Miriam Beerman: 1923–2022 NOTHING HAS CHANGED Opens Fall Season at Monmouth University
Exhibition shines a spotlight on the late Miriam Beerman, a New Jersey artist whose works are included in the permanent collections of over 60 museums worldwide and a female pioneer in the 20th-century art world
WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ—The Monmouth University Center for the Arts announces the launch of its fall 2022 season with Miriam Beerman: 1923–2022 NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
The exhibition showcases Beerman (1923–2022) as one of the 20th-century’s most provocative artists, whose humanist expressionist works highlight her talent as a colorist. A pioneer as one of the first female artists to be given a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Beerman is part of a canon of 20th-century women artists who were nearly lost to obscurity due to their gender in a male-dominated art world.
The show runs from September 6 to December 11 in the Rechnitz Hall DiMattio Gallery in the Monmouth University Center for the Arts. The opening reception is September 22 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Influenced by the social injustice seen around her, Beerman shines a spotlight on the horror and pathos of man’s inhumanity to man. The themes prove to be timeless, resonating today as much as when they were created in the 20th century. Her life and art were explored in the 2015 documentary Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos.
Nearly 20 large-scale canvases by Beerman will be represented. The show is guest curated by gallerist James Yarosh and draws upon the recent exhibition Miriam Beerman – REDISCOVER, shown at James Yarosh & Associates Gallery in Holmdel, N.J., which opened in spring 2022. The exhibition, Miriam Beerman, 1923-2022 NOTHING HAS CHANGED marks the second guest curator role at the university for Yarosh who curated Sheba Sharrow: Balancing Act in 2017. A companion show of Beerman’s works on paper and collages is simultaneously on view at James Yarosh & Associates Gallery.
“Living with Miriam Beerman’s paintings at the gallery with the current exhibit REDISCOVER, one cannot help but be both moved and stirred to be in the presence of the colossal works, heavy with paint, laden with subject. When you see these humanist expressionist works existing silently, holding the weight of the world, you begin to understand the gallery’s presentation,” says Yarosh, a gallerist fueled by curatorial activism in recent years. “As I described Miriam’s art with clients, it occurred to me that those words also described the role of female artists of the 20th century whose voices were more stifled in favor of male artists—and of women’s roles in a patriarchal society.
“If our art history is male-dominant, and the artists before us our teachers, we are only getting half the lessons to be learned,” he continues. “We have an opportunity to do better. This presentation with Monmouth University allows the conversations to continue and include a younger generation.”
“NOTHING HAS CHANGED picks up the dialogue from the 2017 Sheba Sharrow: Balancing Act exhibition. Although their art is different, the mission is similar: A female artist who rails against social injustices in her art as a call to action to evoke change,” says Scott Knauer, Director of Galleries and Collections, Department of Art & Design, Monmouth University. “Much of the subject matter that Miriam Beerman delved into is still so relevant and threatened today: political, social, religious rights, women’s rights and threats against minorities.”
The show’s title piece, Beerman’s 1999 canvas Nothing Has Changed (shown above) is described by Yarosh as “a later work, a portrait of a monumental female face, whose eyes are closed in resignation of her role. She disappears behind the facade of joyous yellows and pink, and yet her hopes are painted on the right—an abstract dream vision of her imagined joy, to run away, to color outside the lines and create her own ideas of ‘happy ever after.’ The archetypal portrait is Beerman’s Mona Lisa, except here, the smile is upside-down.”
Gallerist Mitchell Algus and artist Heather L. Barone (a mentee and longtime assistant of Beerman) and Corey Dzenko and Theresa Grupico in the Monmouth University Department of Art & Design are contributing to the catalogue. A smartphone tour is also being planned with a potential online discussion with artist, author and former Asbury Park Press art columnist Tova Navarra. Other planned events include a series of salon evenings, a Q&A evening with the Expressing the Chaos filmmaker and an event closing show. For details on upcoming events, visit the “What’s New” page on the James Yarosh Associates Fine Art & Design Gallery website: jamesyarosh.com.
ABOUT MIRIAM BEERMAN: Miriam Beerman studied painting at the Rhode Island School for Design, where she earned a BFA. Afterward, she spent two years in France as a Fulbright Scholar, working in Atelier 17 and having her painting critiqued by Marcel Brion. In New York, she studied with Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League and Adja Yunkers at the New School for Social Research. She has had over 30 solo shows, including at the Brooklyn Museum, Graham Gallery, the New Jersey State Museum and the Everson Museum.
Beerman’s work is included in many major collections, including Metropolitan Museum, Whitney Museum, LACMA, National Gallery of Art, Phillips Collection, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in England, the MEAM in Spain, the Israel Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., among others. Beerman’s painting “Scorpio” is also currently on display as part of The Vault Show exhibit at University of Arizona Museum of Art through fall 2022. She has won many awards, including awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, RSID and others.
ABOUT MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY: Monmouth University is the region’s premier private coastal university offering a comprehensive array of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in a dynamic and personalized learning environment. Located in West Long Branch, New Jersey, Monmouth University’s magnificent coastal campus is approximately one hour from both New York City and Philadelphia. Innovative academic programs, individual faculty attention, and nationally ranked Division I athletics make this private university a great place to find your future.
ABOUT JAMES YAROSH: Established in 1996, the James Yarosh Associates Gallery in Holmdel, New Jersey, was founded upon and remains loyal to its vision: to represent fine art for art’s sake and to curate gallery collections and thoughtfully present art and interior design specification with an artist’s eye and understanding. Yarosh, an artist and well- published interior designer, offers a full-scale gallery and design center where clients can associate with other like-minded individuals located just one hour outside Manhattan.
Yarosh advocates for what greatness looks like in the arts, showcasing at his destination gallery the works of both new and established museum-recognized artists of merit in a space designed to replicate the intimacy of an artist’s home. Current exhibitions such as Miriam Beerman – REDISCOVER (2022), The Humanist Show (2021), Sheba Sharrow: History Repeats (2020) and the NYC art fair Art on Paper (2021) help foster the idea of art as intellectual engagements that sit above decoration in design hierarchy, adding exponentially to the experience of living with art.
Citations, References And Other Reading
Featured Photo Courtesy of :
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.
In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following articles and studies were located on the APA website and in several online publications.
Self-referencing affects perceptions of workplace discrimination against atheists.
Cantone, J. A., Walls, V., & Rutter, T. (2022). Self-referencing affects perceptions of workplace discrimination against atheists. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000466
The number of self-identified atheists and nonreligious individuals is increasing, yet research examining discrimination toward atheists in the workplace remains rare. The present study expands prior work on religious hostile work environment complaints to one involving an atheist employee alleging discrimination. In the present study, 234 students and community members (gender: 133 women, 93 men, 6 nonbinary/transgender, 2 unreported; religious status: 126 religiously affiliated; 75 “none”; 10 atheist; 6 agnostic; 17 unreported) were recruited to complete an online legal decision-making study. Participants read the complaint of an atheist employee alleging that an Evangelical Christian supervisor’s proselytizing constituted discrimination. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions varying the complainant’s gender (male; female) and student status (student; worker) to examine the role of similarity. Participants completed legal measures from both the objective perspective required by the law and their own subjective perspective to examine the role of self-referencing. Participants’ subjective ratings of whether the conduct would constitute discrimination if it happened to them generally affected their objective ratings of whether the atheist employee had been discriminated against. Religious status similarity, as well as gender, affected participants’ legal ratings. In particular, nonreligious, atheist, and agnostic participants were more likely to see the conduct as discrimination, while Evangelical Christian participants were less likely. Results show that self-referencing and similarity affect how people perceive workplace discrimination faced by atheists. Recommendations for future research and workplace trainings are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)
Being agnostic, not atheist: Personality, cognitive, and ideological differences.
Karim, M., & Saroglou, V. (2022). Being agnostic, not atheist: Personality, cognitive, and ideological differences. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000461
Why do several nonreligious people self-identify as agnostic and not as atheist? Beside epistemological differences regarding what is knowledgeable, we hypothesized that such a preference reflects (a) personality dispositions, that is, prosocial orientation, open-mindedness, but also neuroticism, (b) cognitive preferences, that is, lower analytic thinking, and (c) ideological inclinations, that is, openness to spirituality. In a secularized European country (Belgium), we surveyed participants who self-identified as Christian, agnostic, or atheist (total N = 551). Compared to atheists, agnostics were more neurotic, but also more prosocially oriented and spiritual, and less dogmatic.Strong self-identification as atheist, but not as agnostic, was positively related to analytic thinking and emotional stability but also dogmatism. Nevertheless, spiritual inclinations among both agnostics and atheists reflected low dogmatism and high prosocial orientation, and, additionally, among agnostics, social and cognitive curiosity. From a personality perspective, agnostics compose a distinct psychological category and are not just closet atheists. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)
Explaining anti-atheist discrimination in the workplace: The role of intergroup threat.
Rios, K., Halper, L. R., & Scheitle, C. P. (2021). Explaining anti-atheist discrimination in the workplace: The role of intergroup threat. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000326
Based on the common ingroup identity model and Intergroup Threat Theory, as well as the fact that atheists are among the most stigmatized groups in the U.S., the present experiments tested whether and why people would be less willing to accommodate atheist (relative to Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) employees’ religion-related requests in the workplace. In three studies, participants responded to vignettes depicting an employee who requested to express his/her religious beliefs (or lack thereof) at work—for example, by displaying a quote at his/her cubicle or wearing a pin with a religious (or non-religious) symbol. As predicted, participants were especially unlikely to honor the atheist employees’ requests; this effect was driven by participants’ perceptions that the atheist employees posed a symbolic threat (i.e., were trying to impose their beliefs onto others; Studies 2–3) and, to a lesser extent, a realistic threat (i.e., jeopardized the organization’s economic status and resources; Study 3) in the workplace. Though the effects of participant religiosity were inconsistent across studies, the tendency for reluctance to accommodate the atheist employees’ requests was slightly stronger among religious than non-religious participants. Implications for how anti-atheist bias at work arises and can be mitigated are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)
Under legal pressure from a humanist parent, a school without a religious character in Worcestershire has radically altered its planned Key Stage 4 curriculum for 2022/23, in order to make sure that its religious education is fully inclusive of humanism.
