This is the long overdue response to your nice and interesting message of Jun 27, 2002.
The main reason for the delay is my physical condition, that severely limits me for any intellectual work, like writing or speaking. The other reason is probably consequence of the first, and is that I am not being effective enough advocating for a better structured interpretation of humanism and a wide, practical application of it. Maybe with your understanding and that of the HFA some progress is made in that direction. We all would benefit from it.
Basically what I mean by a better structured interpretation of humanism is that humanism shouldn't be seen centered on secularism. Of course, rational thinking is a fundamental capability of the human, with secularism deriving from it. Secularism is only one of the results of the humanist view and one that, considering the pervasive scope of humanism, is a lateral result.
As I see it, humanism is the full appreciation of the human condition and of all of the capabilities that are part of it. Human capabilities are so fruitful and diverse that a full appreciation of them, and a full application of their knowledge, bring outstanding progress to all humanity.
Mysticisms, hindering and even dangerous as they are, are trapping most people, but only for lack of a proper education. We humans cannot make use of all of our intellectual sharpness without a proper education.
So, humanism being so pervasive and decisive, is a knowledge needed by every single human being. We who have started understanding it have the duty of making it known by and making it work for, everyone. Humanism is not only for a sharp elite that needs to associate to deal better with the rest, ignorant and/or naive. We humanists must and can bring forward a growing movement to spread the humanist view, by showing the results of using it in practice. Results of sound well-being, prosperity and happiness for all.
I urge you to move up and make full use of the rich principles of humanism. Following I sketch a few ideas that seem feasible and that would help people and help promote humanism. There's no limit on how much else it could be done too based on a full, practical humanism.
There are two fields that are decisive to improve people themselves and their environments. Those are the educational system and politics as a civilized way to participate in the government of our societies. And there is the health care system, obviously decisive too for the well-being of people.
One can't be a really good teacher without being a humanist. We can endlessly improve our educational system by making our teachers better humanists. All of our teachers. If we have a substantial and clear humanist message we can reach and enrich each teacher. Starting even with the smallest humanist growth of even a little number of our teachers, gradually, we can attain outstanding, perdurable results.
Two basic actions to that end seem to be distributing --substantial, clear and persuasive--humanist literature to teachers, and developing a website dedicated to humanism in education.
Getting involved in politics and government is the only way of making a real improvement in the action of our governments. Our governments can and must be increasingly guided by humanist principles too. Again, a profound, clear and realistic humanist view is needed to make highly constructive, convincing statements on most social issues. Such statements would leave important impressions, and eventually would bear fruits, even in cases when they don't win general acceptance at the beginning. Existing political candidates and elected officials would find themselves forced to consider such statements. Gradually many of them would be guided by humanist principles in most of their attitudes. Sincere, profound, clear, humanist political candidates should be eventually unbeatable.
It seems feasible we can promote a substantial improvement of our health care systems, by gradually expanding actions.
First we can use our principles to conclude that health services cannot be just another profit oriented business in our society. Each individual should bear the costs of the personal and family health services he or she requires and receives. Costs that cannot be determined as it is for any other ordinary comodity in the market. Charges for health care services and products must be regulated by law. Then, of course, we have the social obligation of helping those finantially incapable or limited to pay for health care.
Regulating the costs of health care is obviously one result of gradually making humanism guide politics and goverment. But also there are simpler, immediate actions we can undertake to influence in an important manner that care. We can start a humanist guild of health care providers with a new humanist understanding of their mission, that would agree to abide by an improved code of pursuance of their professions.
It must be possible to remove the current brutal component of the doctor-patient relationtionship where the first has profit as his/her primary goal while the second tries to catch the other with some mistake to, too, extract money as a result. It should be possible, even under the current legislation, that health care providers dealt with their patients by a mutual trust agreement, under which the first risks only his/her prestige in treating a patient (except if a criminal intention is proven, of course).
I hope you will find some or all of the above sugestions valuable. At least maybe you would publish them for other fellow humanists to think about them.
In reference to your interest in making HFA and MHEC join forces, I regret having to say MHEC has returned to a project stage again. In 98 there were 9 people interested in the MHEC concept, but their interest have subsided. MHEC has the serious handicap of depending on me, with me being increasingly handicapped. MHEC requieres pioneering efforts and pioneers are hard to find.
Even so, I am totally sure of the outstanding potencials of the MHEC concept. MHEC's website continues to run and it has several documents important, I think, to develop correspondingly outstanding humanist actions. Most of those documents are still in Spanish, though. If you agreed they are useful, I would certainly help as much as I can to clarify them if necessary, and correct or comment on English versions of them.
What do you think?
With best regards,
Ricardo E. Trelles
(HFA response and mine in turn:)
>We are working on Education Reform, Health Care Reform, and for making Humanism a force for positive social change. (Ie: engaging Humanism in the political sphere.) We are currently not only the central contact point for Humanism in the state - but a central player in the creation of a state-wide Progressive Network - dedicated to promoting education, health care access, environmental protection, church state separation etc.<
It sounds like some results will be achieved. Those reforms should be at least progressively substantial, though. There's a whole business of "political oposition", where personalities and whole organizations make calibrated oposition for the benefit of the oposed and to get some benefits in return. Also there are oposition forces that are just downright ineffective, and those are of great help to the oposed too. In politics having an incapable oposition is much more desirable than not having oposition at all.
I see no indications the HFA is in neither of those cases, but it is hard to tell if one is helping other groups that are. The notable example of doing bad while thinking one is doing good is with the charities, which most are harmful in the long run.
It is essential to have sharp and clear goals, and keep sharpening and making them clearer all the time.
>We also have contact with one of the spanish language TV stations in the Miami area, but don't have the staff, nor enough spanish speaking volunteers to properly exploit this resources (there are Humanists working there and they contacted us).<
That surprises me. Spanish-speaking TV is very superficial here (even more than the one in English!). If you put us in contact, I would do what I can or at least we could exchange ideas. I would keep you posted on what we are doing.
The only big problem are my personal limitations. For me to speak coherently enough for more that ten minutes is grueling. To have any serious, persuasive, meeting, not to mention to appear on TV, you need to perform! If I were able, I would had pushed into participating in the media here. I know I would have contributed valuably and would have encouraged others to participate along the same lines too.
Much to my regret, I don't think I could attend the conference in Tampa on January, but if I'm still in Miami on the 2006, I think I won't resist at least to show up and shake hands will all of you in the conference here. Maybe we even have some important projects going on by then!
Ok, I understand. You could keep keeping it simple for some more decades --or less, when soon things get really nasty around us.
Could I ask you again to publish my original message with sugestions in your newsletter? That way more people can consider it, and it goes to the records.
>I can certainly forward it to the editor - but the fall newsletter is going to be full of publicity items for the 2004 conference. And... honestly - you didn't say anything that the board of the Humanists of Florida Association (HFA) does not already agree with and subscribe to. And, from our experience - most humanists want to go in that direction too - which is why we (HFA) have developed such a good international reputation so quickly. Perhaps you haven't read our 5 year plan yet - which is possible since I only just got a good mailing address for you. Anyway - much of what you talk about is in there.<
(The Humanists of Florida Association's 2003-2008 5 year plan was available here)