Humanist Materialism is a new philosophy emerging from responses to postmodernism amongst feminists, sceptics and left wingers.
The term ‘politically homeless’ has picked up steam in recent years. Many of us have become disillusioned with causes we once believed in wholeheartedly. We have seen weaknesses exposed in feminist, sceptic and left wing circles.
We have maintained our values, but watched in dismay as postmodernism spread across academia and turned once worthwhile principles into their antithesis. Feminism became about catering to men, humanism became about playing along with delusions, internationalism became about abandoning the rest of the world, socialism became about pandering to the middle classes, scepticism became about ignoring inconvenient truths, and antifascism became about censoring dissent.
There are many who share our views – more every day – and yet we are ‘politically homeless’. What I propose is to restore a sense of community by giving a name to the philosophies we share.
‘Humanist Materialism’ serves as both a continuation and a critique of what has come before. It encompasses four key values:
Too often, the individual has been sacrificed on the altar of the ‘greater good’. Too often, those with a dream of a fairer future have attempted to achieve this by making the present much, much worse. We are Humanist because we refuse to sacrifice our humanity – or that of our opponents. Human beings are not pawns in a great game. They are not merely statistics. They cannot be defined by one aspect of their identity alone.
Relativity – moral and cultural – has been responsible for some of the worst abuses perpetrated in the name of ‘tolerance’. We believe that justice is the same everywhere and the struggle is universal.
The perception of the Enlightenment as purely a 16th century European phenomenon ignores the rest of the world and thousands of years of searching for truth and justice. We identify with a universal striving for knowledge and freedom, and so seek to recognise the overlooked contributions of figures and groups throughout the history of the world.
We reject feel good interpretations of non-Western philosophy designed to accumulate money and power or soothe consciences, in favour of a warts-and-all examination of everything.
Although every individual is unique, it is true that there are patterns and systems of human behaviour which should be studied and examined. There exist structures of oppression which need to be dismantled.
We reject subjective, inner claims of self in favour of what can be observed. Furthermore we insist that laws and policies should be based on principles of secularism. Nobody should be compelled to profess belief in anything which cannot be clearly proven.
We cannot respond to the rise of postmodernism simply by calling for a return to modernism. Our ideas and arguments have been forged in conflict with advocates of postmodernism, and are therefore not merely a return to past philosophies. The failures of modernism are, after all, what allowed postmodernism to take root in the first place.
Humanist Materialism also encompasses a critique of Secular Humanism and Historical Materialism, otherwise known as Marxism. Adherents of Secular Humanism have focused too much on the individual and failed to tackle systemic injustice. Meanwhile adherents of Historical Materialism have attempted to sacrifice far too many people on the altar of progress. We can learn from these philosophies. We can admire them for what they have tried to achieve. But we must do better.
You are not lost. You are not alone. You are not confused or misled. You do not need to choose between loyalty to the political left or right when neither are prepared to defend you and your rights. Whether we adopt the term Humanist Materialism or not, we will continue to develop our ideas. We will continue to argue with and oppose the postmodern takeover. We will come together and build, step by step, a better way of doing things.