Humanists UK, which supported the parent, said the decision marks a ‘significant win’ in making sure that schools do not force a narrow curriculum on children, and says the Department for Education and other schools must now make sure that such a broad curriculum is also offered everywhere else. In a timely coincidence an amendment to the Schools Bill, to replace RE with ‘religion and worldviews’ education in schools without a religious character, is due to be debated during Report Stage of the Bill on the afternoon of 12 July. The amendment is being proposed by crossbench peer Baroness Meacher.
Humanist parent James Hammond launched the case after learning that his child was being mandated to study an RE GCSE with a syllabus that was not inclusive of non-religious worldviews. No additional teaching was to be provided to make up for this exclusivity. All other schools in the academy trust apart from the one in question appeared to provide inclusive RE. Furthermore, since the school did not provide alternative GCSE options for those withdrawing from RE, if Mr Hammond withdrew his child, then they would have missed out on one GCSE qualification compared with their peers.
The academy has agreed to meet the parent’s request by providing, in addition to the GCSE course, two other units of RE, one for Year 10 and one for Year 11, focusing on non-religious worldviews and taught from a critical and objective perspective. Each unit will run for 6-7 weeks, and will meet the requirement to accord equal respect for non-religious worldviews in RE, as established in 2015 by the Fox case.
Parent James Hammond said:
‘I’m delighted that the school has conceded in this case, and by so doing accepted that its RE provision for years 10 and 11 was unlawful, due to not being inclusive of non-religious worldviews.
‘It was wholly wrong that a school of no religious character was imposing such a narrowly-focused RE curriculum on 15 and 16 years olds: at that age they are developing advanced powers of reason and thought, so to deny them the ability to learn about non-religious beliefs and values was both discriminatory and short-sighted, given the increasingly non-religious demographics in Britain.’
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said:
‘This is a significant win. The Fox case in 2015, which was supported by Humanists UK, clearly set a legal precedent – this school should never have forced Mr Hammond into taking this action in the first place, and we are glad that it eventually conceded the case.
‘But the fact that the school was able to behave in this way in the first place was due to a failure of leadership by the UK Government. We’d much rather not be going through the courts – the Government must enable the Schools Bill to bring this case law onto the statute book, by accepting today’s amendment on religion and worldviews education.’
Dan Rosenberg of Simpson Millar said:
‘While my client is pleased that the case has been resolved in a way that enables his child to be taught RE in a more inclusive way, it should not have required the threat of legal action to resolve this. Mandating a GCSE course focused exclusively on religious worldviews for all pupils, at a school without a religious character, and as the entirety of their RE provision, was always going to run into legal trouble. The school has sensibly acknowledged the need for a significantly wider offering.
‘My client hopes that other schools will take a cooperative and responsible approach to providing non-discriminatory, inclusive education for all children, and no other parents will need to instruct solicitors to ensure that their concerns and beliefs are taken seriously.’
To all of Don’s many friends and family, HumanistFreedoms.com would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy. if you have memories or sentiments to share, please add them as comments or send an email and we’ll be proud to share them on this page.
Recollection by Eric Adriaans
A little over a week ago, I received an email message from an old friend that said simply, “Don died on Sunday. We’re all a bit shocked. I’ll let you know more soon.” Messages from old friends can be like that sometimes. There doesn’t really need to be more -every word carries its own freight of memory and significance. Old friends know how utterly, deeply felt and shared is the loss of a friend like Don Cullen.
I first met Don in the cramped and stuffy Toronto offices of Centre For Inquiry Canada (CFIC) at the corner of Yonge & College in the spring of 2014. I had recently joined the organization and wasn’t altogether certain whether I had gotten my myself and my career onto a pretty unusual path. Then Don popped-in for a visit, wearing what seemed to be a kind of trademark big-grin-avec-fishing-vest ensemble, and we chatted for quite a long time.
We chatted about the forming of CFIC and some of the other humanist organizations in Toronto and Canada; also about Don’s interests, career and memories. He told me about the Bohemian Embassy, about his poetry and about his deeply-felt and long-considered ideas about humanism and atheism. Don’s warmth, humour and intelligence were a welcome indication that I probably was on an unusual path – but there was wonderful company to be had. It was Don’s first of many gifts and lessons to me about humanism. It’s a gift I try to carry and share that gift of welcome and community with others.
I wasn’t aware at our first meeting, but Don was one of the people who helped to create CFIC. Later, I was able to obtain some recollections from him about this history and I want to recall some of that here.
In the late 1990’s, a vibrant American import name, Terri Hope, became coordinator of the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT). Membership was growing and George Baker became a life member. George was a non-academic intellectual. Because of the Great Depression, he had left school in grade seven. Tests for air crew in the Royal Canadian Air Force proved George to be above average intelligence. It got him interested in great ideas. He read, attended lectures.
At that time, HAT had no home base. There was a phone number and an answering machine, a fax number and a website. Many HAT members wanted a store-front, a gathering place….a home. Proposals were made. George Baker was more than interested. Hard work and good luck had brought serious financial rewards and he wished to do something for Humanism.
I had presided over four incarnations of the Bohemian Embassy coffee house where Margaret Atwood, Ian & Sylvia Tyson, Al Purdy, Gordie Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Bill Coshy and many more performed. I arranged a meeting with George. He and I had already become acquainted with the Centre For Inquiry in Amherst, New York. Paul Kurtz, the founder, Tom Flynn and Joe Nickell had spoken at HAT events. I had attended talks in Amherst and CFI presented a 2-day conference at the Ramada Inn on Jarvis Street. They indicated a desire for a Toronto location and sought cooperation from HAT. Nothing resulted. Some say it was apathy among HAT members, fear of American domination or was it that CFI Los Angeles had drained the exchequer!
HAT members Ron Burns and Jim Cranwell joined George and me. Using the CFI model, we envisioned an umbrella organization with HAT, HAC and the Toronto Skeptics sharing the same roof. We needed a location. Feeling a need for more youthful participation, we wanted to be close to the University of Toronto and consulted Neil Wright Real Estate. he found us a location on Harbord Street. It needed a lot of work. George hired an architect. Plans were drawn up. A strike at City Hall delayed approval month after month. George, in his 80s, couldn’t stand the delays. He sold Harbord Street and got out.
Robert Buckman, an internationally famous oncologist had come to Toronto. He had a lot of TV exposure in Great Britain, had partnered with Monty Python’s John Cleese in several projects. He did several programs on TV Ontario. He had a high profile and he replaced Henry Morgantaler as President of HAC. HAT and HAC presented some events under Rob’s direction. Membership at HAT soared well over 200.
Quite separately, things were happening at U of T. It was decided to create a multi-faith Centre. Two students objected. Independently, Jenny Fiddes and Justin Trottier felt that a university should be secular, supporting no religion. Religion might support colleges but not the university. Where did atheists fit !?
George Baker and I heard about it and gave them a couple of hundred bucks for stamps and envelopes. I was on the HAT Board of Directors and proposed for Jenny and Justin to make presentations on the U of T campus. They were successful with considerable interest in Humanism and Atheism. George and I arranged a lunch at Bumpkins Restaurant with Justin, Jenny and Rob Buckman. Rob imagined a Humanist Drop-in Centre near the university. A meeting with Henry Morgantaler, Rob, Ron Burns, Jim Cranwell and me occurred and we decided we would do it. I contacted Mr. Wright and he found 216 Beverly Street.
The umbrella organization idea began to unfold. The skeptics were skeptical and decided not to participate. The Humanist Association of Canada wanted their headquarters to stay in Ottawa. A vote of HAT members was 100% for moving in and the organization was set up. The student team at U of T was enthusiastic….(more on the CFIC website)
It is eminently fitting to re-share one of Don’s own stories. Whether it was the forming and re-forming of the Bohemian Embassy or helping to shape humanist communities – Don seemed always, when I was with him, to be sharing a story. But also creating a stage for those around him to sing just as purely, laugh just as joyfully, think and feel just as deeply and shine just as brightly as he did.
Don was a wonderful human and a wonderful humanist.
Reflections by Richard Thain
I first met Don at a Humanist Association of Canada (HAC) conference almost four decades ago, and it was a pleasure knowing and associating with Don through HAC (now Humanist Canada), Humanist Association of Toronto, Centre for Inquiry Canada, etc.
As most of us know, Don was a creative dynamo, entertainer, writer, and Canadian cultural luminary. In addition to his professional work, Don found the time to support numerous secular humanist organizations. He regularly attended and contributed to humanist conferences, was a founder of Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT), and Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC). Don was an articulate and staunch supporter of all our humanist causes. One of the last conversations he had, before he died, was about how extremely upset he was over the recent news from the USA, regarding the overturning of the Roe (v) Wade decision.
In recent years, while visiting Toronto, I occasionally was able to join Don, Jim Cranwell, and other humanist, atheist friends, at their Friday afternoon social and discussion sessions. The conversations were always fascinating and enlightening, to say the least. On one such visit, he passed me his brilliant Quotesanon pamphlet. The pamphlet included a poem which he had written:
A Found Poem by Don Cullen
An eye for an eye
Makes the whole world blind. *
Only human kindness
Will save humankind. **
* Accredited to M.K. Gandhi
** Accredited to Bertrand Russell
Don Cullen was a thoughtful, generous, creative, and compassionate man. Last week we lost a wonderful friend – a great Canadian humanist.
