?
- What happened to journalism? What happened to the requirement of having 3 pieces of proof before publishing? What is today’s the ‘jungle drums’ (McLuhan), bringing forward the temper of the times?
- We discussed ‘free speech’. A treasured right for most of us, we accepted that the US (and others) have sullied the intention, allowing statements that are discriminatory, and blatantly untrue. ‘My free speech stops when there is danger or exclusion of other individuals or groups.’
- We also discussed the vote, another treasured right for many of us, but for one member, pointless when considering the abusive political system we live with.
- Critical thinking is, and must continue to be taught in schools- at least in Canada….
- Some positive approaches to all of this? Support responsible journalism (The National Observer was recommended), teach media literacy critical thinking, and anti-racism education in schools. (All Humanist principles…)
Psychotherapist/ Addiction counsellor Josh Richardson, approaches the subject as a “substance use disorder ‘and he rejects the long held view of addiction as being a moral failing, or lack of will power.
To assure ‘harm reduction’, (i.e.: fewer deaths and permanent disability), we must approach the person, and the subject, with compassion rather than judgement. We discussed whether early trauma plays a role. The book In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Mate, was mentioned a number of times.
We should have safe injection sites with no question, free Naloxone, counselling, and community acceptance; all of which are essential elements of harm reduction. Is this enough to support the pain of people who are living precarious lives, perhaps homeless, in poverty, and ill? Is there a sufficient amount of time, effort and funding devoted to trying to eliminate drug dependency? A balanced approach is important.
We talked about Alcoholics Anonymous. Josh acknowledges that AA offers community, hope, structure, and other benefits. At the same time, it is still based on a religious model, and one that suggests moral failing.
Josh said: “Humans have, from very early times, had a desire to ‘get out of their heads”. Hmmmmm.
If we had had more time this would have made another interesting area to explore. Perhaps another time…..