Ageing idealists begin to see vultures
The Sydney Morning Herald
June 26, 2010
A humanist body believes it is under threat from opportunists, writes Andrew Stevenson.
WHAT do the Henry George Foundation, the Blavatsky Lodge of the Theosophical Society, the British-Israel World Federation and NSW Humanist Society have in common? Ageing memberships, open doors and very, very valuable assets.
The Georgists are still trying to remake the world according to the model described by a 19th century economist; the Theosophists aim to ”form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour”; the British-Israelites reckon Anglo-Saxon-Celtic people are the true descendants of the Israelites of the Holy Bible; and the Humanists battle to present an ethical, secular approach to life based on compassion and tolerance.
But the NSW Humanist Society, according to one member, is actually battling for its very existence, having been ”infiltrated by racist groups”.
It started with Humanist House, a small but valuable property in Chippendale, just off Broadway, which the society hires out to a plethora of activist groups for public meetings.
For years one customer was the Public Information Forum – which has recently been turfed out and accused of links with the Ku Klux Klan and other racist outfits.
But it retains a foot in the door. One of its members, Mark Pavic, is now a Humanist vice-president. At least ”until they execute me”, he says.
Humanist Fred Flatow accuses the PIF of seeking control of Humanist House in order to ”sell it or put it to uses most of us would be alarmed by”.
”The infiltrators are very disciplined and vote as a bloc; they are playing for keeps,” Mr Flatow writes to members. ”They are not amenable to persuasion to desist. They have to be voted out!”
Mr Pavic concedes a few things. The PIF does contain fringe left and right-wingers, he says, and, while emphatic that he is no Nazi (”I have Jewish friends; I even had a Jewish girlfriend”), he does acknowledge some in the PIF have been ”metaphorical swastika armband wearers”.
”They [the Humanists] found a couple of PIF people who are dabblers in pretend-Nazism so they branded us all as fascists,” said Mr Pavic, 51.
Nazism is not the only dirt being dished.
Also raised is Mr Pavic’s conviction for the manslaughter of his mother in 1985.
At the trial he confessed to tying bricks to his mother Danijela’s body and tossing her into Lake Burley Griffin after she died suddenly during an argument.
”They can bring it up; it’s not relevant,” Mr Pavic says now.
In fact Mr Pavic – who insists he is a humanist – says the controlling group, headed by the society’s president, John August, is actually the real enemy as its members are beholden to the Secular Party, who themselves have taken over the society.
The NSW Humanists have an ageing and declining membership and so little money they have considered obtaining a reverse mortgage to stay afloat. But they do have Humanist House, worth well in excess of $1 million.
Ripe pickings for a takeover. ”There’s a lot of this going on,” Mr Pavic says. ”They have declining memberships and they have real estate they bought many years ago which is extremely valuable. There are people who join committees with an eye on the money.”
It has even happened a couple of times when Mr Pavic has been around. Two organisations, the Henry George and British-Israel foundations, found themselves mired in long and costly court action with Mr Pavic peripherrally involved, although he inssits he has always been a campaigner for the defence.
The Humanists, distracted from their true business, are optimistic they will ”weather the storm”, John August writes. ”It is a case of battening down the hatches … nevertheless, it is an object lesson of what can happen to an incorporated association when it is infiltrated by an outside group.”