Citations, References And Other Reading
Feature Image Courtesy: Dr. Richard Thain
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.
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World Humanist Day in 2022 is Tuesday, June 21. Falling on the (northern hemisphere’s) summer solstice, it is the day designated by humanist organizations around the world to celebrate the positive, world-improving values of humanism. Whether and how you may celebrate humanism in your life, these are just two new steps we’re taking to expand our celebration of humanists and contemporary applied humanism.
On February 24, 2022, the Russian military invaded Ukraine. Whether this conflict should be considered any more or less serious than other global conflicts may be a matter for historians to consider at some future date. Currently, however, this seems to be a very concerning situation as it is viewed by some as the largest military assault in Europe since the 1940’s. This attitude seems to ignore the Bosnian war of the early 1990’s, which was no small incident.
Setting aside comparisons, the conflict in Ukraine may well be a world-changing situation. So HumanistFreedoms.com is interested to know what humanists and humanist organizations have to say. Following is a sample of what we’ve found. Are you a humanist and have something to say? Do you know about a humanist position on this situation that we ought to cover? Let us know.
February 28, 2022: Humanists International Says “Human Rights Council must act in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”
Ahead of an urgent debate at the UN Human Rights Council on the Human Rights situation in Ukraine following the unprovoked and illegal invasion by Russia, Humanists International is calling for the creation of a UN mechanism to monitor and report on the situation in Ukraine and for Russia to be suspended as a member of the Human Rights Council.
During the opening of the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council – which began this morning – Ukraine called on the Council to approve the holding of an urgent debate following the Russian invasion on 24 February.
When requesting that the debate happen, the Ukrainian Ambassador, said, “The reason for this request is known to the whole world. Russia, a member of this Council, perpetrated an unprovoked and unified attack on Ukraine.” She noted that, “Russian aggression is accompanied by a massive flow of disinformation that aims to distort the truth and mislead the international community. Some of it we will hear today, as well as in other rooms of the [UN] Palais des Nations.”
Members of the Human Rights Council approved the request of an urgent debate to be held, with 29 out of 47 countries voted in favor. China, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela and Eritrea voted against having the debate. Armenia, Cameroon, Gabon, India, Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Namibia, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Uzbekistan abstained.
The debate is scheduled to happen on Thursday 3 March and Friday 4 March.
Ahead of the debate, Humanists International is calling for the debate to lead to the adoption of a resolution unequivocally condemning Russia’s violations of international law, including international criminal law, international human rights law and the UN Charter. It should recognise that Russia’s actions against Ukraine constitute an unprovoked and illegal invasion, and one which has, and will, result in massive human rights violations.
It is also calling for the resolution to:
Call on the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia’s membership of the Human Rights Council (in line with GA Resolutions General Assembly Resolution 60/251);
Create a Commission of Inquiry, to monitor and report on the situation in Ukraine and to promote accountability for all human rights violations;
Mandate a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Russia itself. The oppressive human rights climate in the Russian Federation itself (including the severe restrictions on free expression, the widespread propagation of disinformation, the repression of civil society, and the intimidation, censoring and criminalisation of journalists) all contribute to the Russian government being able to wage a war of aggression without accountability at home.
March 1, 2022 on Pressenza: A Guide for Peace in Ukraine: A Humanist and Nonviolent Proposal
The Centre for Humanist Studies “Exemplary Actions”, the Portuguese branch of the World Centre for Humanist Studies, an organism of the Humanist Movement, is disseminating a non-violent proposal for the restoration of peace in Ukraine, inviting citizens and non-governmental organisations who identify with it to sign it and send it to the Russian, Ukrainian and American embassies, as well as to the United Nations (UN), the European Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of their respective countries, to sign it and send it to the Russian, Ukrainian and American embassies, as well as to the United Nations (UN), the European Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of their respective countries, in order to produce a popular outcry capable of influencing the course of events.
For your information, we transcribe here the humanist proposal in its entirety:
A nation is defined by the mutual recognition established by people who identify themselves with similar values and who aspire to a common future – and this does not necessarily have to do with race or ethnicity, or with language, or with History understood as a long process that begins in a mythical past;
This mutual recognition between people can lead to the formation of national or plurinational States, as well as the existence of nations spread over several States, without this implying the loss of the individual’s sense of belonging to their community or preventing the possibility of convergence in diversity;
States do not have the potentiality to constitute, by themselves, nations and can, therefore, be transformed throughout history, since they are, for all intents and purposes, changeable social and political constructions, as models of governance of peoples ;
National minorities have, in any case, the right to have their cultural specificity recognized, as well as the right to self-determination, within the framework of a democratic federative organization and respect for human rights.
And recognizing that,
Peaceful conflict resolution requires each party to put itself in the other’s shoes, opening itself to a process of cooperative negotiation and reciprocal treatment;
National interests must be reciprocally attended, as far as possible, but they do not justify everything, nor can they override the human being as a central value and concern;
The freedom of choice of individuals and peoples only exists if it can be exercised without external pressure and interference, imposed in a violent way;
Humanity’s progress is not made through the constitution of empires or supranational entities that alienate the power of the social base in favour of particular economic interests, but through the construction of a Universal Human Nation, diverse and inclusive, governed by freedom, equal rights and opportunities and non-violence;
We propose the following guide for peace, given the difficult situation currently experienced on Ukrainian territory, with a view to halting the unacceptable return to war on European soil, which has caused so much life and destruction in the recent past:
Immediate ceasefire between the warring parties and opening of humanitarian corridors for assistance to civilian populations;
Withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory and creation of a multinational peacekeeping force, constituted under the aegis of the United Nations (UN), for the Dombass region;
Temporary demilitarization of Dombass by the belligerent forces and the possibility of the return of refugee civilian populations;
Organization of a fair and free referendum on the self-determination of Dombass territory, under UN supervision, with a commitment to the acceptance of the respective results by the interested parties;
Organization of a fair and free referendum on the self-determination of the territory of Crimea, under UN supervision, with a commitment to the acceptance of the respective results by the interested parties;
Adoption of a status of political-military neutrality by Ukraine and recognition of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, depending on the results of the aforementioned referendums, by Russia;
Lifting of all economic sanctions between the parties and resumption of international political and economic cooperation.
Conducting international talks on nuclear and conventional disarmament at regional and global levels.
March 4, 2022 : The Ontario Humanist Society Condemns Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
OHS calls for Russia to cease its illegal and unprovoked actions, and to cease all challenges to Ukraine’s independence. Russia must terminate its violation of international law and of the UN Charter, and withdraw from Ukraine immediately. There is no justification for this aggression and the cost will be borne by innocent Ukrainians. As Humanists we can NOT turn away from this humanitarian crisis. We encourage OHS members to stand behind the Ukrainian people through the many opportunities available to us, some suggestions are listed below. Our Ethical Actions Committee will further examine steps we can take to continue to show our support for Ukraine.
If you would like to donate to support Ukraine, here are some charities that you might wish to consider:
Or seek out an on-line petition that supports your point of view. Thank you for joining the OHS board in condemning this travesty that is unfolding before us.
Kerry J. Bowser President, OHS
March 14, 2022: The Gold Foundation’s Statement in Support of Ukraine and Humanism
These tumultuous and uncertain times demand of us the greatest possible expression of humanism. As Dr. George Thibault, Trustee of the Gold Foundation, has said in his defining essay on this topic, “It will be hard to have humanism in medicine if there is no humanism in the world around us.”
These attacksare the essence of anti-humanism, sparing no human interests, values, and dignity. They are both direct attacks on humanism in healthcare, the sphere of our work, and on the wider humanism in our world, literally the foundation of freedom, compassion and science.
Still, through the scenes of rubble and destruction, we see humanity. Humanity in the healthcare heroes dodging artillery as they work tirelessly on the frontlines of the conflict. Humanity in those rising to defend their homes, their country, and democracy at large. Humanity in the charitable donations and mobilization here in the United States and around the globe. Humanity in a time where home can be everywhere and nowhere all at once, an unfortunate truth that tells the story of so many refugees from war and conflict throughout our world.
At the Gold Foundation, in thousands of ways, we’ve seen Gold community members apply compassion, collaboration, and scientific excellence in practical, real-life ways throughout their clinical work, teachings, talks, and relationships. The culture of humanism in healthcare is the bedrock of the Gold Foundation, influencing all of our work, creating the structure and draw of the Gold community and its Gold Humanism Honor Society, whose Advisory Council voted unanimously to publish a statement on the inhumanity of the tragedy in Ukraine. It is joined by the entirety of the Gold Foundation family in standing with the efforts of humanists around the world who rally together and further humanism in all its forms. The Ukrainian people and all people affected depend on the shared mission of humanism, in this crisis and in the years to come.
March 16, 2022: Humanists International says: Belgian Humanist convoy reaches Ukraine border with humanitarian aid
After a journey of 1,500km, employees from deMens.nu and Centre d’Action Laïque reached Medyka, a village on the Polish-Ukrainian border, on Monday night.
Four vans, packed with medical supplies and other necessities, were unloaded at the tent camp yesterday, then sorted and distributed to Ukrainian refugees .
“We are all very impressed by what we have seen. It is quiet in the car, words fail everyone . Despite the confrontation with a lot of human suffering, I am particularly proud of our humanist community, which has shown its full force,” says Yasmina El Boubkari.
deMens.nu is still collecting funds to help Ukrainian refugees. You can donate to BE 55 9734 2242 6344.
With this money, deMens.nu and CAL are buying bandages, syringes, infusions,, paracetamol, ibuprofen, isobetadine, styptic drugs, antibiotics, haemostatic agents, but also baby food, milk powder, wet wipes, sanitary towels, candles, diapers, thermal blankets, gloves, hats, stockings, backpacks, thermal clothing, ski clothes, sleeping bags, food preserves and ready meals.
