There are some elements which all Baha´i communities share. From Botswana to Switzerland. From LA to Katmandu. These are that all LSAs are basically disfunctional, the members at each other´s throats, deadlocked. It is worse than any political parliamentary process I have ever seen. Unless you have seen it from upclose, as the poster above describes so tactfully, you can not imagine the vitriol, the emotional blindness and sheer egotism that exists within LSA meetings.
That is not to say that such things don´t exist in NSA meetings (or even UHJ or ITC meetings). But atleast the higher bodies have the ability to use subtlety and hidden Machiavellian maneuverings behind the scene. LSA meetings on the other hand are analogous to hand to hand combat in the Circus Maximus.
And it isn´t surprising that many people simply decide to “call in sick” and either not show up to the meetings once elected, leaving the quorum to its own devices, or they take precautionary measures by not simply showing up at the strategically important holy day celebrations, social gatherings and feasts just before the annual elections (so as to not be in the “public eye” and therefore not elected) or to withdraw (as the recent example of Momen from the UK illustrates) posthaste from the battle.
Bittersweet because once Baha´is know this to be reality, it may bother them, but at the same time it may explain why entire communities remain stagnant (or even go into decline), why the Faith is seemingly not making any significant inroads in the world and why the life of the general community is so poisonous. Its not pretty, but it is the truth. And maybe its better knowing because its worse living with that question that won´t go away but sits at the back of your mind asking, why are things so crappy? is this what I signed up for? is this the best we can do?
The reason why this sad situation exists is no mystery. The Baha´i election process, as it stands right now is designed so that the same people get elected. The plague of incumbency makes it almost impossible to have a wholesale change in the membership of any LSA, NSA or even the UHJ. Usually what happens is one or two (or maybe three) members change but the vast majority remain as before. In this way, decades can pass with an assembly being primarily composed of the same persons (and having the same persons in the key positions of Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer). Human nature, being what it is, causes camps to develop and polarize into extreme positions.
The solution, interestingly enough has been with us for many years. The most famous instance it was brought to the Baha´i communities attention was when a group of young, idealistic Baha´is in LA in the late 80´s thought they could actually put the Writings into practice and hope to change things for the better. They got together and penned a document which they titled tongue-in-cheek as “A Modest Proposal” (a title used originally by Swift).
For their troubles the authors were raked over coals, publicly denounced on the floor of the US National Convention by a member of the NSA as “worse than covenant-breakers” and hounded within the Baha´i community, causing many to eventually leave. The Baha´i magazine, Dialogue, which was to publish the document was also forced to close.
What was in that document that was so bad? why were they called “worse than covenant breakers” when they obviously weren´t? why were they accused falsely of distributing a petition? (Falsely because it wasn´t a petition and even if it were, Baha´u´llah, Abdu´l-Baha and the UHJ all have received and graciously answered petitions!)
Well, the document is here for you to peruse. I can´t tell you what to think about it. You´ll have to make up your own mind. I think its called individual investigation of truth, or something like that, isn´t it? (for more info, you might consider Karen´s articles or a simple search on Google.)
I can tell you that part of the document deals with term limits (page six). The simple idea that membership to the different elected institutions should have time limits. Thus allowing for new points of view, fresh ideas and the avoidance of camps or factions within the elected institutions; the avoidance of personality clashes between two or more people which can only become more and more bitter over the years and poison the life of the community. Basically the situation that our friend described so ever tactfully in her post on Livejournal (above).
And interestingly enough this idea is not, as some ignorant Baha´is would claim, against anything in the Writings. But in fact, it is in total harmony with the revealed guidance regarding the institutions. In fact once you read “A Modest Proposal” you will notice that many of the suggestions or “proposals” then called heretic were later implemented by the UHJ, the ITC and the NSA. I´ll leave you to figure out which. And no they do not have the same labels or names as the ones used in “A Modest Proposal” – what? do you take the powers that be to be fools?
Since many of the once heretical suggestions have been already implemented (ofcourse, after their authors were libelled, persecuted and assaulted and different names used for the initiatives they suggested) why not implement another one?
As Watzlawick might say: the situation is hopeless, and the solution is hopelessly simple.