Humanists International is kicking behinds again, doing great work, taking names, and building membership, and a unified global movement for science and human rights. This time, they’ve been working on an important educational campaign to counter misinformation and to provide appropriate information about the Covid-19 crisis emergent from SARS-CoV-2. Something “probably” (there you go, Andrew! – “likely,” ugh) coming from bats, where many types of coronaviruses fester, and then transmitted across species into a human being, i.e., from a non-human animal to a human animal. Now, here we are, with all the clumsy conspiracy theorizing, racist navel-gazing to ignore the plight of those less well-equipped to deal with the virus, End Times fearmongering as a form of collective infantile escapism, scripturally inadequate pulpit mouth-foaming, and run-of-the-mill dismissal of expert analysis and scientific information for comprehension of an international emergency – not to mention Alex Jones’ epic repetitive rant of eating his neighbour’s “ass” (we got the point the first time, Mr. Jones, thanks – now known as someone who would shout bombastic flummeries to entice his neighbour’s reluctant anal cavity), this educational campaign is incredibly important in this context.
Not only has this pandemic shown the standard structural inadequacies of several international networks, but it also exacerbates or makes bold the profoundly ignorant, and then highlights some of the extent and influence of the stupefying blank mental cartridges active throughout the globe when it’s not a drill. All grounded in low-tide respect for science across nations and regions, insufficient educational standards in critical thinking and the base theoretical frameworks from the sciences to know the natural world, and inequitable distribution of the quality curricula materials with intersects in religious dogma/fundamentalism and sexist blockading of educational progress.
That’s why the work of global democratic Humanism becomes a necessity rather than an option moving forward because the problems facing the world require international solutions rather than individualist-nationalist ones. The philosophical system may evolve to meet future problems, but this is precisely the required system at this moment in time. One in which the Amsterdam Declaration 2002 becomes part of the global democratic Humanist discourse and the international efforts for greater justice. The Board – Andrew Copson (President), Anne-France Ketelaer (Vice-President), Boris van der Ham (Treasurer), Rebecca Hale (Board Member), Gulalai Ismail (Board Member), Kristin Mile (Board Member), Roslyn Mould (Board Member), Uttam Niraula (Board Member, and David Pineda (Board Member) – and the staff – Gary McLelland (Chief Executive), Elizabeth O’Casey (Director of Advocacy), Jean Zong (Financial Administrator), Giovanni Gaetani (Membership Engagement Manager), and Mahalet Tadesse (Intern), Emma Wadsworth-Jones (Humanists at Risk Coordinator), and Lillie Ashworth (Advocacy Officer) – and volunteer representatives – Kacem El Ghazzali, Margaretha Jones, John Wagner, and Renate Bauer – of Humanists International have been doing amazing work in their countries, in their institutions, and globally through the global democratic collective voice of Humanists International. Everybody has a place; each person has a part.
Members and Associates around the world of global democratic Humanism have been working intensely to spread the word about several ongoing cases, whether the important work of Gulalai Ismail of Pakistan with Saba Ismail through Aware Girls on the empowerment of women and girls, the international campaign to free Mubarak Bala in northern Nigeria, working on the erasure of witchcraft allegations from Africa by 2030 under leadership of Dr. Leo Igwe, reporting on the scrapping of the death penalty in Sudan, bringing attention to the abolition of the blasphemy law from Scotland, calling for the release of Iranian prisoners of conscience, working to protect Mohammed Ismail in Pakistan, and so much more only in early 2020. To the particular focus of this coverage, the issue is the cross-section of politics, science, international relations, and critical thinking. We have seen a failure of politics, a denial of science, a rejection of internationalism, and a lack of critical thought about issues of existential concern to ordinary citizens world-round. Covid-19 was the hammer striking the cracked church bell called global order. All the while, global warming and nuclear catastrophe as potential looming tragedies to befall the human species. I do not deny all the positive aspects of modern life compared to decades ago. However, problems are problems for a reason and require more urgent and rapid responses than solved problems, which, by definition, are not problems anymore and can be put on the backburner of appreciation, gratitude, and the checked-off portions of the bucket list.