With the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers’ Union of Canada, Humanist Ottawa hosts this afternoon selected readings from the works of Henry Beissel, award-winning poet, playwright, essayist, translator and editor. Henry is a past winner of the Ottawa Book Award for his book of poetry, “Footprints of Dark Energy”.
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.
Henry Beissel is author/editor of 44 published books. Among his 22 collections of poetry are his epic “Seasons of Blood” and the lyrical “Stones to Harvest” as well as his celebration of Canada in “Cantos North” and the 364 haiku in “What if Zen Gardens …”. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Arlette Francière, the artist and literary translator.
In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think humanistfreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was found on Pressenza on August 16, 2021.
Pressenza is a space open to the expression of the social base. We endorse a universalist humanist perspective…(more about Pressenza at the bottom of this article).
A Filipina from Manila, Philippines. A longtime Humanist. A Creative Director and Advertising Communications professional for many years, she has been active in the Community for Human Development, facilitating workshops for personal and social change to help build a culture of peace, nondiscrimination and nonviolence. She is currently a freelance writer and a volunteer editor-writer for Pressenza in Asia.
August 15, 2021. The World Humanist Forum- Asia was officially launched with the participation of over 105 individuals, many representing humanist organisms and other NGOs/groups, all sharing the same vision of a non-violent and non-discriminatory humane world, and working in their different fields towards that vision—humanizing the earth. The Forum connected and linked participants coming from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Japan, Australia, also from Africa, Europe, North and South America.
Sudhir Gandhotra facilitated so that the participants could discuss, interchange and be inspired by each other to continue with their actions and to reach more people in the region, to address crucial issues of violence and discrimination that all face in their personal and social lives.
To start the forum, he defined that the humanist is someone or anyone who believes in non-violence and is against discrimination and violent action. He quoted from Silo, founder of New Humanism and the Humanist Movement:
“Namer of a thousand names, maker of meanings, transformer of the world, your parents and the parents of your parents continue in you. You are not a fallen star but a brilliant arrow flying toward the heavens. You are the meaning of the world, and when you clarify your meaning you illuminate the earth. When you lose your meaning, the earth becomes darkened and the abyss opens.
I will tell you the meaning of your life here: It is to humanize the earth. And what does it mean to humanize the earth? It is to surpass pain and suffering; it is to learn without limits; it is to love the reality you build.
I cannot ask you to go further, but neither should it offend if I declare, “Love the reality you build, and not even death will halt your flight!”
You will not fulfill your mission if you do not apply your energies to vanquishing pain and suffering in those around you. And if through your action they, in turn, take up the task of humanizing the world, you will have opened their destiny toward a new life.”
The opening remarks given by Antonio Carvallo set the tone further:
Dear Dr. Mathai, dear Mr. Rajagopal, dear Ms. Sudha Soni, dear Sudhir, dear Ajeet. Dear friends representing the organisms of the Humanist Movement and Silo’s Message, dear friends who accompany this occasion.
I am delighted to be celebrating the launching of the Asian Humanist Forum, with all of you. Our aim is to communicate to the world Silo’s message of Humanization with the goal to construct a Universal Human Nation. What better a day than today, the anniversary of Indian independence so strongly associated with the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and his universal call for non-violence.
The Forum aspires to send a renewed and powerful appeal to overcome suffering, capable of sounding meaningful and providing direction to every individual.
That message is a message of faith, of compassion, of recognition and trust in our own inner force, capable of guiding us through the most difficult circumstances. A message that persuades us to treat others as we like to be treated.
A message that helps everyone to connect with themselves, to access the profound and sacred that lies in our hearts and minds.
In times of big instability and confusion, like the present one, when even nature appears unpredictable and threatening, we need to hold together and find support in our center of gravity.
We think that the world is changing for the better and that we are at a turning point in our civilization, in the process of transforming into a universal human nation. This is new and unprecedented; we are facing the need for a profound change both socially and individually. The human being must be the central value in this change. We must learn to eradicate violence from our minds and our societies, since both are inextricably intertwined. This task needs to be undertaken now by every one of us.
This is in summary the message the Humanist Forum should aspire to deliver everywhere and to everyone. Because it is good, because it is just and because it is urgent.
To make it possible we all need to work together.”
After this, a tapestry of missions and visions, of actions and campaigns strung together with the thread that humanizes, commenced. Participants heard from Ghandians about their peace and non-violence programs, from grassroots NGOs addressing the different needs of the communities and sectors of society they work in, be they Muslims or young women who need education, about foot marches across India being planned from September 21, Day of Peace to October 2, Gandhi’s birthday, which is the International Day of Non-violence. And more…
Representatives from the five organisms of the Humanist Movement talked about what they do and stand for. The Community for Human Development works in the social field, helping “to raise the level of consciousness”. The Humanist Party is in the political field which greatly affects everyone, aiming to restore real power to the people and not resting on the interests of a handful. The Convergence of Cultures organism espouses the need for all the cultures to coordinate, coexist and learn from each other, acknowledging and respecting cultural diversity. Aspiring towards no borders, World without Wars and Violence, the organization that launched the Global March in all continents in 2009 calling for an end of nuclear arms and disarmament, is launching another World March. Now, it is expanding its scope from war and armaments to all forms of violence and aiming to educate the youth, the next generation, on the principles of peace. The World Center of Humanist Studies analyzing the crucial issues affecting the world today, looking for proposals and solutions. And, as all human beings have a spiritual part within, the messengers inspired by the book, The Message of Silo, works to carry peace within themselves to others.
The forum was spirited and lively, even going beyond the foreseen time as everyone shared and started connecting with each other. After an Asking to strengthen the resolve to carry on with the Forum’s mission, closing remarks pointed out that the internet was and is able to create and forge links. Thanks to this, it is helping to connect like-minded people within the environment of the World Humanist Forum which was just officially launched and will help it to go forward into the envisioned future. The website can play a big role to connect people across countries as organizations and individuals can join the Forum, inform, get in touch and collaborate with others. (https://www.whfasia.org/)
Everyone left, greatly inspired to expand this Humanist Work even to other Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan. As a participant, Pradeepan Madathil, commented, “ This is the voice of the times. The unity of non-violent peoples around the world, the togetherness of the volunteers, and the current global community waiting for such unity”
cooperation agreements and partnerships with other agencies, as well as reciprocal links with portals, platforms, news and communications media of specific communities and cultures. Pressenza is part of an extensive network of new media that achieves global reach for local proposals while they are supplied information with the material provided by the agency. Pressenza consists of volunteers with extensive experience in communication, social activism, cultural and academic fields. The agency is independent from any economic interest, the basic condition for its autonomy. We are columnists, reporters, photographers, graphic designers, videographers and translators on five continents who contribute our professional work without financial compensation. First established in Milan, Italy, in 2009, Pressenza is legally registered as an international agency in Quito, Ecuador since 2014 (Memo # SNC-DAL-2014-0011-O # 037 Agreement of June 4th, 2014 of the National Ministry of Communications) and we are organised into decentralized teams and newsrooms. With a presence in 24 countries, we issue our daily news service in English, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Greek and Catalan.
2020 was HumanistFreedoms.com’s first full year of operation. We enjoyed publishing articles promoting and celebrating humanism and our common humanity. We thank our contributors, readers and visitors for making http://www.humanistfreedoms.com a unique online magazine.
Please follow our website, share articles with your friends and help us grow. At the end of February, we had reached half of the views we had for all of 2020! As the month of July comes to an end, we’ve surpassed our total views from last year!
Now for 2021 we are looking for even more essays, articles and stories to share! We are not able to pay for articles (yet) but we want to hear what you have to say. This month, themes that we want to explore include:
Contemporary Humanism’s Biggest Priorities and Challenges for 2021
Leadership Within The Humanist Movement
Humanism and Secularism
Humanism and Human Trafficking
Humanism and Global Population
A Humanist Perspective of Radical Politics
Humanist Photography: Photographer Review
Humanism in the Arts
Humanism Behind the Mask: Maintaining Respect and Compassion During the Pandemic
Humanism and the Environment
Humanism and Freedom of Expression: Lessons From 2020
Humanism and Freedom of/from Religion: Global Lessons
Humanism and Architecture
Book/Movie/Music/Arts Review: A Humanist Recommends….
Do you have an idea that isn’t on our list? Let us know. Inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published in other venues that we think humanistfreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was published on February 22, 2021 on:
Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism
Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson
The novel coronavirus had not yet been recognized when Yasmin Mohammed (2019) published her memoire blaming “Western Liberalism” for failing to protect her from forcible confinement and beatings she suffered as a child. Following an intervention by child welfare authorities, a Canadian judge acknowledged her suffering but refused to intervene in her parent’s “cultural (Muslim) ways.” Early the following year journalist Margaret Wente was removed from an honorary position with a Canadian university following a social media mobbing in which she was accused of being a racist and anti-feminist (Wente, 2020). “Due process” which would have allowed her to defend herself from the allegations was not given. In March, 2020, demonstrations spread throughout North America and into other continents following the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis, USA. Systemic racism was assumed to be the cause. During the same year many schools and colleges in the United States ended achievement testing as a requirement for admittance, and employers paid for employee re-education sessions.
Pluckrose and Lindsay (2020b) named the movement behind these interconnected events “Critical Social Justice,” but this paper develops an argument that these events were influenced by an underlying social contagion that can be better understood as a mind virus. In developing this argument, it is first necessary to describe the “body” that may be infected by such a virus. The self is proposed as that body in the next section along with an evolutionary account of its development. In the second section of this paper I apply a model that allows us to recognize a mind virus to the modern cultural phenomenon of “wokeness.”
