Who is a Humanist, and Does It Matter?

  Back when I lived in Izmir, one day, a neighbor angrily said to me:

  I was so stunned that I did not know what to say.   My Turkish was advanced enough that I had understood her immediately, but I still wanted to reflect on her words, both the literal sense, and the meaning, because I felt disturbed by her anger with me.  First, because I had no recollection of claiming to be a humanist, and second because I was not even sure what a humanist was.  Her sister rushed to change the subject, while I reflected on what could have prompted this comment, seemingly out of the blue, from my neighbor.  We spoke often of my concerns, back in 2005, that the world was not the kind and safe place that it could and ought to be, but that there were certainly ways to make our world kinder and safer for everyone, especially for vulnerable people.

   After she left the room, her sister, a much nicer person, sat down with me to apologize.  My way of seeing the world, of not spending money, of asking questions, of wondering how we could do things differently, was a source of confusion to many people, who felt that I should be concentrating on making money.  They also seemed to be offended that I did not want to make lots of money, buy nice things, and live like a rich person, or wear makeup.  Things that I tried to explain felt forced on me, unnecessary, and even degrading, since women are forced to use cosmetics and shoes that actually damage our bodies for no good reason.  So, why are so many people upset by my refusal to follow these customs?  And where she got the idea (not entirely incorrect, in fact) that I have no particular love for ‘bad’ people, I am not sure, but I was at a loss to understand why I should be obliged to like or love those who actively harm others.  I do feel that every girl and even small-ish boy should be trained from the earliest age in the arts of psychological, emotional, and physical self-defense.  Perhaps my personal indifference toward this neighbor had something to do with it, as she very much valued money, power, and ways of getting both.  I went from going along with her much of the time, to actively resisting (especially once she had me sit with her to translate during online dates with men from Spanish-speaking countries, as she claimed to be younger than she really was, and wore a long hair-extension).  But her anger with my general outlook puzzled me.

Comments, Thoughtful Readers?



Click here to read, if you like:

B5, Hakan: Muhafiz/The Protector, Sihirli AnnemLupin, or La Casa de Papel/Money Heist Reviews

Holistic College Algebra & GED/High School Lesson Plans,

Thoughtful Readers, please consider reading about #ProjectDoBetter.  This work is my personal way (as opposed to founding the Project, overall) of contributing to building tools that can help increase empathy and compassion in our world.  Story, as part of how we see our world, helps us make sense of and define our actions in this world.  And remember how important story is also as part of this project. Let’s Do Better.

Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil, MAT, BSCS


Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


25 thoughts on “Who is a Humanist, and Does It Matter?

        1. Thank you, that’s what I thought, especially when I was not there to defend the flag, but merely to work a job (as I’d not been able to find work back home, in Boston)! The assumption among many of my neighbors seemed to be that as an American, I was going to defend the flag, or that I somehow represented my government, which I certainly never have. I didn’t even have an opinion on the genocide Apology request at that time. I was so overwhelmed with just learning Turkish and getting my apartment fixtures in order (like getting a working hot water heater and refrigerator) that I had no time to follow the news, let alone form an opinion about the issue. But, as you can see from the link, her sister was much more reasonable and kind.

          Liked by 3 people

  1. It seems to me she isn’t that comfortable in her own skin (she pretends to be younger than she is, you said) so if she sees you as being the independent thinking woman you are, that’s alien to her ways and understanding maybe? In other words ‘how very dare you’?! 😀

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Aha!
      Thank you, again, Margaret! (that was my paternal grandmother’s name, btw, famous for her extremely high culeratura soprano voice, and her impressive temper!!)

      I thought I’d heard that phrase somewhere before (probably in 2006-20010 Bath…)!


      “Catchphrase from British TV comedy series The Catherine Tate Show (first broadcast in 2004).”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very strange to me, both, the money business and the makeup matter. One has more freedom to choose how to live one’s life in Denmark without attacks like that. Some people wear war paint 😉 and high heels, others don’t, who cares? In Italy, in my generation, real ladies were also supposed to wear a full makeup every day, those with money. I think the younger generation is more relaxed about it. In Scandinavia people just do what they prefer. Money is to a certain degree important for enjoying life, but what enjoying life means is very different. In Denmark people use a lot of money on traveling and their homes. I never saw the meaning in working like a dog and then be too tired to enjoy the fruits of my work, or not having time for it. When I was in my teens, I had a period when I was very poor, so I appreciate what I have. I can’t take anything to the next world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, B. We can’t take anything to the next world, but in places where there are vast differences of wealth, and especially where lack of money means lack of means of survival, aka being on the streets, I’ve seen a difference, versus when I lived in France, where even the homeless people seemed more relaxed, less afraid/tired/angry, than back in the US. In Turkey, at least when I lived there in 2004/5 (especially in Istanbul), people were genuinely outraged when an elderly man died of the cold on the street, which impressed me for the fact that it was not even noticed, let alone remarked upon, back ‘home’ in the US. Even in Boston, let alone DC or NY, sadly. I found that the most pressure I got to wear makeup was in Izmir, where my colleagues insisted that I was unprofessional for refusing to wear cosmetics, but dress makes a difference, unless one is a native speaker of a high-demand language like English or German, in Turkey, between getting a job and not getting a job. In most places, family is expected to help, but that often means that entire families practically starve, eating nothing but bulgur and red lentils with not even enough olive oil to make it taste good, day in and day out, merely to survive, and often in rat-infested tenement buildings that fall down in the slightest earthquake. So, I understood their jealousy, and the feeling of unfairness that I could come to their land and get a job immediately, without even having to meet the dress code they had to (I wore ok business clothes, not jeans, obviously, but even my clothing was frumpy by comparison to theirs, and this was considered minimal for the profession, not high class). The fear is that one has to work like a dog, if one is lucky enough to be paid for that work, just to have a chance at surviving, and that is what bothers me. At least in France, for the French anyway, the idea remains/ed that one should not have to worry about basic survival needs. Neither the United States nor any place else I have lived (the UK, Turkey, and Mexico) seems to have that mentality in general, nor even want to have such a mentality. This is what I wonder how to change.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That is more or less also the mentality in all of Scandinavia, everybody should get shelter and food. There are not many homeless people who have to live on the streets. Some do it voluntarily during the summer months in Denmark. They go on “tour”. I have seen some last summer who had a tent with them, Tramp luxury. Germany has deteriorated a lot in that respect.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Interesting, but at least it is voluntary. I have never seen anyone who willingly lived on the streets, as it is very, very dangerous (especially for women), even in the homeless shelters, particularly in NYC and DC. The one person I ever met (while I volunteered in Albuquerque, NM at a place not specifically for the homeless, but that also helped them) who voluntarily slept on the street was, as she told me, after she rented a room in a house that turned out to be a dangerous party house, but she kept a large butcher knife strapped to her back at all times (which turned out to be a big problem one day, in the office as I broke up a fight she started with another homeless person, as she was pulling her knife on him…). People here in the US, especially in southern California, often insist that people experiencing homelessness *want* to live on the streets, and “are in their comfort zones,” but my experience has been that they are not in any comfort zone, but rather in a non-safety zone, and need help both to feel safe, and to learn the impulse control needed to keep themselves safe in appropriate ways when it is appropriate, and to distinguish between actual physcial danger and perceived physical danger, at times. No one wants the humiliation and danger of not having a safe place to sleep.

          Liked by 2 people

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