With a variety of multilingual memes, coloured and well-designed for presentation to the public, the languages are extremely diverse and represent a great effort of the international humanist community’s work in the development of the memes for different nationalities’ consumption. Some of the listed examples had languages of Bangla, English, French, Hindi, Ki-Swahili, Persian, Portuguese, Sinhala, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, and Urdu. Thank you to the nearly 200 members and associates of Humanists International for the work in the development of the members and in such a wide array of languages, too, the reported targeted objective is millions of people reached around the world.
While the targeted objective remains for the individuals who believe in conspiracy theories, superstitions, and fake news, as this becomes an educational campaign, it becomes part of a consistent increased effort in the education in the public through the global information and communication networks. One of the foundations of the efforts comes from targeting irrational beliefs and the application of skepticism towards particulars with the empiricist and modernist lens on them. Misinformation can lead to bad outcomes. Individuals who have the privilege and the opportunity to ignore the plight of the coronavirus may, and in fact often do, neglect the inability of others to isolate, physically distance, have access to emergency funds, acquire respirators, and have adequate medical attention. Resources in abundance to some not considered “resources” inasmuch as rights, as if the water one swims. As several others have noted, we can note the exaggerated health disparities in the cessation of life in the critical/severe cases for African Americans compared to European Americans. Even in spite of this, incompetent and inadequate response to the crisis is leading to disproportionate American deaths compared to much of the rest of the globe. It is driven by the conscious and automated spread of ‘knowledge’ or false information designed to misinform, or simply grounded in a deep lack of scientific understanding.
Thus, as Dr. Leo Igwe noted in an interview in the #GlobalHumanismNow series, the misinformation “virus” can make the spreading of the coronavirus worse. In a manner of speaking, if one knowingly spreads false information, and if demographic outcomes exist in these contexts, then one not only harms the general population, but, also, vulnerable populations disproportionately – making known disparities even worse. Humanists International – and its Board, staff, and representatives – are doing a fantastic job in ramping up international efforts to reduce the spread of lies and misinformation, and countering medically dubious and scientifically questionable treatments amounting to the unsupportable to the dangerously farcical.
This comes, mainly, in the form of the COVID-19 #MythBusters, i.e., memes displaying evidence-based messages in some of the aforementioned languages to improve the efficacy of the work. As Giovanni Gaetani, Humanists International’s Membership Engagement Manager, states:
Our goal is to… reach out to a wider global audience, on a larger scale than we have ever done so before…
…The amount of coordination and support coming from our Members and Associates is astonishing. In just one week we managed to translate the memes into 15 languages, including some of the most spoken languages around the world like Hindi, Spanish, French, Bengali, Portuguese, etc. We are literally talking about potentially reaching millions of people…
…As I speak, we keep receiving new translations and we are working to create further series of memes. Members and Associates all around the world are sharing the memes everywhere. Not only on social media, but also on Whatsapp groups, newsletters, etc. It’s hard to estimate accurately how many people we are reaching worldwide, but the feedback we are receiving is great.
…This is a great example of global humanist cooperation in the name of reason, science and solidarity.
Global Humanism can assist in the endeavour to reduce some of the issues inherent in the developments of the modern communications networks, including the first global telephone system called The Internet. We feel as if this becomes an insurmountable challenge. However, as we should remain diligent and conscious, we have larger looming issues apart from rights abuse, international humanitarian law violations, and the re-rise of an ignorant sub-culture with some modicum of prominence only appearing large-and-looming; we have the issues of anthropogenic climate change, or human-induced global warming, and the threat of nuclear catastrophe.
Once we begin to overcome, as many are, this cavalcade of a clown parade, we have the more serious issues needing intense work. Our ancestors have overcome their own challenges; we can overcome ours. It merely requires proportionate proactive, assertive, and constructive counter-response, as per the work of Humanists International.