The self as a mental analogue to the body
The self is core to such psychological concepts as self-esteem, self-concept and self-empowerment. In this section, I describe how this evolved cultural construct became the paradigm of practice within the profession and how cultural units may attach themselves to this self. I discuss the historic tension between collectivism that gives definition to ourselves as a social species and the individualism inherent in a self capable of volitional planning and consciousness. I conclude this section by reviewing how we might determine this self has become infected by other units of culture that serve to appropriate the self’s resources.
Most current schools of psychotherapy emphasize individual choice with respect to personal development with the implication that selved individuals are making these choices. Classical behaviourists (Skinner, 1974) presented an alternative view that consciousness and the self that has it are unnecessary distractions preventing a scientific examination of behaviour. In keeping with this deterministic view, behaviourism focused on helping patients using classical and operant conditioning as opposed to cognitive processing. Behaviourism delivered impressive results in treating such conditions as depression, anxiety, alcoholism, trauma and conduct disorder, and in so doing, providing concrete evidence that we are a species whose behaviours are determined by genetic and environmental factors. Despite these successes, behaviourism failed to become dominant in the profession. As we shall see, this failure was grounded in a species-wide consensus on the mental attributes of humanness. Its successes, however, suggest a way that mind viruses could operate to undermine those attributes.
Thomas Kuhn (1970) described psychology as a “proto-science” for failing to develop a unifying paradigm that would take it out of the domain of philosophy and into the domain of science. Hutcheon (1996) identified three “formations” that potentially could have become such a paradigm: Psychoanalysis, genetic developmentalism, and behaviourism. She identified behaviourism as the most fruitful of the three; however, she concluded it failed “because it attacks the very roots of our cultural assumptions” (p. 261). These cultural assumptions include: 1) human beings have minds, 2) minds presuppose the presence of beliefs, and 3) beliefs are only possible if there is the notion of objective evidence by which we can determine truth.
Many academics have endorsed the determinist alternative to these cultural assumptions, that consciousness, free will and the self are illusions (Blackmore, 1999; Coyne, 2012; Cronin, 2003; DiCarlo, 2010), but the practice of psychotherapy has proceeded in the opposite direction. By the twenty-first century, even those who still called themselves behaviourists were talking about personal choices and cognitive distortions, thus sounding very much like the therapists who now called themselves cognitive-behaviourists. Classical behaviourism had encountered an already-established paradigm that humans are thinking animals with minds capable of logical consistency and rational evidence-based assessment. While a profession that is united by these notions could assimilate deterministic methods, it could not capitulate to a determinist ontology because to do so would undermine the foundational assumption of that we are thinking, rational beings.
A mind capable of having beliefs necessarily posits evidence for those beliefs–evidence that, in turn, presupposes a reality that the mind can understand. Moreover, a mind with the ability to assess evidence, independently and temporally, could not exist without self-awareness. But the self, defined by these capabilities, represents a relatively recent cultural adaptation (Robertson, 2020) that embodies a tension between individualism (with its sense of volition, uniqueness, constancy and reflectivity) and collectivism (with its sense of community, social interest, attachment and productivity). The two case studies that follow illustrate the self in map form, and how that self may change.
Therapeutic change to the self of two clients
“Suzie” (Robertson, 2011) had attempted suicide five times before I saw her. When established methods of treating suicide ideation failed to bring necessary results (cognitive behavioural therapy, Adlerian psychotherapy, narrative therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), I suggested that we map her self to find out what was blocking treatment. We began by identifying units of culture that represented who she was. Each referent word, or meme, included connotative meaning, affect and associated behaviours. Using the idea that connotative, affective or behavioural similarities between memes could be represented as links, we produced the map in figure 1.
Few memes in figure 1 suggest individual volition or social interest. A meme labeled “depressed person” is central and attempts to remove it prematurely had destabilized the entire structure. We began to move or remove memes supporting the placement of “depressed person” as central while building a new core with a focus on social interest and volition. Suzie could now visualize a better self and accept evidence that it was true. Her suicide risk receded. She found achievement and recognition when she relocated to a new community.
When I presented this case study to a doctoral class, one participant declared that I was simply doing cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). From that point of view, the map suggested cognitive re-framing, supplemented by behavioural “homework assignments.” These challenged negative memes such as “ugly” and supported a new “human rights” core. A narrative therapist in class disagreed, suggesting that memes provided the outline of a story, and I had helped my client write a better one. Actually, I began my career as an Adlerian psychotherapist. This anecdote illustrates that the self, as pictured here, is fundamental across psychotherapeutic schools of practice.
Figure 1: Initial self-map of a youth with suicide ideation, showing memes in relation to each other
About a decade after I worked with Suzie, another client, “Olivia” came to me with symptoms of PTSD after being raped by a friend during a night of heavy drinking (Robertson, 2016). After a month of CBT-informed treatment, she was able to return to work. Nonetheless, she acknowledged a personal history that included failed relationships, alcohol abuse and the loss of child custody. She asked for further psychotherapy, focused to become a better decision-maker. We began by developing the self-map represented in figure 2.
Figure 2: A self map of a woman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder
The bottom bar represents the biological forces that sometimes triggered various clusters of memes labeled “imperfect,” “spiritual / fitness” and “social self.” Thick arrows represent the influence of her family, spouse and work on her self-definition. To the extent that biological and environmental forces control the structure of the self, we can say that it is “determined.” During the course of treatment, we were able to add or modify several memes in Olivia’s “imperfect self” giving her a more balanced identity. She developed a sense of empowerment and volitional control, both of which she used to maintain her commitment to behavioural change. She no longer defined herself as a depressed person, although she acknowledged that everyone experiences sadness and depression on occasion. She developed new associations between clusters that gave her the ability to choose to not ruminate on her deficiencies. We added a second bar, below the menu of emotions, to recognize her “psychological characteristics” such as intelligence, introversion and self-assurance.
Significantly, Olivia now found restrictive the very relationships that she had found to be supportive during her bout with PTSD. Her spouse now accused her of wanting to be better than him, possibly when she refused to join him on his drinking binges. Her employer refused to allow her enough latitude to make decisions on the job. Her mother would unexpectedly enter her house searching for the drugs that she assumed were stashed there. Olivia came to the insight that her spouse, employer and parents had not changed—but that she had changed. If she wanted to keep her newly minted self, therefore, she would have to move to another community. With the help of distance-counselling and some new friends, she re-established herself elsewhere and even negotiated new boundaries with her family.
A determined species unchained and re-chained
As can be seen from the examples of these two clients, the social environment is a powerful determinant of who we are. Determinists would say that psychotherapists, directed by their programming, overpower the other determinants that keep their clients’ old selves in place. Determinists would have more difficulty, however, in explaining why both clients chose to move to other communities without the advice of their therapist. To argue that therapists unconsciously push their clients in such directions requires the assumption of unseen forces. A simpler explanation would be that most of our decisions are determined but that, with hard work and mental resources, we can make decisions at variance from our memetic and genetic programming (Robertson, 2017a).
In The Evolved Self (Robertson, 2020), I argue that volition and temporal constancy combined with a more primal self as recently as the beginning of the first millennium BCE. Our sense of constancy, that we are in some important sense the same person over time, allows us to think about our selves in remembered events while considering how we might have influenced alternative outcomes. Using a similar mechanism, we can imagine our selves in the future and predict outcomes on the basis of available evidence. What constitutes evidence will necessarily, at least in the first instance, be learned. If having a better grasp of reality ultimately favours better outcomes then cultures will evolve in that direction. For example, the scientific method, which originated in post-Enlightenment Europe, has brought about a revolution in new knowledge. The method itself has been appropriated by most non-European cultures where “culture” is defined as current practices, values and artifacts.
Beliefs are possible only in the mind of someone who accepts that there is some way to differentiate truth from falsehood; and that implies an objective reality. To change a belief about oneself, one must first take oneself as an object that can be examined. Unfortunately clients cannot change who they are at will. Like Suzie, they often resist changing even dysfunctional selves. They need evidence to support desired changes; otherwise it feels as though they are merely play-acting.
The rejection of classical behaviourism by psychotherapists, despite its demonstrated efficacy, flowed from deeply held cultural assumptions about what it means to be human. The combination of behaviourism with cognitivism suggests a form of compatibilism, that the concepts of free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive. The ideal of free will became part of our self-definition flowing from culturally evolved changes to the self (Robertson, 2020). While assumptions of personal volition, continuity, and reason became the benchmark of what it means to be human, we do not always attain this ideal. Psychologists are in the business of teaching clients the skills that they need to approximate this self. To Sagan (1996) that ideal involved doing science: “Every time we exercise self-criticism, every time we test our idea against the outside world, we are doing science. When we are self-indulgent and uncritical, when we confuse hopes with facts, we slide into pseudoscience and superstition” (p. 27).
Taking the objective view, as is necessary in science, does not come naturally to the human species. Jaynes (1976) said pre-Homeric Greeks relied on pre-programmed cultural responses to triggering events and when an event occurred that had not been prepared for in their cultural programming they reacted in a random, sometimes schizophrenic way. After a study of early Egyptian hieroglyphics, Johnson (2003) concluded that the early Egyptians did not have minds, as we would now define the term. A simpler explanation is that they did not have the kind of self that we take for granted today.
The individualism that forms a part of what I call “the modern self” (Robertson, 2020) was a potential threat to the stability of pre-modern societies made up primarily of people with a different kind of self. Since the self is a culturally mediated construct, by controlling available memes, collectivist societies can limit the possibilities available for self-construction. Acceptance of such constraints can be supported by appeals to authority, particularly religious authority. The Axial Age of the first millennium BCE (Jaspers, 1951; Mahoney, 1991) produced major world religions that were concerned with regulating the self in some ways. Early Confucian thought dealt with the moral development of the self in relation to the collectivity infusing it with a sense of duty to ancestors (Wu, 2017). Hindu thought divided society into a series of castes with a full education available only to the Brahmin caste. The Buddhist doctrine of “no-self” required initiates to place themselves under the direction of masters who represent the Buddha himself. Like Judaism, Christianity, has held that people must renounce the self, because human reasoning is faulty and true knowledge is divinely inspired. These teachings are consistent with a hypothesis that while the presence of people who could engage in individual volition and planning were valued, their abilities needed to be regulated.
