I’m not one to make Christmas wish lists or even New Year’s Resolutions (well, besides the BC Humanist Association’s call for a Secular BC in 2019, which you should all sign and support) but I do have one wish for the coming weeks:
Please don’t let atheists buy into this UN Global Compact on Migration conspiracy theory.
If you haven’t heard this one, Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party are quick to tell you it will destroy Canadian sovereignty and former Wildrose Party of Alberta leader Danielle Smith says it will erase the Canadian identity.
— Conservative Party (@CPC_HQ) December 5, 2018
Yet as Andrew Coyne points out in the National Post, the pact is really an aspirational document with no legal force. And even where its language is the most broad, it still includes caveats like that there be efforts at “reducing the incidence and negative impact of migration.”
It seeks, [Smith] claims, “to make immigration a universal human right,” while blurring “the distinction between refugees and migrants.” After all, doesn’t it say right there in the preamble: “Refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms”?
What could be more Humanist than recognizing the rights and freedoms of other human beings?
Perhaps I’m more cynical these days, particularly following the continued obsession in some corners of atheist movements with motion M-103. That was the equally toothless motion to condemn Islamophobia that Campbell Clark at The Globe and Mail suggests might be the template for the moral panic we can expect to follow this UN Compact.
M-103 has been cited in three separate editorials by Humanist Perspectives editor Madeline Weld. Weld cofounded Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights & Freedoms. Unsurprisingly, the group has picked up the Global Compact as the latest thing to fear.
Instead of a weekly C3RF update here's a press release detailing a Global Compact on Migration protest rally on Parliament Hill on 08 Dec, 2018 at 11AM. C3RF is supporting for the reasons detailed in the release. Please distribute. #m103 #freespeech https://t.co/fQQrWxNECP
— C3RF (@CC_CRF) December 6, 2018
It’s this tinfoil hat level paranoia that we also find in the most egregious piece in the latest issue of Humanist Perspectives. Written under the uninspired pen-name CA Wordsworth, the article “White Privilege” is Newspeak is a shocking bit of white nationalist propaganda thinly passed off as rational discourse.
Let’s be clear about this article: It effortlessly interchanges “white” and “western” throughout, using whichever one is more convenient. There’s really no honest way to read it that doesn’t boil down to the thesis “It’s okay to be white and also white is best.”
Take the conclusion:
Those who advocate for social justice often do not support the impartial application of justice. Early in 2018, “social justice” warriors erected posters at universities for a “white privilege awareness” campaign. This campaign flies in the face of the reality that there is often a high price to be paid for daring to assert the right of Western civilization to define Western societies or even to exist.
Jumping from a poster about “white privilege” to “Western civilization” is pretty direct. What does one have to do with the other if we’re not just saying “white civilization”? Therefore, the “right of Western civilization to define Western societies” is clearly the least subtle dog whistle for “white nations should define themselves.” And if you don’t read that as white nationalism, then words don’t have meaning anymore.
And that’s to say nothing of the straight up racist and historically ignorant lines in the piece. Consider this bit of anti-indigenous nonsense:
If Europeans had not colonized the Americas, some other civilization would likely have done it. It’s possible that the indigenous people would have found these other conquerors more onerous than the Europeans.
Dude, take five minutes and read an entry level history book. No, not the racist one that confirms your own beliefs (hell, even Wikipedia isn’t a bad starting point). Indigenous people weren’t conquered by “the Europeans” but by rather there were multiple separate colonization efforts by British, French, Spanish and other empires. And even prior to those were the Norse landings centuries earlier. Some of those colonists, like early French settlers, were more willing to work with indigenous peoples while others, like the Spanish, were far more genocidal in their approach.
And that’s to say nothing of the underlying assumption in those two sentences that the indigenous peoples of these lands essentially deserved to be conquered; it was inevitable. Or in other words, indigenous people are inferior to
white European people.
Now, I know, Humanists are all about debate and free inquiry, but I did think (partly because it’s written in the Amsterdam Declaration of Humanism on the magazine’s website) that Humanists also stood for human rights and compassion. Or that at very least we weren’t about promoting racism. Nationalism is pretty clearly rejected by the various Humanist Manifestos released over the decades and the universal aspirations of Humanism ought to compel us to rise above such archaic bullshit as worshipping “Western Civilization”.
Maybe I do have good reason to be pessimistic.
So my holiday wish is for Humanists to once again be on the vanguard of standing up for an open, progressive society. That we are the ones seen to be supporting the rights of migrants to be free from violence, persecution and war. That we fight as vigorously for the rights of the LGBTQ2+ community as we do for freedom of speech.
And my New Year’s Resolution will be to help drive that change. To write more robust defences of Humanism, secularism and progressive values. To be the change I want to see (to use the old cliché).
But most of all, I just want atheists to stop buying into conspiracy theories.
Ian Bushfield is Executive Director of the BC Humanist Association. These comments are Ian’s personal opinions.