Open Letter to Algeria’s Ambassador To Canada

It is difficult to know for certain whether letters to our politicians and government officials will have an effect. Do you expect that a letter to your city or town Councillor be read and taken seriously? How about your Member of Provincial Parliament? Federal MP? Every bureaucratic layer, every mile from home can seem to shrink the probabilities.

What about writing a letter to dignitaries from foreign countries? Do you think you would be heard? But if the subject were important enough to you, would you still do it?

We imagine that these are some of the questions that ran through Dr. Richard Thain’s mind some weeks ago as he composed and sent a letter (an abridged version provided below) to members of the Algerian government. In his letter, Thain called for the release of Yacine Mebarki, a vocal member that country’s Berber minority who has been involved in the long-running Hirak protest movement. Mebarki had been imprisoned for “profaning Islam” (blasphemy, by a slightly different turn of phrase), encouraging a Muslim to leave the religion as well as several other charges.


Dear Ambassador Meghar
,

My name is Richard Thain. As a Canadian citizen, I have the power and the freedom to publicly communicate my perspectives, whether on political, religious or other public matters. I decide who I wish to engage in civil and civic dialog.

On those grounds, I intend to respectfully express my deep concern over the Algerian Court’s decision to find Yacine Mebarki guilty and sentence him to ten years of imprisonment. This decision is the latest of an extremely disturbing pattern in Algeria which is being covered in the international news media. The jailing of journalist Khaled Drareni provides another outrageous example. The world has learned, from Algeria’s National Committee for the Release of Detainees that over five dozen people have been incarcerated in your country, for merely holding unpopular opinions. Journalism is not a crime.

I respectfully direct your attention to the press release, issued on Thursday, September 8, by the Algerian League for the Defence of the Human Rights which “underlines the guarantees in the national law, notably the Constitution and the international conventions ratified by Algeria, in particular the respect for freedom of conscience and opinion.”

I urge you to inform President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Prime-Minister Abdelaziz Djerad and Minister of Justice Belkacem Zeghmati that many Canadians are appalled by events in Algeria. I urge you to advise the Government of Algeria to immediately release Yacine Mebarki and all prisoners of conscience in Algeria!

Ambassador, there is no-one better positioned or informed than you to recognize that it is of the utmost importance and in the best interests of the Government of Algeria and the Citizens of Algeria that these unconscionable matters be corrected. Help your government to bring the Citizens of Algeria and the Citizens of Canada together by ensuring shared individual freedoms, rights and powers. It is within your power to decide to act or not to act in the interests of Algerians.

Thank you for your time and prompt attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely yours,

Dr Richard G L Thain

You may read a version of Thain’s letter on EAP (en francais). It is our understanding that Thain has not yet received a reply to his letter. But that doesn’t mean that the Algerian government and courts have ignore Mebarki’s case.

We may also imagine the tremendous satisfaction and enthusiasm that Dr. Thain may have felt to read today, as reported on France24, that Algeria’s ” court reduced Mebarki’s prison term from 10 years to one after upholding convictions including “offending the precepts of (Islam)”, but overturning others with heavier sentences including “profaning the Koran”.

Whether Dr. Thain’s letter reached eyes of influential officials in Algeria or not should not reduce any satisfaction Dr. Thain may feel either for his correspondence or for the news for Mebarki. When it comes to the freedom of expression, it is not merely holding the value that is important, it is utilizing that freedom to express one’s opinion even in situations where one has every reason to expect not to be heard.

Dr. Thain encountered his own concerns with freedom of expression, government officials and religious privilege in 2014 when he attempted to publish advertisements objecting to the public funding of Catholic Schools systems in Canada during the launch of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

While it may be difficult to know whether our dignified and civilized protestations will be heard, that does not diminish our need to make them.