Although the medieval Roman Catholic Church encouraged the practice of science that was consistent with its theology, the Protestant Reformation coupled with the re-learning of classical Greek philosophy in the scientific Renaissance of the sixteenth century led to the Enlightenment that began with Descartes, Bacon and Newton in the seventeenth. This Enlightenment did not invent individualism; it proclaimed that the individualism already inherent in the self that allowed for the determination of objective reality was good. Since a healthy self also requires relationships with others in the form of social interest, collective identity and intimacy, this development did not spell the end of collectivism, and each “individualist” society has retained or created ways of expressing communal or group identification.
In The Evolved Self, I argue that the struggle between collectivism and individualism occurs, in the first instance, within each person’s self. I argue also that, for the most part, we remain the determined beings that we have been throughout most of our history as a species; but also beings with the capacity to reflectively reprogram ourselves by acting on reasons that matter to us as individuals. If we view this conscious self that is capable of such reflective thought as analogous to the body, then we need to consider that memes and meme complexes (which are not part of the self but nonetheless exist in culture) can be deleterious to it. These meme complexes would be analogous to viruses that can enter the body.
The emancipation of the self was not welcomed by everyone. People with functional selves face responsibility, after all, for their own well-being. They must realistically assess their circumstances, selecting those that would provide meaning and purpose, but also implement plans to assure their own happiness. My private practice is beset with clients who would rather place the responsibility for their own well-being on others. In his examination of totalitarian movements following World War II, Eric Hoffer (1966/1951) noted, “The frustrated follow a leader less because of their faith that he is leading them to a promised land than because of their immediate feeling that he is leading them away from their unwanted selves” (p. 110).
Building on the religious trope that our selves are inadequate, Martin Heidegger (1962) deconstructed science and reason by claiming that only one who is “Dasein” could know ultimate truth. “Dasein,” in Heidegger’s idiosyncratic usage, includes being present simultaneously in the past, present and future which only a few can achieve. He named himself and the fuehrer as Dasein. German psychologist Eric Fromm (1969) described the relationship between the totalitarian dynamic and the self:
There is the wish to submit to an overwhelmingly strong power, to annihilate the self, besides the wish to have power over helpless beings. This masochistic side of the Nazi ideology and practices is most obvious with the respect to the masses. They are told again and again: the individual is nothing and does not count. The individual should accept this personal insignificance, dissolve himself to a higher power, and then feel proud in participating in the strength and glory of this higher power. (pp. 257, 256)
It is frightening to consider that if Suzie had lived in pre-war Germany, a Nazi sympathizer could have suggested not only that she needed to accept her sense of personal insignificance but also that she could do so most effectively by identifying her self with glory of the Aryan race. Incorporating a new ideological or religious meme into one’s self, moreover, includes incorporating whatever attaches to that meme. In this example, Suzie would have felt Nazi militarism, anti-Semitism, and fuehrer worship as essential to her self. If both the Nazi and Suzie were caught in the same contagion, then we could say that one passed a mind virus to the other. In an earlier article (Robertson, 2017b), I listed four conditions necessary for diagnosing such a virus:
A mind virus will result in an observable change or transition in self-definition, one that is neither planned nor related to self-betterment;
The change must involve a diminution or negation of the modern self or its component parts;
The change must involve an appropriation of personal resources for the purpose of spreading the meme cluster in question; and,
The change is likely marked by considerable and uncharacteristic emotional valence.
Is wokism a mind-virus contagion?
The first section of this paper examined the structure of the self. I then proposed an evolutionary understanding of that structure and concluded with four conditions that are needed to satisfy a diagnosis of a mind virus that could be said to infect this self. Before applying those conditions to wokism in this second section, I define the term and explain why it is preferred to other labels sometimes used. Each of these labels are examined in turn: (1) postmodernism; (2) identity politics; (3) neo-Marxism; and (4) social justice (as a movement).
Postmodernism, the view that all knowledge is “socially constructed” and a product of power relationships, provides a method for the woke to attack and discredit competing beliefs. Objective evidence cannot be used to counter these woke beliefs since it is assumed that even science and reason amount to nothing other than a “white, male way of knowing” (Strong, 2002) and is, therefore, a conspiracy to oppress others. Tellingly, however, since they never deconstruct wokism itself, it cannot be said that it is completely postmodern. It is more like a religious faith, something postmodernists considered to be a grand meta-narrative.
Identity politics incorporates the tenet that that people are defined by the oppression that they have endured as members of their own races or other identity groups. Advocates do not apply this analysis to all groups. They describe Jews as white oppressors despite 2,000 years of anti-Semitic oppression. They describe East Asians as “honorary whites,” moreover, because in the United States these U.S. Americans are statistically ahead of actual whites on measures of academic achievement and income. Since identity politics is selectively applied, wokism cannot contribute to a general understanding of racism or oppression.
Most woke people identify with “the Left” and are sometimes referred to as “Neo-Marxists,” but postmodernism classified Marxism as a modernist “grand narrative” (Lyotard, 1984). Wokism appropriated Marx’s theory of class conflict where the “white race” is assigned the place of the capitalist or ruling class. By replacing Marx’s idea of class conflict with cultural warfare they ascribe class solidarity to one’s racial, gender or other assigned oppressed group. Thus, a black person who identifies with non-black workers might be accused of “false consciousness” which is, of course, a reversal of actual Marxism. Instead of striving to eradicate the capitalist class the logic of woke-Marxism would be to eradicate “whiteness” or “maleness.”
The social-justice movements that began in the 1960s aimed at eliminating barriers faced by members of disadvantaged groups. The goal of equal opportunity would permit people, irrespective of sex or racial background to advance on the basis of their motivation and ability. Wokism appropriated the rhetoric of social justice. But by insisting on equal outcomes, instead of equal opportunities, they have devalued merit and work thus reversing the original goals of the social justice movements.
Wokism represents an inconsistent application of various historical, and sometimes conflicting, conceptual paradigms. I now examine this movement for the four conditions outlined in the previous section for determining the presence of a mind-virus.
Condition One: Change in Individual Self-Definition
The form of identity politics, on which wokism relies heavily, gives high status to recognized victim groups—which is to say non-whites, non-heterosexuals and non-males. Moreover, it gives even higher status to people who are simultaneously members of several victim groups under the rubric “intersectionality.” Competition between victim groups for greater recognition rewards people for identifying and fixating on perceived grievances (Noor, Shnabel, Halabi, & Nadler, 2012). One study of university students (Gabay, Hameiri, Rubel-Lifschitz, & Nadler, 2020) identified an emergent interpersonal-victimhood personality type characterized by a pathological need for recognition, difficulty empathizing with others, feelings of moral superiority, and a thirst for vengeance. The study noted that those who have this personality type “lash out” when others question their victimhood or challenge their self-image of moral superiority. Increasing numbers of these self-identified victims create a culture of victimhood in which “the aggrieved actively seek the support of third parties as well as those that focus on oppression” (Campbell & Manning, 2014 p. 692). This culture of group victimhood is gradually supplanting a culture based on individual dignity.
Woke identity politics holds that members of the “white race” are collectively and innately oppressors, which makes them analogous to the capitalist or bourgeois class in Marxism (Campbell & Manning, 2014; Dovidio, Kawakami, & Gaertner, 2002; Pluckrose & Lindsay, 2020b). Because it is assumed, in wokism, that white males have benefitted from “privilege” both racially and sexually, they are not allowed to claim victim status even though they may be victims in many ways. Yet, white males are visibly active in the woke movement. I would expect their personalities and self-definitions to vary from those of other woke people. Here is a case study of woke white male personality based on my personal “lived experience” as a moderator of two humanist discussion groups in 2020.
The first discussion group was “open” in that any member of the group was allowed to post any article or topic providing they had not been previously banned from doing so. Although membership in the group varied between 1,500 and 1,600, active participants on any given post rarely numbered more than 20 except for the most controversial ones. Wokists were active on most controversial posts, and most of these activists were, judging from their profile pictures, white males.
When I actively began to moderate this group, I found woke members swearing at people who disagreed with them, calling them racists, “alt-righters,” and “white supremacists.” The woke members frequently suggested that the moderators should ban such people for not being true humanists. I scrolled through the relevant conversations and found that no one had posted anything that advocated racism or white supremacy. I developed a set of rules to encourage civil discourse and announced that I would delete posts that expressed hatred toward any person or any group. I announced that name-calling would be considered a form of expressed hatred.
“Bill” was probably already angry with me for deleting a post in which he called someone “a racist piece of shit” for suggesting that the authorities should not remove statues of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Macdonald, who gave Amerindian people in Ontario the vote and provided food to ward off starvation, also contracted with four Christian denominations to provide education. Malnutrition, physical and sexual abuses were subsequently found in many of these Indian Residential Schools. I suggested to Bill that Macdonald should not be judged for events that occurred without his knowledge well after his death. His reply was that I was “completely without conscience” and that I favoured “raping and torturing children.”
In a second humanist discussion group, a Humanist Canada board member posted an article about a woke mobbing of a retired professor who had suggested there should be limits to abortion. The woke demanded that this professor lose his emeritus status at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, but the board member suggested that humanists need to fight for the freedom of speech of those even with whom we may disagree. “Jason” replied:
I don’t want anti-choice misogynists to have a platform. Voltaire’s quote you used is nice when you have the privilege to utter it, but it doesn’t mean much to oppressed and marginalized voices to know that their oppressors will continue to get a seat at the table because of some bizarre equivocation around free speech.
