On World Humanist Day humanist celebrant Angela Johnson had the honour of conducting the daily Time for Reflection at the Scottish Parliament.
Angela made a beautiful speech that looked back at the first lockdown, explained the importance of the arts in growth, and then discussed the fundamental principles of humanism to the chamber.
Watch Angela’s address in the video or read her text below.
‘Do you remember, two years ago, as the first Lockdown was easing, that there was talk about how – when we were back to normal – we would make the way we lived together ‘kinder’? I know we may be in the very early stages of what might be a long arc of recovery, but that ‘back to normal’, now, seems – to me anyway – to be back to the same public and online vitriol, the same judgemental voices …. the very same-old that we didn’t want to go back to.
But I have hope. I have hope that our arts can begin to play their part in our recovery. Because it is perhaps only now that our creative sector, the last of us to get back to normal, is beginning to do its work for us. To entertain us, of course. Which is great. But also, to allow us to see things in a different way – to enable us to feel empathy with those whose lived experiences are not our own.
Our arts have always done that. We can watch news reports on the war in Ukraine. They can affect us deeply. But stand in front of Picasso’s Guernica – and we can, in a greater sense, feel the violation of a homeland destroyed by atrocity. We can watch a film about a man called Daniel Blake, and question why the safety net of our welfare state does not always save. Listen to a storyline in The Archers, and realise the power of coercive control to rob a victim of their sense of self.
There are many among us who are finding it difficult to get back to normal because the past two years have forever changed their lives. So I hope that our arts can help us more deeply understand not just loneliness, endured by so many, but ‘alone-ness’. Not just grief and loss, but grief and loss that had nowhere to go because those who grieved were denied the healing comfort of being with those who shared that grief.
The Declaration of Amsterdam, which sets out the fundamental principles of Humanism, speaks of the transforming nature of all the arts for us as individuals and as a society. Now surely is the time to let them play their part in speaking for those of us whose voices are never loud, those of us who still suffer – and that we, who have come out of the last two years pretty much OK, will listen, and watch, and take time to understand. And help create that kinder place to live.’
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