You may also be interested in Wole Soyinka’s open letter calling for the release of Mubarak Bala.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of
  2. https://www.editionap.ca/actualites–news/lettres–letters-d0125757f52f1f19bf41a22066d4bf13actualites–news/liberez-le-defenseur-des-droits-humains-et-militant-laic-yacine-mebarki-d2d4ef51505273408e7035cde3a90d08
  3. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20201125-algeria-slashes-activist-s-jail-term-for-offending-islam
  4. https://www.barrons.com/news/algeria-slashes-activist-s-jail-term-for-offending-islam-lawyer-01606307405
  5. https://al-bab.com/blog/2020/10/missing-page-quran-lands-algerian-jail

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Film: About Endlessness

Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness was released late in 2019 as a “reflection on human life in all its beauty and cruelty, its splendour and banality.

On the film’s website, Andersson provides several key insights regarding the film and his approach as a film-maker. They are the kinds of insights which have the capacity to alter the viewer’s perspective from bewilderment to informed engagement.

Rhetorically, we ask ourselves “Could there be a more advantageous way to approach the topic of “endlessness” than with informed engagement?” Perhaps. But we aren’t going to delve “plot” in this post as that might just be counter-to-the-concept. The film is ABOUT ENDLESSNESS after all.

Andersson shares that he had given up a “realistic/naturalistic aesthetic” in the mid-1980s, feeling that there was nowhere to go. It was, so to speak, at an end for him. He turned instead to an abstract approach which “has enabled me to tell stories about us and about our time in spectacularly anachronistic scenes.

As it may be far easier to relate to Andersson’s comments while viewing some of his work, Film Qualia‘s video essay titled “The Living Paintings of Roy Anderson” is an excellent resource and underlines our thought that informed engagement may just be best.

Film Qualia’s Video Essay on “The Living Paintings of Roy Anderson”

On the matter of his style, Andresson suggests that he wants “to continue to develop a cinematic language that is pared-down, simplified, refined, distilled, or however you choose to describe it. That’s what I mean by the expression abstraction. I strive to achieve that refinement, that simplification that is characteristic of our memories or our dreams.”

Andersson cites two cultural icons as central to the creation and development of About Endlessness: the horn of plenty from Greek mythology and the narrator of Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade.

The horn of plenty is invoked for its “embodiment of inexhaustibility”. It is literally a symbol for endlessness. Andersson “art, art history plays the role of a horn of plenty, encompassing within it the entire scope of what it means to be human.”

Invoking Scheherazade, a character under near-constant threat of death, is, literally, a far more complex undertaking. There’s no shortage of context for a living symbol of those in society who may be fairly termed terminally vulnerable.

Andersson explains a perspective as filmmaker that, “Scheherazade managed to postpone her own execution for a thousand and one days, by which time the King had started to grow fond of her and wanted to stay married to her. My hope and ambition in this project, is for the scenes to be so interesting and fascinating that people will want to see more of them as soon as they’ve seen one, and that they will never want them to stop.

In short, we should feel like King Shahryar when he hears something through Scheherazade that seems inexhaustible, namely human existence, everything that it means to be human. The scenes in this film will naturally be fascinating in and of themselves, but it is the scope of the composition of the scenes that will generate the impression of being inexhaustible.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://www.royandersson.com/eng/endlessness/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/About_Endlessness
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/nov/08/about-endlessness-review-roy-andersson
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/nov/05/about-endlessness-review-roy-andersson
  5. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/about-endlessness-a-droll-form-of-despair-1.4399995
  6. https://lwlies.com/reviews/about-endlessness/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Affandi: Call me a painter or better yet, just human

The National Gallery of Indonesia (Galeri Nasional Indonesia) in Jakarta is currently hosting an immersive exhibit of humanist painter, Affandi through to November 25, 2020.

According to The Jakarta Post, access to the exhibit is limited to 20 pre-registered people for each of six daily hour-long sessions. Additionally, as part of the National Culture Week activites, the exhibition will also display Affandi’s paintings via video projection and sound design.

Captured: Due to the ongoing pandemic, no more than 20 visitors are allowed inside the gallery for each session.
Photo Credit: The Jakarta Post

Affandi ( 1907-1990) is recognized as one of Indonesia’s leading modern artists.