Within wokism, Bill and Jason are powerful white males who are assumed to have “voice” and a duty to speak for recognized victim groups whose “voices” are “oppressed and marginalized.” Disagreement with some aspect of a woke narrative identifies oppressors who are to be confronted by the special-status white males. At any point, however, a member of a victim group could find their voice and accuse those who have adopted a saviour role of patronizing them. I observed this in the open humanist discussion group. A board member had created a post with the theme “trans rights are human rights.” A transperson accused the board member of using trans issues to further a political agenda. The member both apologized deferentially and explained, without evidence, that humanists had been posting many transphobic statements which is why his post was needed.
Members of the woke movement who are also members of victim groups and who adopt a personality type consistent with woke narratives will assume a posture of moral superiority. Woke advocates who are white males can forestall negative intervention by these morally superior people by vigorously pursuing attacks on the non-woke coupled uncomplicated by nuance or compromise. We also need to consider the psychological benefits whites may obtain from a process Rene Girard described as “scapegoating” (Girard, 1989). Wokism has labeled whites to be an “oppressor race” with all members presumably guilty of benefiting from this oppressor status. White woke can temporarily transfer this guilt to a named scapegoat who then takes on the sins ascribed to this race. We have seen this process in the example of John A. Macdonald in Canada, attacks on Winston Churchill in Britain and on the founding fathers in the United States. As we will see in the subsequent discussion of woke mobbing, the process of scapegoating can be applied to anyone but in all cases it can only provide temporary psychological relief. While white males are more likely to be selected as a sacrificial scapegoat, as the sacrificial crisis becomes more severe categories start to break down and the actual victim selected by mimetic violence could be anyone. During the height of the sacrifice, it will seem that the victim is to blame for everything.
As can be seen from the foregoing, wokism has the effect of assigning specific personality characteristics to identity groups. While it may be that some people enter the woke movement with such personalities already expressed, the internal logic of wokism pressures individuals to conform to the personality assigned to their particular status.
Condition Two: Diminution of the Modern Self
The first section of this paper outlined how a healthy modern self includes the capacity for relationships with others in the form of social interest, collective identity and intimacy as well as more individualist aspects such as volition, uniqueness, continuity and reason. Combined, this self allows for the objective investigation of external reality. A negation of either our collectivist or individualist qualities would diminish this capacity.
In the humanist discussion groups that I monitored, woke members dismissed as racism or “transphobia” scientific research into the heritability of intelligence and rapid onset gender dysphoria. In doing so, they rely on the critical-social-justice trope that all knowledge is a function of power and is perpetrated by oppressive “discourses.” There is, of course, a contradiction in this argument in that if there is no objective reality, as has to be the case where what is taken as knowledge is a function of power, then there can be no basis to believe that critical social justice is true. In this, the woke are similar to Heidegger who also put limits on science and reason but advocated a “higher authority” to inform the masses as to ultimate truth. The woke present themselves as that higher authority.
A functioning society is impossible if everyone were to uniquely determine their own subjectively held individual realties. If objective knowledge is impossible, then an alternative reality acting in the place of a Dasien must be imposed on non-believers. Free speech is irrelevant in arriving at truth if truth is determined by that higher authority. Indeed, free speech, in such circumstances, is potentially dangerous for allowing other understandings of reality to compete for the minds of those who are to be led. Therefore, the woke have journalists fired, have books and articles withdrawn from publication, “de-platform” speakers, and have professors fired for replacing ideological orthodoxy with heresy. The woke accuse those who fail to conform to their “reality,” of racism, sexism or a host of new “phobias” that no psychologist would ever diagnose. All this is done in the name of those who allegedly lack “voices.”
The voice of former Sacramento Kings broadcaster Grant Napeer was also silenced. Asked his opinion of Black Lives Matter, he said that “All lives matter, every single one.” In an apology, he stated that he had never imagined how the phrase could be offensive to anyone. He was fired on June 2, 2020. Anyone who believes that all lives matter, of course, cannot be racist, but people to whom the woke had given this label had chanted the phrase at counter-demonstrations. As a sports broadcaster, Napeer could be forgiven for not knowing this history. Entertainers, writers and politicians have also been forced to apologize for uttering this anti-racist sentiment. On October 8, 2020 an aboriginal Inuit cabinet minister, Patterk Netser, was removed as housing minister in the territory of Nunavut after posting “all lives matter” on his Facebook page.
The woke list of proscribed phrases includes “sexual preference,” “colour blind” (when referencing racism), “not racist,” and “sex change.” New words such as “intersectionality,” “heteronormativity,” “cisgender,” “microaggression” and “LGBTQ+” are de rigueur. Old words and phrases, moreover, take on new meanings. During the 1970s, for example, “systemic racism” was used in connection with organizational policies and practices that resulted in discrimination. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) during that era had a policy that police officers had to wear a standard issue hat. The effect of that policy was that devout Sikhs, who wear a turban, could not become police officers. That policy was changed. A policy of racially profiling people to be stopped to be searched would also be an example of systemic racism.
In June 2020 RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she had looked at her organization’s policies and procedures and could not find any examples of systemic racism. The prime minister’s office, using a different definition, forced her to recant her views. This more recent woke definition of systemic racism is that if there are differential outcomes, for example in arrest rates, then systemic racism must be the cause.Such a simplistic analysis ignores the need to research complex socio-economic factors that could lead to a higher crime rate over which the police have no control.
The picture that emerges is wokism as a kind of filter, an overlay on actual events. Because we think primarily in words when interpreting events, the woke emphasis on language and language policing is an attempt to force the general public to accept the interpretations this filter produces. Thus, wokism is not merely about restricting freedom of speech, it is about restricting freedom of thought. In trying to control, restrict or inhibit our ability to reason, wokism diminishes these very capacities of the self returning us to a form of pre-Enlightenment collectivism. From this perspective, wokism is not revolutionary but reactionary.
Condition Three: Appropriation of Individual Resources
When a woke participant in one of my humanist discussion groups amended his comments after others had already responded, I viewed it as a personal idiosyncrasy. After three participants did the same thing, however, I took notice. These actions pointed to a psychological means by which wokism appropriates time and resources.
The term “woke” originated as a self-referent by adherents of this odd mixture of postmodernism, Hegelianism, Marxism, “social justice” and religion. Appropriated from African American slang, it represented a slur against those who were not sufficiently “awake” to accept their belief system. Like early Calvinists, who believed that they are predestined to join the “elect” and end up in heaven but still needed to continually demonstrate their piety as a way of proving their claim, the woke need to continually demonstrate their superior insight. In this example, they did not need to change the record to help the unwoke, with whom the conversation had already ended, but to demonstrate to other woke who might come across that record that they are indeed one of the elect. In “cancel culture” individual posts and records are examined dating back decades so that enemies of wokism can be eviscerated and publically shamed. This results in an impulse for woke advocates to not leave any record that might imply they are not sufficiently woke.
One can display one’s woke virtue by participating in internet and media mobbing. In November 2019, Don Cherry, a sports broadcaster who had been baiting liberals for decades on his Hockey Night in Canada program, decided to promote Canada’s Remembrance Day tradition of buying poppies to support programs for veterans. He lamented that no one from Toronto was buying poppies anymore and opined, “You people, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that.” Within two days, the Canada Broadcast Standards Council received so many complaints about Cherry’s “racist” comment that their website went down. But this was not a popular public reaction. Only those using the woke mental filter can see racism in a request to buy poppies. Because the woke were not politically predisposed to watching Cherry in the first place, it is unlikely that many of those who complained actually listened to the program. But Cherry lost his job.
Another venue for virtue signalling involves participation in anti-racist demonstrations. Not all members of Black Lives Matter (BLM) are woke, but those who are, given their allegedly superior understanding, try to occupy its leadership positions. Within three days of the killing of George Floyd by police on May 25, 2020, BLM demonstrations occurred in at least 30 U.S. American cities and others around the world. Eight thousand protesters demonstrated in Portland, Oregon, on May 28. Rioting that included breaking store windows, looting, starting fires, and hurling projectiles at the police began the day after. A pattern of peaceful demonstrations by day and riots by night soon solidified. “Riots,” in this instance, were planned in advance. On Facebook and Twitter, the rioters found locations, times and instructions. They were provided food, medical attention, gas masks and shields to protect them from rubber bullets and tear gas. They were armed with modified lasers, fireworks, clubs, hockey sticks, hammers, and in one case, a chain saw.
Portland city council responded to demands to defund the police by cutting $15 million from its police budget in June. On July 2, several federal policing agencies arrived in Portland to protect federal buildings and monuments. On July 15, Mayor Ted Wheeler said that the federal “troops” were responsible for provoking the violence and demanded their withdrawal. On July 18, rioters broke into the Municipal Police Association building, setting it on fire. On July 30, the federal police were withdrawn. Except for serious offences, rioters went free without bail. According to reporter Andy Ngo, some rioters were charged and released as many as five times.
In August, Wheeler stated that President Trump had caused the riots through his policies. On September 10, in keeping with the demands of protestors, Wheeler banned the use to tear gas by police. Trump was defeated in November, but the riots continued. Following a riot on New Year’s Day, 2021, Wheeler stated that his “good faith efforts at de-escalation have been met with ongoing violence and even scorn from radical Antifa and anarchists.”
Real revolutions are led by real revolutionaries who believe there is an objective reality outside of themselves, and they use that reality to plan. Violence in their world is connected to goals. It may be difficult but not impossible to negotiate with these realists. But Wheeler could not deal with people who have rejected the realist approach. A virus does not recognize compromise, only an opportunity to grow. From a viral perspective, that is what Wheeler provided with his various appeasements. Not that they would thank him. A woke group assaulted him in a Portland restaurant on January 6, 2021.
