The basic principles of ‘Humanism’ as outlined in the ‘HumanismIreland’ web site read as an ideal worth striving for and are alluring in the extreme. It suggests that peace and harmony can be achieved among human kind through peaceful coexistence and cooperation. While the ideals of humanism as outlined in the web site are attractive and at face value logical and even mutually beneficial they are not realistic. Human beings are by their very nature flawed. Moreover, they are greedy. Many are violent. Even those not violent by nature are violent when drink and narcotics are imbibed. Even those not violent through the use of stimulants are violent when provoked. Humanism has no credible answers to the intrinsic propensity to violence that almost every human possesses. The fact that most violent acts are illogical and unnecessary is irrelevant since all humans behave illogically on a regular basis, sometimes through the use of drink and drugs, sometimes through some misguided sense of loyalty to a cause, sometimes simply because they enjoy the feeling of physical superiority. Witness the joy experienced by men and women at boxing matches, wrestling and no-holds barred cage fighting. Humans are a violent race, always have been and there is no reason to believe other than that they always will be.
It is also worthwhile considering other attempts at creating a better society. All, (with no exception I am aware of) have ended in tragic failure.
Karl Marx believed he had produced a template for a socialist paradise through the concept of ‘Communism’. Russia had a revolution in 1917 and attempted to implement it. It resulted in the dictatorship of Josef Stalin and the slaughter of (allegedly) about 20 million Russian people and the imprisonment of millions more. It also involved the annexation and virtual slavery of many other states in the post-world war two period, when the ‘Iron Curtain’ was created. Misery and extreme unhappiness was all that evolved from the interpretation of Karl Marx’s ideals for a socialist paradise. Essentially, greed took hold. When the Iron Curtain fell in the 1989-91 period criminal groups emerged such as the Russian Mafia, also as a result of greed.
China also indulged in its own form of Communism. Essentially, this has been interpreted as meaning the suppression of civil rights, the imprisonment of many thousands if not millions and the slaughter of hundreds of protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Cuba, North Korea and its respective peoples have fared little better under Communism.
From this we can conclude that Communism is hardly the ideal model.
America, under the title United States began in 1777 under great fanfare, courtesy of its founding fathers intention of creating a model state. Words like freedom abounded throughout its constitution. It created on paper a model republican state where all men were created equal (at least in theory). Today the USA is a virtual police state. The CIA and FBI are essentially the permanent rulers of the USA. The US president is only ever in charge temporarily. E-mails are read, phones are tapped, police and school yard shootings are almost an annual event. The gun lobby has a huge influence politically. The treatment of the Native Americans in the USA is generally agreed to have been shameful. The treatment of African Americans has not been much better, and in many cases worse. The USA therefore, while not as oppressive as its Russian and Chinese counterparts has also failed as a model of the ideal state.
Many European states, for example Britain, France, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and Russia have all indulged in civil wars as a means of improving its society and creating an idyll state. None succeeded. To this day all have many imperfections.
The one common denominator linking all these countries is the greed of people. This greed emerges through the amount of crime which abounds. Additionally, political corruption is endemic, especially in so-called democratic countries but probably also in the so-called socialist countries. Bus and truck drivers who travelled through the Eastern Block countries have regularly spoken of the Black market at border controls there.
Therefore, we can state categorically that regardless of the systems organised by humans, crime, violence, greed and corruption are part and parcel of what it is to be human. Humanism, despite its noble ideals is doomed to failure.
Even people with strong religious convictions cannot point to a great deal of success with regard to the behavior of humankind. It is over two-thousand years since Jesus Christ walked the earth preaching the message of peace and reconciliation. Ironically, many people have died as a result of religious wars. Many Muslims claim that Islam is not a violent religion. Yet, many Muslims have killed, maimed, wounded and injured thousands of people all over the world and continue to threaten to do so again. The Crusades undertaken by Christians were just a fore runner of what today we refer to as Islamic ‘jihad’. Christians were suppressing all other religions or cultures through naked aggression. Tolerance is a rarely (if ever) spoken word among religious zealots.
Despite this, humanism is harmless in itself. If it brings people together in a social way it is a force for good. People of like or similar mind are free to articulate their views of what ‘a perfect state’ would look like. It is essentially an exercise in building castles in the air, in other words totally unrealistic but harmless fun, for all that.
When it comes to contemporary challenges such as Brexit, there is little doubt that greed will again rear its head. It is difficult to see a place for humanism in this debate as everyone, humanist or not will see everything from their perspective. Brexit negotiations are best left to the politicians and diplomats. Humanists can certainly express their opinion but whether they will be able to speak as one voice is debatable. As is always the case with humans, greed will be the driving force throughout the negotiations.
In summary, humanism is just an ideal. It is impossible to see it as a major driving force. There are so many parties, groupings, organisations, pressure groups and independent voices out there it is difficult to see humanism getting a strong voice, even if humanists were speaking as one. Ultimately humanism is just a polite talking forum which is nice, peaceful and harmless. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But it doesn’t resolve the issue of greed.