The exhibition “Alam, Ruang, Manusia” (Nature, Space, Human) is held as part of the 2020 National Culture Week, and at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta. It offers “video performance mapping projection of 98 of Affandi’s paintings, as well as 15 of Affandi’s paintings in the collection of the Indonesian National Gallery.” The video performance mapping appears to be a dynamic observer-focussed experience enhanced by video, lighting and sound effects. Sounds fun.

HumanistFreedoms.com readers, whether already familiar with Affandi or not, may enjoy exploring Affandi’s art and perspectives. Fortunately for those of us not currently able to access the gallery can use our internet browsers to good effect (see Sources, Citations and References for some handy links). Here are a few Affandi attributions that we found interesting:

  • “For me, my movement is humanism. What it means is that I paint based on humanity. Because of that, I cannot proclaim that art is for art. For me, the title of artist is too grand. Call me a painter or better yet, just human.
  • My subjects are expressive rather than beautiful. I paint suffering – an old woman, a beggar, a black mountain … My great wish is that people learn a little from my work. I do know the danger of doing paintings with this in mind.
  • Affandi once defined humanism as meaning “all that is right and good to every living creature. When I am making a painting, and suddenly I hear a child that is crying because its doll has fallen into the water, I have to stop painting and help the child first.”
  • According to Christies, “as a humanist at heart, Affandi believed in the universal human experience above all else and dedicated his life’s practice to capturing the essence of the human condition in his paintings. This determination to depict life truthfully set him apart from the romanticised depictions of Indonesia…Affandi avoided omitting the candid and ugly, choosing instead to frame these untainted moments as crucial to our understanding of human nature.

Affandi’s art is often described as being “expressionist”. We have found at least one explanation of Affandi’s expressionism as being an outlet for a significant concern for freedom of expression. To what extent such an explanation of Affandi’s art is accurate is difficult to confirm, but there seems to be a reasonable alignment of the perspectives we have found and such an interpretation of his artistic philosophy.

Exploration of an painter’s art calls for presentation of at least one or two samples. Here are a few that caught our attention:

Affandi, the maestro of expressionist painter from ...

Kartika Affandi » Museum Affandi

Sources, Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of http://artcraftgiftideas.blogspot.com/2014/07/affandi-maestro-of-expressionist.html
  2. http://www.affandi.org/affandi/biografy-affandi
  3. https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2020/11/12/national-gallery-brings-affandis-paintings-to-life-in-immersive-spectacle.html
  4. http://galeri-nasional.or.id/newss/525-membaca_affandi_hari_ini
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affandi
  6. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,826081,00.html
  7. http://www.artnet.com/artists/affandi/
  8. https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/affandi-indonesia-1907-1990-market-scene-6146919-details.aspx
  9. http://www.the12list.com/2017/05/12-things-about-affandi.html
  10. http://www.affandi.org/
  11. https://www.luxartasia.com/2016/08/mini-exhibition-shows-affandis-humanist.html

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Stanford Medicine: Fostering Humanism Through PPE

PPE. Personal Protective Equipment. Such a cold and distant term, isn’t it? Due to the current social and regulatory environment stimulated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this clinical term is rapidly becoming part of routine conversation in non-clinical settings. Are the service providers in your community (retail clerks, travel-industry personnel, bank tellers, automotive mechanics) wearing their PPE? Are you wearing yours?

A rallying-cry for 2020/2021 may well turn out to be something like Mask-Up-For-Health! However, with all of this masking that has been going-on, it may be argued that some essential components of human interaction are being lost. It is comforting to observe that some folks in the healthcare field have begun to consider and act on this possibility.

A team at Stanford Medicine and partnered with The Arnold P. Gold Foundation and Occidental College have asked: How can we foster humanism in medicine, when the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is required and providers don masks, glasses and gowns to protect their eyes, noses, and mouths from COVID-19?

Now there is an excellent and necessary question.

ppe

Lead: Cati Brown-Johnson, PhD

Team: Mary Beth Heffernan, Paige Parsons, Juliana Baratta, Alexis Amano, Mae Verano, Cynthia Perez

The team states that, “We believe PPE Portraits may support patient care and health, and even healthcare team function and provider wellness.