In this section I outlined a psychological mechanism explaining the extreme attention to detail exhibited by woke in making their presentations. I also reviewed part of a massive social upheaval that is only made possible through a substantial time and financial commitment by woke. Those woke who participate in riots are also risking their physical well-being. It is clear from this account that wokism involves the appropriation of considerable personal resources.
Condition Four: Emotional Valence
Wokism is a morality play involving an epic and enduring struggle between the forces of good and evil. In this respect, it resembles a fundamentalist form of religion. As Eric Hoffer (1966/1951) noted following World War II, “A mass movement can get along without a god but not without a devil. An abstract devil won’t do, it must be tangible. This is why Christians must demonize and dehumanize opponents.
In True Believers, Hoffer (1966/1951) described a subset of people in each religion or ideology who cannot accept the idea that others, with very different beliefs, could have an equal claim to goodness. Minions of the devil in wokism are given names such as “alt-righters,” “racists” and “gender traitors.” But few people actually advocate white supremacy, support racism, or see themselves as traitors to their own genders. Wokists try to resolve the resultant cognitive dissonance by declaring statistical evidence itself to be a product of racism and by resorting to what Nathanson and Young (2006) called “linguistic inflation.” We have already discussed how calling on people to buy Remembrance Day poppies was seen as the hate crime of “racism.” The linguistically inflated hate crime of being a gender traitor was illustrated with an article by a transwoman posted on the “open” humanist discussion group previously mentioned. The article describes J.K. Rowling’s view that sharing safe spaces between women and transwomen is threatening for women as “overblown.” The author conceded, however, that some predatory men could potentially use their access (as transwomen) to gain access. She recommended that trans and feminist communities should negotiate a solution. A fellow moderator deleted the article on the grounds of “hate speech.” If suggesting even negotiation makes one a “gender traitor,” then any deviation at all from woke dogma is tantamount to complicity in evil. This cynical mentality creates a problem for woke people, because conventional wisdom necessarily changes over time. With no central organization to define or authorize such change, woke people protect themselves from internal criticism by being hyper-alert and over reactive.
Compassion and social interest are likely the initial factors by which the woke memeplex attaches itself to the selves of most woke people. But the driving force behind their activism flows from a moral panic—which relies on the assertion that evil people, who must be stopped, are bent on oppressing others. A similar moral panic emerged in 1966 as the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
China’s policies had produced economic failure and widespread famine. A cadre around Chairman Mao Zedong concluded this was the fault of “bourgeois elements” in industry, in government circles and even in the Communist Party. Believers conceded that many of these people were unconscious of their revisionism. Mao organized idealistic students, his “Red Guards,” to save the revolution. They began by revolting against their respective schools and cancelling classes. When huge demonstrations failed to produce the desired change, they began rooting out the evil, identifying members of the “bourgeoisie” by their lifestyle, use of language, family backgrounds, and how well they applied Chairman Mao’s “little red book” of quotations. The Red Guards publically humiliated offenders, who typically lost their jobs. Mob violence was common and killed many people. Academics and intellectuals ended up in remote “re-education camps.” Vandals destroyed books, statues, monasteries, museums and anything associated with “old culture.”
Moral panics in the United States and Canada show some affinity with wokism. Even though almost everyone agreed in the 1920s that drunkenness was a problem, the Prohibition movement claimed that even a little alcohol was evil. Despite good intentions, Prohibition was a windfall for criminal gangs. And with the authorities confiscating alcohol, it became logical to quickly drink all one had resulting in an upsurge in binge drinking.
Fear of communism drove the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Associates, friends and relatives reported on each other to the House Un-American Activities Committee, which made sure that suspected communists were publicly humiliated and lost their jobs and that those who refused to cooperate spent time in jail. The Satanic abuse and sexual abuse scares of the 1990s, aided by the dubious science of Repressed Memory Syndrome, resulted in lost jobs, broken families and many innocents in prison. These North American moral panics intended to change culture in some ways, but they did not require a diminution of selves and thus would not satisfy the definition of a mind-virus used here.
Wokism meets the four criteria used for identifying a mind virus. Because those criteria include the diminution of the self, it should not be surprising that wokism is heavily deterministic. By controlling the outer world of the cultural environment, it seeks to control the inner world of thought. As classical behaviourists in psychotherapy discovered, behaviourism works. Psychologist Susan Blackmore (1999) described humans as “meme machines” with illusions of free will. But she is only partially correct. Ordinarily, we modern humans follow patterns that our parents, teachers, religious leaders or other significant others mandated. Or we perform some behaviours habitually. Nonetheless, we have the capacity to re-program ourselves by focusing our attention, examining evidence, selecting alternatives, predicting results, and changing our behaviours (Robertson, 2017a). This is hard work and time consuming. Wokism seeks to become our significant other, replacing the role of such people as parents, teachers and religious leaders in generating our behavioural programming, while limiting our capacity for self-programming. That a mishmash involving the partial application of often competing philosophies could accomplish this in a largely educated population invites discussion as to its origin.
We can speculate about how a group of old Stalinist academics, sufficiently traumatized by the collapse of the Soviet Union to ignore the postmodernist attack on Marxism as a grand meta-narrative, began experimenting with pieces of various philosophies. Shaped by the reactions of their students, these professors hit on a combination that, though not philosophically consistent, was highly emotive: implanting a feeling of superior knowledge and urgency in their charges along with built-in “attack memes” that prevented them from easily assimilating non-sanctioned points of view. From the perspective of a mind-virus, people become vectors for the purpose of infecting new hosts (Bjarneskans, Gronnevik, & Sandberg, 1997). I doubt that many of the woke have actually read Jacques Derrida let alone Marx, Heidegger, Hegel or the other white males that grandfathered their worldview. Irrespective of its actual origins, this mind-virus has demonstrated a capacity to mutate that defies placement on the political spectrum.
A virus has no ideological loyalty. New mutations can rapidly overtake older ones. While initial varieties of wokism were anti-capitalist, the corporate media and transnational high tech companies (including some of the world’s richest people) have adopted a new strain. Whereas the Left has traditionally challenged the concentration of corporate power, particularly with respect to corporations controlling news, the woke have embraced the rights of private companies to censor viewpoints. We have to consider, therefore, how wokism serves monopoly capitalism. Globalization has lowered the real wages of working class people and reduced the job prospects of anyone with a high school education or less in the United States and Canada. The jobs that these people once held have been largely outsourced to low-wage economies. If the working class is racially divided, which is guaranteed by identity politics, then it cannot be effectively organized by unions or political parties as a class. Wokism provides the capitalists who benefit most from globalization with opportunities to signal their own virtue while cementing in place the very system that created their huge profits in the first place.
Inoculation against a mind-virus is possible through self-education. We need to recognize the code words that woke people use and the contradictions that are inherent in their assertions. This virus normally begins by appealing to our social conscience. If we happen to be members of an identified minority, it appeals to our group loyalty. If that does not work, then the woke typically lash out, as I have shown. We need to recognize the pattern. I recommend a sense of humour to maintain perspective. I do not recommend apologies, because wokists see these as admissions of moral deficiency, and these “admissions” can be used to manipulate others. Instead, we should focus on the deficiencies in wokism and on objectively verifiable facts. Remember that the world has become a much better place in the last 50 years. Poverty, disease, infant mortality, racism, sexism and the murder rate have all declined worldwide. We need to celebrate these advances and protect science and reason that have made them possible. Pluckrose and Lindsay (2020a) said:
We do not believe that bad ideas can be defeated by being repressed, especially when they are as socially powerful as postmodern ideas are right now. Instead, they need to be engaged and defeated within the marketplace of ideas, so that they may die a natural death and be rightly recognized as defunct. (p. 264)
To defeat a mind-virus we must first re-assert the Enlightenment ideal that human beings, through the use of evidence-based processes, can indeed begin to discern objective reality and truth. I hope that I have contributed to this process with this paper.
Paul Nathanson contributed to the sections on linguistic inflation and moral panics in previous discussions with the author. He contributed his extensive editing skills to this project.
Trevor Robertson of Woosong University, South Korea, suggested the use of Rene Girard’s concept of scapegoating. He also assisted in editing this manuscript.
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Appendix I: Footnotes
 Dr. Robertson is Lead Psychologist, Collaborative Centre for Justice and Safety at the University of Regina, Canada. He has published on the structure of the self, the use of prior learning assessment in self-construction, self-mapping in therapy, memetic mutations in religious transmission, and “residential school syndrome” as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. His recent book The Evolved Self: Mapping an Understanding of Who We Are was published by the University of Ottawa Press.
 As used here, reflective thought is a kind of thinking involving situating one’s self in past events.
 In 2017, a founder of Black Lives Matter, Toronto was reported as posting on her Facebook page “Whiteness is not humxness, in fact, white skin is sub-humxn. All phenotypes exist within the black family and white ppl are a genetic defect of blackness” (Curl, 2017).
 This second group is Humanist Canada’s official Facebook page. Only Humanist Canada board members and designated employees could post to this page although all members can respond.
Appendix II: Citation Style Listing
American Medical Association (AMA): Robertson L. Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism [Online]. February 2021; 26(B). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/wokism.
American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Robertson, L.H. (2021, February 22). Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism. Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/wokism.
Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): ROBERTSON, L. Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism.In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 26.B, February. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/wokism>.
Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Robertson, Lloyd. 2021. Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 26.B. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/wokism.
Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Robertson, Lloyd “Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 26.B (February 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/wokism.
Harvard: Robertson, L. 2021, ‘Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 26.B. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/wokism>.
Harvard, Australian: Robertson, L. 2021, ‘Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 26.B., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/wokism.
Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Lloyd H. Robertson. “Year of the Virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 26.B (2021): February. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/wokism>.