In the Spotlight: The Future of Youth Humanism

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 20 September 2007

Generations by generations, the world continues in its state of flux. The children of today are the youths of tomorrow. The youths of today will definitely be the leaders in the nearest future. As the world continued to exhibit its dynamism, humanism being part of the order ought not to be left behind. It must be concerned about the future.

This concern could only provoke one question: what will become of organised humanism in the future, say next two decades?
There must be sufficient and even concrete evidence(s) for anybody to answer the question either affirmatively or otherwise. The aim of this article is to examine youth humanism with a view to answer the question. To preclude all confusion: ‘youth humanism’ can be defined as ‘the ideals of humanism and its practice held by young persons between 18 and 32 years of age.’
Being the hub of any society, the youths are known to be full of energy and consummating zest, which could be used to promote any ideal they hold. While some call them ‘the future leaders’, others prefer ‘leaders in embryo’, whichever one chooses the fact remains that youths are expected either to wholly or partially take control of affairs of/in a society, community, business or group in the nearest future. Nations that refuse to provide qualitative and capacity building education for its teeming youth have been found to get into one trouble or another on their developmental path, for the manpower or the human resources that will make well-fashioned and thoughtfully trimmed policies workable are lacking. Need we recall the tragedy of the slave trade, the manhandling of able-bodied youngsters out of the African continent which bereft it of its necessary human resources to stress the importance of youth for any society? In a similar vein, for the global humanist community, the various groups of young humanists that uphold the promotion of youth humanism ideals are a most vital segment.

So, bearing in mind who the young/youth humanists are, not to mention the illustration of their importance, can we say they are presently well constituted within the global humanist movement? Resolutely, I will answer the question from both sides of my cheek: Yes and No.

Yes, they are. This answer is amply justified by the existence of some formidable youth humanist groups in the movement, the most popular of which is the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation (IHEYO) alongside the United States’ Secular Students Alliance and the Center for Inquiry-On campus (previously known as Campus Free-thought Alliance).
The three have been giving collective and individual support to youth humanists worldwide, with both materials and funding. In the case of SSA and CFA, it must be mentioned that their primary focus is on America. As such, they received help with funding and mentoring from the adult members of the American Humanist Association and the Council for Secular Humanism.
But do the actions of the abovementioned groups allow for the answer, ‘Yes, youth groups are flourishing and thus is the future of global humanism’? No!

The optimist arguments given so far eventually rely on a top-down approach to group building, rather than on a bottom-up view. The activities of the groups above have yielded results that cannot be easily overlooked. In most cases, what they offer is networking and linking opportunities. This is not a bad idea for it has helped to jump-start organised humanist in Africa, for example. But a global approach is bound to be fruitless if groups ‘at the bottom’, the national groups, fall short in assisting their youngsters. There seems to be a lacuna here. It is rather disheartening to note that some vibrant national groups do not have an organised youth section/arm.
This is not to say that all groups must create ‘something out of nothing’, but more can be done. A vibrant national group could, for example, adopt a vibrant youth humanist group within the same geographical entity for mentoring and funding support purposes. Unless national and regional groups are willing to support the growth of youth humanist groups within their domain, the action of global youth groups will remain nothing but a flash in the pan.
Youth groups must be allowed to understudy the organizational strategies of present organized humanist groups. As such, the presidents of IHEYO, SSA and CFI-On Campus, should be allowed to be part of the decision making board of the IHEU, AHA and CSH respectively. The same holds at the regional and national levels. For to be historically knowledgeable is to be able to synthesize the past with the present to make for a formidable future.
Saying so, my intention is not to disparage the laudable effort of any group, but to wake up those in charge to see to it that there is perpetual continuity in the humanist circuit. My point is that with strong youth humanist groups in all the countries, older humanists will be able to monitor and put them aright in the best way of doing things, or by simply learning from their mistakes for the sake of the future.
Surely, the future beckons on the adult humanists to assist in building virile youth humanist groups worldwide for the sake of generations yet unborn.

Yemi Johnson
This article is the shortened version of a chapter from the newly released book Humanism, Ethics and Africa, by ‘Yemi Johnson Ademowo and Damilola Peter Adegoke. The book is published by: Savoir-Faire Consulting, Ibadan ([email protected]). The book is on sale as an e-book for 10 $. To order, contact: [email protected]
Softcopy: 128 pages ISBN: 978-8080-344 Price: $10

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