PPE Portraits are one possible solution: disposable provider portrait picture stickers (4×5) affixed to PPE where patients can see them. Our brief pilot showed signs of interest and adoption: a participating physician requested PPE Portraits at their clinic and masked medical assistant team-members required PPE Portraits to wear over scrubs.

How does it work? The Stanford Medicine team is taking a position that it is not unlike how a placebo works, ” we know that provider warmth and competence are positively associated with health at the biological level. Personal protective equipment (PPE) signals competence; portraits could be one of the only signals of warmth for patients who have, or may have, COVID-19. PPE Portraits are disposable portrait picture stickers (4×5 inches) put on PPE that can help patients and providers form a personal connection to positively impact patient health.

In a Smithsonian article, the project is described as “a way to reintroduce the aesthetic of kindness into patient care“. Fostering humanism is fostering an aesthetic of kindness. No surprise to the humanistfreedoms.com team!

The concept has been with Heffernan since at least 2014, based on an article on hyperallergic.com. Journalist Laura C. Mallonee quoted Heffernan as saying about an ebola epidemic in the news at the time, “Wouldn’t they be less frightening if the person on the inside was pictured on the outside?

A humanist approach could make a pandemic less frightening? No surprise to the humanistfreedoms.com team! Good ideas deserve to be shared.

Health care workers
Photo Courtesy of SmithosianMag.com (reference below)

If you are affiliated-with or aware-of an institution whose clientele may benefit by a PPE portraits launch or by participating in ongoing research, you may wish to consider contacting Cati Brown-Johnson or Mary Beth Heffernan.

If you found this article interesting, you may also wish to see these earlier articles:

  1. Critically Thinking About COVID 19 – Part I
  2. Critically Thinking About COVID 19- Part II
  3. Gold Humanism Society Inducts Class of 2021

Sources, Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://med.stanford.edu/pcph/research/ppe-project.html
  2. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/health-worker-portraits-buoy-spirits-covid-19-patients-180974681/
  3. https://hyperallergic.com/199732/picturing-the-people-inside-ebola-hazmat-suits/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Humanist Wins 2020 Ottawa Book Awards

HumanistFreedoms.com is thrilled to celebrate the recent announcement that one of our favourite poets and humanists, Henry Beissel, is a winner of the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards.

Henry Beissel is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, translator and editor. He has published 44 books published including 22 collections of poetry. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Arlette Francière, the literary translator and artist. While copies of the critically acclaimed Cantos North(1980 & 2017) and a poet-autographed copy of Fugitive Horizons (2013) adorn our shelves, it was Beissel’s Footprints of Dark Energy (2019) which caught the eye of the Ottawa Book Awards jury (Paul Carlucci, Lyse Champagne, Amatoritsero Ede).

Jury Statement for Footprints of Dark Energy: Part Idyll, part love song and mostly about man in nature, Henry Beissel’s Footprints of Dark Energy approaches the sublime in its epic treatment of its subjects. The meditative undertones of the shorter poems coalesce into the epigrammatic wit of the long title poem, and all are bolstered by the narration’s majestic sweep. 

The title poem of this collection takes us on an epic journey across past and present historical events and through spaces defined by the natural sciences, as it explores the challenges of being human in these troubled times. It is accompanied by a gathering of shorter poems that confront the dark forces in our world as they struggle for the light at the end of the tunnel. In stark imagery, these poems turn words into music to celebrate the anguish and the glory of being alive.

Courtesy of Youtube and the ongoing COVID-19 social environment, you can enjoy a highly personal, yet socially distanced, reading by the poet himself:

Since 1985, the Ottawa Book Awards have recognized the top English and French books published in the previous year. Both languages have categories for fiction and non-fiction. All shortlisted finalists receive $1,000 and each winner receives a prize of $7,500. 

Footprints of Dark Energy

Winners of the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards were announced during a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at 6:00 p.m. To watch a recording of the event, please visit:

Ottawa Public Library’s Facebook page!

