Newsletter April 2005
Interview with Kevin Baldeosingh and Novack George
by Valdeen Shears-Neptune
Trinidad Guardian 12th April 2005
Prime Minister Patrick Manning was recently taken to task for commenting on the issue of immorality in Carnival by a newly-formed group called the T&T Humanist Association.
The group criticised Mannings stance in a letter to the editor in another daily newspaper, which said he had an exaggerated understanding of his job as PM.
In the letter the group advised Manning that notions of morality vary and that no individual or organisation was competent to pass moral judgement on another, as it was impossible for any human being to have perfect knowledge either of a persons conscience or circumstances.
In this sense, stated the letter, moral justification is a contradiction in terms.
We focus on Mr Mannings statement because it reflects a wider pattern wherein irrelevant beliefs inform official policies, often causing great harm, said the letter.
Other issues highlighted in the letter were Khalifa Logan, the dispute over the name of the Trinity Cross, the introduction of an abstinence-only policy by the Education and Health Ministries and the CJ controversy.
The group, which was established in November last year, consists so far of ten members from a variety of careers and backgrounds, including the media. Among them is commentator and former UWI lecturer Denis Solomon.
During an interview, founder of the group, journalist Kevin Baldeosingh explained that its formation came about through their shared idea that serious issues were too rarely looked at from rational, empirical and ethical viewpoints.
Instead, he said debate was often clouded by superstition, folk wisdom, prejudices and self-serving agendas.
Baldeosinghs stance was supported by fellow member Novack George, an information specialist and playwright.
The kernel of it is to have a grounding in humanity, understand ones limitations and desist from over-simplifying the countrys complex society, said George.
Policy makers, said George, needed to take into account human feelings in all aspects and not impose their beliefs on others.
He argued that reactions should be checked against realities and measured intervention occur through a basis of hard data.
Although Georges recommendation was to engage people in dialogue, he noted that the group was not about forming a touchy-feely brotherhood, but rather a forum to deal with realities and make informed decisions based on researched data.
We believe that human beings must rely on their own resources to solve their problems and work within their capabilities and knowledge, said Baldeosingh. The key thing is hard and direct public discourse and intervention on matters of public policy.
The group, though, will not merely react to issues, assured Baldeosingh, adding that not all issues will pique their interest.
Issues will be addressed after the members reach consensus amongst themselves. Discussions on these issues will then be encouraged through talk shows, quarterly news letters, their Web site and meetings.
We are not about attacking. We dont care about personal beliefs.
Our concern is that these beliefs do not unduly affect the conduct of public business, said George.
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