The Enlightenment - December 2017

  1. DEFIANT EARTH: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene, by Clive Hamilton. Reviewed by Rosslyn Ives 

  2. Canadian Beauty from Sea to Sea, By Goldwin Emerson 

  3. CHRISTMAS SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND WELL Even with Hindus, Muslims and Atheists, By Duncan Watterworth 

  4. Freedom From Religion Safeguards Liberty 

  5. Historic conference in London brings together committed secularists, By Annie Laurie Gaylor 


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Why not require suitability test before gun purchase? By Goldwin Emerson

Why not require suitability test before gun purchase?

By Goldwin Emerson,

gandjemerson@rogers.com

The London Free Press, November 25, 2017

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, 64‐year‐old Stephen Paddock committed the largest single massacre, but not the last mass killing, in United States recent history. Using a renovated bump stock repeater rifle, he fired many rounds of ammunition into a crowd of concert goers for approximately ten minutes. The death toll was 59 people, including his own suicide, and he injured 527 of the crowd of 22,000 fans attending a musical concert in Las Vegas.

As usual in the United States, citizens are at a loss to explain the motives of murderers or to know how to defend themselves from such terrible recurring massacres in the future.

If guns were sold to children it would be clear to Americans that this would be an unethical practice. Rational people agree that children would not have the judgment of how deadly guns can be. Children do not have sufficient maturity to use guns safely. Recurring massacres indicate that there are also some adults who, like children, do not have the judgment and understanding to be in possession of guns. It is equally unethical to sell guns to those adults who seem incapable of using guns safely.

Some American statistics claim a daily average of 25 murders caused by guns in the United States. This is a number in excess of 9000 people per year, although in 2012 gun deaths actually tripled that number. Depending on population density, annual gun deaths range from 3.4 to 4.7 per 100,000 citizens.

Politicians have an ethical obligation to create legislation controlling the sale of guns to citizens of any age who do not possess the mental or physical capability to use guns safely. In the United States, the second amendment is not sufficient reason to allow every citizen the right to bear arms. For example, totally blind people or violently insane people should not be allowed to purchase guns. Yet in

many individual States, there are very few regulations or, in some States, none required to purchase guns. There are, however, Federal laws which limit the misuse of guns and uphold punishments after a crime is committed.

A problem arises in assessing the various degrees of physical or mental disability of those who want to own guns. For this reason a responsible approach would be to have citizens individually assessed prior to purchasing guns. This procedure is not as cumbersome as it may first appear. When people are individually assessed for their suitability for many occupations, they are often required to have a police check to determine if they have a criminal record. Many occupations also require health records indicating the likelihood of mental or physical stability or lack of it.

Signs of severe depression, aggression, abuse of illegal drugs, theft, extreme anxiety, physical altercations, or sex abuse may well be available from medical or criminal records. As Dr. Phil McGraw of television fame has said, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

Of course, there are some degrees of mental illnesses or criminal activity or physical disabilities which may not in themselves be sufficient reasons to decide citizens are too dangerous to possess guns. It is for this reason that those in charge of assessing suitability for gun ownership should rely on professional health records and criminal records when this information is available.

The National Rifle Association is a large politically powerful group. There must surely be enough wisdom and intelligence within their group that they can be persuaded an ethical approach would be to establish reasonable gun control regulations in advance of ownership in order to protect American citizens while still upholding the second amendment.

There are a number of reasons why thoughtful readers will be drawn towards the idea of more effective gun control. Many of the most recent massacres have been driven by extremism and the lack of reasoning. Massacres express hatred towards one’s fellow human beings. On the other hand, the principles of humanism uphold peacefulness and a rational approach in making our world better for all humanity. These principles contain references to compassion, respect for the dignity of every

human being, human freedoms, and democratic methods. The ideas of those who have committed recent massacres are both antithetical and abhorrent to these good moral principles.

Humanity can't be tied to pigment perceptions, By Goldwin Emerson

Humanity can't be tied to pigment perceptions

By Goldwin Emerson

gandjemerson@rogers.com

London Free Press, October 20, 2017

There are many reasons why white supremacy is an imprecise and imperfect idea. To begin with, it is difficult to define who is white and who is not. In general terms whiteness suggests the skin colour of people of European or Europid ancestry. But there are multiple exceptions. For example, in Spain many who live in Barcelona consider themselves to be white, but if they were to move to Los Angeles the same citizens will likely be regarded as Hispanics. The Nazi concept of whiteness, blonde hair, fair skinned and blue eyed, if applied to Hitler, even he would not have passed the test.

A second reason is that even when using very general terms of whiteness, there exist approximately 1.3 billion whites compared to a general worldwide population of over 7 billion people, and the general birth rates for non-whites increase more rapidly than the birth rates for whites. This increasing worldwide imbalance of whiteness and non- whiteness means that in practical terms the concept of white supremacy faces an uphill battle, and I use the term battle advisedly. Perhaps some day in the future whites will be the ones who need to plead for tolerance, equality and generosity rather than supremacy in their ideas of moral fairness, justice and equity.

It should not be surprising that justice, fairness and democratic principles are not helpful in making white supremacy more powerful or in enhancing their concepts of dominance. Nor are the ideas of free speech and accurate media presentations of daily news likely to assist white supremacy in the quest for dominance. Presently if you are a white supremacist you will be encouraged to think of freedom of the press and media accuracy as fake news and as an enemy of the growth of white supremacy.

In American history, slave trade and slave labour were protected by unjust and undemocratic laws set up to give privileges to powerful white business interests and plantation owners. Supporting laws of segregation in housing, restaurants, schools and even churches, and restrictions in riding on public buses, were commonplace. The injustices of slavery and segregation could not have existed without a system of unjust laws supported by broad public acceptance.

Fortunately, many attitudes among white-skinned people have now changed. Modern concepts of what is just and morally correct have shifted for most white-skinned people. We have slowly come to see that humanity is more basic than skin colour, sexual orientation, maleness or femaleness, wealth or poverty, or formal education. Through a long and difficult journey of adjusting our moral compasses, we have even come to realize that people in high political positions, whether presidents or dictators, are not immune from corruption and immorality. Power and violence and military strength are not good measures by which we can find morally correct guidance.

No doubt most readers will have access to their own moral and ethically correct principles which they presently respect.

In my own case, I recall some Humanist ideas to which I wish white supremacists also had access. Below are a few examples of these principles taken directly from the 2002 Amsterdam Declaration, the most recent world consensus on the definition of Humanism:

* Humanists uphold the broadest application of democratic principles in human relationships.

* Humanists affirm the dignity of every person and the right of the individual to the maximum possible freedom compatible with the rights of others.

* Humanists acknowledge human interdependence and the need for mutual respect, and the kinship of all humanity.

*Humanists advocate peaceful resolution of conflicts between individual groups and nations.

* Humanists affirm that individual and social problems can be resolved by means of human reason, intelligent effort, and critical thinking joined with compassion and a spirit of empathy for all living things.

In summary, the colour of one's skin does not provide sufficient evidence of either morality or immorality. There are no doubt moral heroes and immoral villains to be found among both blacks and whites and within every shade of skin colouring in between. A good starting place in resetting our moral compasses is for white supremacists to consider the humanistic principles stated above.