Congratulations Henry! And well done! We admire the many contributions you have made to humanism and poetry.

Sources, Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://ottawa.ca/en/arts-heritage-and-events/ottawa-book-awards#2020-winners-and-finalists
  2. https://www.henrybeissel.com/
  3. https://www.cbc.ca/books/beverley-mclachlin-henry-beissel-win-2020-ottawa-book-awards-1.5772822
  4. https://ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/beverley-mclachlin-beissel-among-winners-of-ottawa-book-awards
  5. https://theworldnews.net/ca-news/finalists-announced-for-2020-ottawa-book-awards
  6. https://canlit.ca/article/gifts-for-the-journey/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

BOOKS: Pre-order Opportunity

You may recall Ray Argyle from his July 2020 article here on humanistfreedoms.com. If you’re as crazy for the history of humanism and secularism as we are, you’ve been anticipating the release of his biography of George Jacob Holyoake for months. Well the pre-order opportunity is here!

What follows is the press-release information shared with us…and now with you.

Secularism, the world’s most widely applied model for the separation of church and state, has freed peoples and their governments from control by religious authority. At a time when it is being challenged by evangelical Christianity and fundamentalist Islam, Inventing Secularism, the first modern biography of secularism’s founder, George Jacob Holyoake, is scheduled for the Spring 2021 list of McFarland & Co.

Ray Argyle, Canadian biographer of French president Charles de Gaulle and American ragtime composer Scott Joplin, writes that George Holyoake “changed the life experience of millions around the world by founding secularism on the idea that the duties of a life lived on earth should rank above preparation for an imagined life after death.”

Jailed for atheism and disowned by his family, Holyoake came out of an English prison at the age of 25 determined to bring an end to religion’s control over daily life. He became a radical editor and in 1851 invented the word secularism to represent a system of government free of religious domination. Inventing Secularism reveals details of Holyoake’s conflict-filled life in which he campaigned for public education, freedom of the press, women’s rights, universal suffrage, and the cooperative movement. He was hailed on his death in 1906 for having won “the freedoms we take for granted today.”

More than 160 secular and humanist organizations around the world today advocate principles set out by George Holyoake in his newspaper The Reasoner and in hundreds of lectures as well as books and pamphlets.

Argyle’s Inventing Secularism warns that a rise in religious extremism and populist authoritarianism has put secularism under siege in countries ranging from the United States to such once staunchly secular nations as Hungary, Poland, Turkey and India. He writes that Holyoake “looked beyond his own time, confident of a future of moral as well as material good, offering an infinite diversity of intellect with equality among humanity.” 

Inventing Secularism, US$45.00, is available for pre-order at https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/inventing-secularism.  

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, is located in Jefferson, North Carolina, and is one of the leading publishers of academic and scholarly nonfiction in the United States, offering about 6000 titles in print.


Sources, Citations and References

Featured Photo Courtesy of https://rayargyle.com/a-radical-life/


The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Film: My Father And The Man In Black

We recently received email messages headed with a question that is both intriguing and a bit dodgy. “Would you walk away from a million dollars to preserve your integrity?

What’s all this about then….

Well, filmmaker Jonathan Holiff, “whose award-winning 2013 documentary, My Father and The Man In Black, chronicles the unlikely, rocky relationship between the legendary Johnny Cash and his longtime manager, Saul Holiff” has recently released a 55-minute video version of Zoom Talk on the topic of Managing Johnny Cash as a Jewish Atheist.

According to the information we’ve found, “Following his father’s suicide, Jonathan discovered hundreds of letters, audio diaries and recorded phone calls with Johnny Cash during his pill-fuelled 1960s, triumphs at Folsom and San Quentin, marriage to June Carter, and when he became an evangelical Christian. In the early 1970s, at the height of the singer’s career, Johnny Cash was “born again.” The drama that followed between the country star and his manager, born out of concern for Cash’s career, saw faith and reason collide. When one man finds a new calling, the other has to choose between his job and his self-respect.

