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Alternative lectures: Humanism (Part 2)

19.45

Humanism

Today, society worries a great deal about the psychological and emotional pain people might suffer under any stress or pressure. We live in a world where people are viewed as primarily vulnerable, rather than robust. We are systematically encouraged to think we need help and advice from experts and professionals for just about everything.  Our capacities as human beings are constantly being downplayed and degraded in a misanthropic culture in which human achievement and even knowledge is viewed with suspicion and given a health warning. When humanity is seen like this, it becomes more difficult to trust other people. Professor of Sociology, Frank Furedi illustrates the differences between the putative humanist paradigm and the current vulnerability paradigm we experience today. He discusses the challenge humanists face to humanise personhood and create a more confident society. Filmed at the WORLDbytes studio, this lecture explains why we need to uphold a stronger idea of what humanity has been, is and could be capable of.

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Related topics: Debates, Democracy, Social Change

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Ali Valenzuela said:

Really interesting video that invites you to think in a totally different way (Worldbytes is pretty good at that). Firstly, it accurately informs that we focus on the negativity of humanity. Secondly, it questions WHY we loathe it, and ways in which we portray this emotion. Why do we focus on our negative influences and destructive capabilities, when we offer so much positivity and development to the world?
A really good point made about how the future is going to be better; with technology, knowledge, scientific development…if we are gradually improving, why do we judge humanity as slowly worsening, losing morals and being more deconstructive than constructive? We must not give up on the belief that we can benefit the world!

Ali Valenzuela said:

Really interesting video that invites you to think in a totally different way (Worldbytes is pretty good at that). Firstly, it accurately informs that we focus on the negativity of humanity. Secondly, it questions WHY we loathe it, and ways in which we portray this emotion. Why do we focus on our negative influences and destructive capabilities, when we offer so much positivity and development to the world?

Carla Teixeira said:

I must admit, that was probably one of my favourite WORLDbytes videos so far, right up there with the open borders view on the streets and “The more the Merrier“ in terms of being excellent food for thought. It’s a shame we don’t see more discussions like these in the mainstream media (especially on The Big Questions- you’d expect as much from them, though granted they do still do a better job than others). That’s the beauty of Citizen TV I suppose!

I agree with Furedi in that certain societies (not all, that’s an unjustifiable over-generalisation) have too many people with very negative attitudes and worldviews, especially after the two world wars that effectively destroyed faith in humanity’s moral evolution, and especially when it comes to being suspicious of others. But is that surprising when you add to the mix that children are (to a certain extent rightly so) taught from a young age not to talk to strangers? Should it come to a surprise to us that, with stereotypes in the media and people living up to those stereotypes, there‘s a lack of trust in people to talk a certain way, dress a certain way and act a certain way that in some cases is justified?

While there is an element of truth in what Furedi is saying, that’s just one side of the bigger picture, I feel.
At least I can say this much- I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees things like Jacob Jacobson who commented below. Yes, there is what I feel to be in some cases unjustifiable, uncalled for and unnecessary negativity/pessimistic approaches to speaking about issues and resolving said issues, but the negativity alone isn’t justification to overlook these issues, especially when there are cold, hard facts to back them up. Nor do I appreciate how Furedi implies that (what I feel is perfectly rationally/financially/ethically) criticism of certain aspects of human impact is too/only negative wheres human impact is inherently positive. That may not have been what he intended in full force to say, but it’s what may come across, and I object to that. In every argument there is a multiplicity of voices. If you haven’t heard any more positivity, it’s because you’re not listening out hard enough, or at all. Though I agree that more positivity wouldn’t hurt either- much to the contrary. Humans shape their own perception of reality, y’know.

Let’s not revert back to a romantic idealisation of human nature, or a short-term, narrow-sightedly optimistic outlook on the achievements of technology and human intellect. I think what we’re seeing now is a natural and well needed (but maybe now a bit excessive) deanthropocentralisation of people’s worldviews and toning down of humanity’s self-righteousness that is tempering our historically overinflated egos. But having said that, let’s not be too self-depricating either.

It’s a question of not fallling into either extreme. Acknowledge that humans as a whole are:

1) neither inherently evil/selfish/embroiled in an original “sin“/moral defect, nor
2) absolutely pure hearted

and any of our personal faults are “society’s fault“. We ARE society. Humans have the potential to be good, or the potential to do bad things, but that’s not to say things are simplistically black and white (e.g. bad people do bad things and good people do good things). Yes, upbringing/education etc and society’s values as a whole that can either make us stable individuals or affectionless psychopaths, but Humanism does offer a good and universal framework that everyone from every background can adopt, it’s up to us to implement its positivity.

Here in England we’re gifted to have such a diverse capital, but we need to make the most and best out of it, learning from the best and vicariously through the worst that all of our peoples have gone through and contributed to our understanding of the global village we live in- child and criminal psychology, economics, teaching, anthropology, sociology, you name it. How about we try being only pessimistic enough and give a bit more positivity a shot?

sere said:

Good lecture. We should strive for a more confident society. I think we should encourage taking risks and challenges and finding solutions to overcome them. However we should also understand that we are not born equal and rather than retreat from each other, we should try to bridge the divide.

william said:

Today people are “defined by their weaknesses”, by which he is talking about about our tendency to see vulnerability and incapability in people, especially young people. And we attempt to “immunise our children from external experience.” Pertinent thoughts, on a day when a BBC news reporter described those Briton’s getting involved with terrorist groups like Al Shebab as ‘vulnerable’ and a report suggests that maybe adulthood does not really begin until around the age of 25. There are many strange social shifts today that very few commentators are attempting to explain or grapple with. Furedi is a rare exception. This, the second lecture, and the first one, are invaluable if you want to begin to understand the world we’re living in today and how we might begin to put things right.

Jacob Jacobson said:

These lectures are clearly expressed and valid to an extent but simplistic. Is all ‘human impact’ positive? Colonialism? Mass destruction? Genocide? And (don’t mention) climate change? Being mature is to recognise the destructive as well as positive effects of human action. But what I have most problem with is the abstraction ‘humanity’ itself. What is this? Humans are deeply divided by life chances, social class, gender, age and so on. I don’t deny that there are things that do and potentially could unite people, which was the aim of the socialist movement. But in the world as it is there is no ‘humanity’ except as an abstraction from the real lives and labour of humans.

Mark said:

Great. I thought the first part of this was good, part 2 is even better