Vote Male

Vote Male booth
My booth outside the Haifa International Convention Centre.

I’m off to Haifa for a week to be part of the activities surrounding the 11th International Bahá’í Convention in Haifa. No, I won’t be one of the more than 1000 delegates, but I will be assisting them carry out their sacred responsibilities.

Those delegates come from all over the world and my job will be to remind them of the important stuff, so that their vote counts. That’s got to be pretty important, right?

Non-adversarial decision-making

The way non-adversarial decision-making (a.k.a. “consultation”) seems to work within the Baha’i administration is for a Baha’i administrative body to consult privately about a problem, then to decide on an action that has maximum impact.

When the New Zealand National Spiritual Assembly was deciding how to deliver the news to Alison Marshall that she had been removed from membership in the Baha’i community, here’s what it was thinking.

From National Spiritual Assembly Baha’is New Zealand
Minutes No. 32/156 Telephone meeting of 18 March 2000:

… 3.1.3 The National Spiritual Assembly discussed the concept of hand-delivering the letter. Another option could be to post the letter, and then have Peter telephone a day or two later to talk to Steve Marshall. We do not want to undermine the potency of the letter by reducing its shock value to them.
Chronology of events leading to Alison’s expulsion

Clearly, “non-adversarial” has a special meaning within the Baha’i Faith.

Within sport, for example, it’s understood that non-adversarial sports encourage co-operation, competing with yourself and win-win, whereas adversarial sports encourage competition, competing with others and win-lose. But if sports bodies adopted the “Baha’i” non-adversarial method, the result might look a bit like this:

Maximum on-field shock value obtained
Maximum on-field shock value obtained

Getting the picture

Official communications from the Baha’i institutions are often quite complex documents, using obscure words and phrases like “iminic…”, “inimicable”… …well, like “injurious”. Fortunately, the Internet has an answer to this problem — assigning word-pictures to the text so that you can more easily follow the story. Try this new method out with the recent letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States to all its local spiritual assemblies. Did you get the picture?

Kalimat Press muzzled

Kalimat Press logo

Kalimat Press is an independent Baha’i publishing house and has been supporting authors by helping them get their works published for more than twenty years. As you may have heard, it has just been muzzled by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, which has asked US Baha’i organisations to stop carrying Kalimat Press books. If this is news to you, I suggest you read Karen Bacquet’s recent blog entry on the subject.

There are two categories of book that Kalimat Press handles. The ones it publishes, and the ones it doesn’t publish:

  • The books published by Kalimat Press all go through Baha’i review
  • The books that Kalimat handles, but doesn’t publish, are all exempt from review.

So Kalimat Press has done nothing wrong, and the US NSA certainly doesn’t need to ban all Kalimat’s output (if that’s what, “all national and local Baha’i agencies [are to] cease to distribute books and other items marketed by this publisher” means). After all, if any of the books that Kalimat actually publishes “contain matter inimical to the best interests of our Faith” then the US NSA needs to go after its own Office of Research and Review for failing to “ensure that basic standards of accuracy, dignity, and timeliness are met in the presentation of the Baha’i Faith to the public”. It’s the body that reviewed and passed the manuscripts that Kalimat published.

And if any of the books that Kalimat handles, but doesn’t publish, are a problem, the US NSA could ask Kalimat to cease marketing anything other than those it publishes, or it could ask assemblies to stop distributing books from Kalimat other than those Kalimat publishes.

On the face of it, The US NSA’s decision is arbitrary and intended as a punishment. What’s more, the US NSA may have informed the US Baha’i community about Kalimat, through The American Baha’i, Online Edition, even before Tony heard the news. Its terse letter to him was dated 29 December 2005.

Also, for comparison, check out Karen Bacquet’s blog entry on what happened recently to the guy who revived the children’s magazine Varqa.