The talk was hosted by the Jewish Community Centre of Victoria. You can catch up on Jonathan Holiff’s website.

Watch the Movie Trailer below:

At the time this article is published, you can also buy or rent the full movie through Youtube.

Money versus morals. It’s not exactly a foreign question to those who have questioned matters of religion or faith. Would you walk away from a million dollars to preserve your integrity? We think it happens all the time…..


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of http://jonathanholiff.com/speaking/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Books: Great State: China and the World By Timothy Brook

It approaches impossible to be a humanist without eventually trying to reach an understanding of the politics of China. Enter just about any conversation about secularism and sooner or later someone is going to mention the human rights record of the Chinese government over the last 80 to 100 years. Here’s a book that may be a good place to move toward an understanding of China’s immense history.

Great State: China and The World was published in 2019/2020 by one of Canada’s leading scholarly experts on China. It is a collection of thirteen historical vignettes written to support its author’s thesis that China is, and has very nearly always been, a “Great State”.

Timothy Brook is a professor at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver). A native of Toronto and graduate of the University of Toronto, Brook moved from Toronto to become principal of St. John’s College at UBC in 2004, where he was named to the Republic of China Chair. Brook previously held positions at the University of Alberta, Stanford University, and the University of Oxford, where he was Shaw Professor of Chinese from 2007 to 2009.

Book Marks reviews of Great State: China and the World by ...

At a little over 400-pages, the entire book is well-worth reading; however humanistfreedoms.com found particular interest in ….Chapter 8: The Missionary and His Convert, a chapter providing some interesting insights into how China’s political leadership has approached religious influences in the country. The chapter is set in the early 1600’s and reviews political events stemming from the arrival of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in China. Brook demonstrates that some leading Chinese political forces felt that “...these foreigners were not official envoys from their rulers. There were protocols for receiving tribute envoys, but these men had entered China without having received such clearance. That they were in China to speak of matters of Heaven – which could be construed as infringing on the divine authority of the emperor – only made the illegality of their status that much more offensive.” (pg. 203)

It is not uncommon for Western people to view China as having been cut-off from the world (i.e. Europe) for must of its existence. Brook attempts to dispel this view as a myth. But he also reinforces, in this chapter and others, the deep concern Chinese political leaders have had regarding foreign influence in their country’s affairs. The lesson seems to be that foreign influence that is cut-off is very different from foreign influence that is limited and controlled.

Another valuable chapter to the humanist student is Chapter 10- The Lama and the Prince, dealing with the Dalai Lama and China’s occupation of Tibet – what Brook describes as China’s act to “reimpose its active sovereignty over the territories of the old Great State.

Despite being reasonably attentive readers, we found it difficult to locate where Brook differentiates a “Great State” from an “Empire”. Clearly in certain parts of Western culture, the words empire and imperialism carry a great deal of baggage. The words bring up notions of militarily-strong foreign control and influence of local populations.

In the book’s introduction, Brook argues that Great State is an “Inner Asian concept. It is not a term that Chinese today will recognize, let alone accept, but it has hugely shaped Chinese Political thinking since the time of Khubalai Khan. Before the 1270s China was a dynastic state in which one family monopolized power at the center because, so the theory went, Heaven had given that family an exclusive mandate to rule.. What changed with the coming of the Mongols was the deeper conviction that this mandate entailed the right to extend the authority of that one family out across the entire world, incorporating all existing politics and rulers into a system in which military power is paramount. This was the Great State, and this is what China became.

The book is well-worth the time spent.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2020/03/25/China-Pandemics-UBC-Expert/
  2. https://www.harpercollins.com/blogs/authors/timothy-brook
  3. https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2019/09/myth-chinas-great-state
  4. https://history.ubc.ca/profile/tim-brook/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Photography of Fred Stein

How often have you seen a photograph of a brilliant scientist, let’s take Albert Einstein as our example, and thought or exclaimed – “There! There is an individual with a fine mind and exceptional abilities!”?

More than once, we would guess.

