This is the most recent column by NoVES leader Randy Best in the January 2018 Newsletter.
A member requested that I provide an excerpt from my recent talk, “Towards Utopia”. I chose to include the section talking about Ethical Culture History and Felix Adler’s ideas, along with some of my own. You can hear my complete talk at: https://soundcloud.com/novesaudio/randy-best-towards-utopia1232017
Towards Utopia (excerpt) Oscar Wilde wrote: "A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias." I need a Utopian vision that reflects my Humanist Values, my Humanist Ideals. Felix Adler, who founded Ethical Humanism as Ethical Culture in 1876, had a philosophy based on Ideals. He envisioned a Utopia where every person was endowed with intrinsic worth and, therefore, needed to be treated with dignity and respect. People should be supported by society so that they are able to achieve their full potential and make their contribution to making the world a better place. Attributing intrinsic worth to people leads to obligations with respect to that worth. These obligations are the basis for ethics and moral action. Adler’s Ethical Humanist Ideals included:
- Every person has inherent worth; each person is unique.
- It is our responsibility to improve the quality of life for ourselves and others.
- Ethics are derived from human experience.
- Life is sacred, interrelated and interdependent. To realize the worth of people, Felix Adler set out to improve conditions for human flourishing.
To achieve this, Adler founded the Ethical Societies as a place for people committed to improving the world, increasing their understanding of themselves, and deepening their relationships with others. Adler, and the members of the Ethical Societies, also founded organizations that would act to improve the world. These organizations addressed the issues of their day including:
- The Hudson Guild and Madison Settlement Houses in New York City
- The Child Study Association that advocated restrictions on Child Labor
- The Model Tenement Association to improve housing conditions
- The Visiting Nurses Association to provide access to health care; and
- The Ethical Culture Schools Ethical Humanists were also instrumental in founding The American Civil Liberties Union and The NAACP.
History is inspirational, but what does my Ethical Humanist Philosophy lead me to today? How can I act to promote my Ethical Humanist Ideals? What is my version of an Ethical Humanist Utopian Vision? Bertrand Russell wrote: "It is not a finished Utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination and hope are alive and active." I struggle to find a Utopian Vision of hope in a political environment dominated by corporate interests and tax relief for the wealthy. I realize that if I want politics to change, I must work to change politics. I must continue to oppose policies that discriminate and deny opportunity to others. My Ethical Humanist Utopian Vision is founded on reason, evidence, facts, and most importantly, promoting the human worth and dignity of everyone. Like Utopias of the past, in my Utopian vision people are free from want, with abundant food, good health, safe in their lives, possessions, and liberty. In my Utopian vision, the earth must also be cared for so that human life may continue to flourish. My vision of Human Dignity recognizes the worth of others by:
Recognizing the rights of refugees and immigrants to be part of our nation – because people cannot be illegal.
- Working to overcome Systemic Racism because Black Lives Matter too.
- Recognizing and dismantling White Privilege, Patriarchy, and Male Privilege.
- Creating a world free of sexual harassment where offenders face consequences for their actions.
- Promoting a Universal Basic Income so that everyone is free from deprivation
- Investing in people by providing Free Education and Health care for all.
- Changing America’s Criminal Justice system to promoting community service and education as alternatives to incarceration.
- Working toward Peaceful resolutions to conflict and an end to War.
My Utopian Vision raises all of us up for a more egalitarian future that everyone can be part of realizing. Eduardo Galeano wrote: "Utopia is on the horizon. I move two steps closer; it moves two steps further away. I walk another ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away. As much as I walk, I’ll never reach it. So, what is the point of Utopia? The point is this: to keep walking." My Utopian vision is evolving, changing as I continue to learn and grow. But it remains focused, directed by my Humanist Values and belief that we are all worthy, we are all deserving, and we have the potential to co-create the good and work toward making the world a better place- for everyone.