Did you also wonder about the fine mind and abilities on the other side of the camera? The featured photo here and others that you may view on Artsy or www.fredstein.com, you may find examples of the photographic craftsmanship of Fred Stein.

According to Artsy, a website for promoting and selling of art, Stein was a German refugee, committed humanist, and early exponent of handheld photography. Stein fled his home country for Paris and later New York, where he captured both the poetry of the streets in joyful photographs and the luminaries of the 20th century in sensitive portraits. Despite the desolation and upheaval of the 1930s and ’40s, Stein found hope and beauty in city streets, taking photographs that conveyed his profound honesty and concern for his fellow human beings.

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958
Portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958 (www.fredstein.com)

Meanwhile http://www.fredstein.com says that Stein was born on July 3, 1909 in Dresden, Germany. As a teenager he was deeply interested in politics and became an early anti-Nazi activist. He was a brilliant student, and went to Leipzig University, full of humanist ideals, to study law. He obtained a law degree in an impressively short time, but was denied admission to the German bar by the Nazi government for “racial and political reasons.” The threat of Fascism grew more and more dangerous and after the SS began making inquiries about him, Stein fled to Paris in 1933 with his new wife, Liselotte Salzburg, under the pretext of taking a honeymoon.

Our understanding of historical events and persons is often deeply influenced by photographs we have seen. The engaged expressions of Roosevelt or Einstein on this page may act to establish details of our individual and collective understanding of who these people were. That these images were crafted and informed by a humanist artist seems essential to comprehending the people and events that are captured in the images. These are humanist images and it is eminently humanist to reflect on the the rich and important humanist history and perspectives operating on both sides of the lens.

By the way, you may currently find other Fred Stein images for sale via Artsty. Viewable at the time this article was published are the wonderful Times Square in the Rain and View of Manhattan (New York), 1945.


Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of http://www.fredstein.com/
  2. https://www.artsy.net/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Books: Kingdom of Frost

An award-winning science journalist explains what Earth’s frozen waters tell us about the past, present, and future of humanity.

Bjørn Vassnes is one of Norway’s leading science journalists and has won several national and international prizes. He has a regular science column in the newspaper Klassekampen, and has written several books for a popular science audience. He was also part of a popular Science TV-show “Schrødingers Katt” on NRK. Vassnes has been around the science journalism block. Having grown up in the Norwegian Arctic, one of the coldest places on Earth, he also knows his way around cold weather.

Vassnes frostens rike hd

The cryosphere, what Vassnes calls “The Kingdom of Frost“, is a term for those parts of the earth that contain frozen water; like snow, ice, permafrost, glaciers and even a phenomenon known as invisible glaciers. It’s a part of the world that is close to the hearts of Norwegians like Vassnes or Canadians like us at humanistfreedoms.com. The book benefits from a consciously Norwegian outlook.

Vassness explores how this shrinking frozen zone, from the peaks of mountains to the north and south poles, is still vital to human survival. It supplies us with water and helps cool cities from Bangladesh to Bangkok, Los Angeles to Oslo.

To tell the story of how the cryosphere helped to start life on Earth, Vassnes draws on cultural history and anthropology. He also offers a view on what will happen if it all disappears. Vassnes surveys climate research, biology, cultural history and archaeology. Weather you live in it or not, The Kingdom of Frost affects all life on earth.

Plus there are important summaries of recent climate science such as methane bubbles and explosions in Northern tundra and deep concerns about the potential effects of permafrost thaw. Vassness cites work by Ted Schuur which suggests that the upper 10 feet of permafrost, which contains more carbon than is currently present in the atmosphere, may thaw over the next 100 years.

Kingdom of Frost didn’t take us long to read as it is a slim (less than 200-pages) book and the English-language version was nicely translated by Lucy Moffatt.

Kingdom of Frost

Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://www.dagsavisen.no/kultur/nekter-a-svare-om-margbok-1.283400
  2. https://greystonebooks.com/products/kingdom-of-frost
  3. https://norla.no/nb/books/927-the-kingdom-of-frost
  4. https://moffatt-editorial.com/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.