On March 21st, the Baha’i world community (via the NSAs) elected two individuals to take the place of Douglas Martin and Ian Semple as members of the Universal House of Justice. And just as many had predicted, the newly elected members of the House are both Counselors at the International Teaching Center: Mohajer and Lample.
Here are some biographical information about the members of the House of Justice. Dr. Payman Mohajer is directly related to (the Hand of the Cause of God) Dr. Mohajer – his nephew, I think – and Mr. Paul Lample was a Counselor running the SED efforts at the Baha’i World Centre. I don’t know much about Dr. Mohajer but to me the choice of Paul Lample is interesting.
Other than running the SED department, Lample’s other achievement was writing the self-published book, “Creating a New Mind”; a book which will no doubt become obligatory reading now. I say self-published by the way because Lample is behind Palabra Publications (palabra is the Spanish word for ‘word’); which just happens to be the organization which publishes his book as well as other books. Some of them go by a name you may know: the Ruhi books.
Saints preserve us! What a totally innocent coincidence.
Yes well, this innocent coincidence means that Lample and Arbab are two peas in a pod. One is the creative force behind Ruhi and the other is the publisher. Its pretty safe to predict an intensification of the campaign to Ruhify the Baha’i Faith. In fact they both go way back to FUNDAEC, the foundation started by Arbab in the 70’s in Columbia. Here is a rare archival picture of a FUNDAEC class before its mandate was formalized:
‘Dr. Arbab says, touch your head… Carlos, you’re out.’
But if you ask me, the most impressive achievement of Lample (as an ITC member) was coining the phrase that has taken the Baha’i world community by storm: “What does the pyramid look like in our cluster?” If you are one of the few who have not used this catch-phrase atleast 3 times in the last cluster meeting, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you insist on a source, fine (top of page 3).
The result of the election of Lample to the UHJ is that we have now one more person at the top who has a personal stake in Ruhi and who will find it extremely difficult to say ‘Hey, we screwed up. Sorry about that. Lets move on now.’ And that means that the Ruhi campaign is probably going to spiral out of control until it crashes and burns of its own volition.
The trend of electing ITC members to the UHJ was started in 1983. Before then, the majority of the House members were elected from the pool of NSA members. Why is such a change significant? It is an extremely important inflection point in the history of the Baha’i Faith because the UHJ appoints the members of the ITC. With the ‘candidate’ pool for the UHJ also being the ITC members, what we have is a closed loop.
The ITC is appointed by the UHJ, then the members of the UHJ are chosen from the ITC, then the UHJ appoints members of the ITC to replace those newly elected House members. And round and round we go.
It is now obvious, even to the casual observer, that the leadership of the Baha’i Faith is coming from a smaller and smaller group of people with narrower and narrower viewpoints. Why does this matter? Aren’t the NSAs free to elect whomever they wish to elect? No one is forcing them to choose from the male pool of ITC, right?
Well, yes, of course. But the fact remains that they are doing just that. The facts and the trend are undeniable. All we can do is stand back in awe and wonder what is going on. Can it be just a coincidence that the 8 of the 9 members of the UHJ right now are ITC alumni? that 8 out of 9 have been appointees of the House itself? Can it just be coincidence that we have not had one non-ITC person elected the UHJ since 1982 (Mitchell – former member of the NSA of USA)?
For some Baha’is, the above is something they choose to shrug off. To some others, it is a little blinking red light. Something is very, very wrong here. From a strictly organizational behaviour point of view, what we have here is an organization that has stumbled upon a mechanism which is making it more and more internally-focused, insular and close-minded. And time is showing an acceleration of this trend. The Baha’i administration is being run by a group of people with a very narrow set of opinions and ideas. The deadly disease of group-think, the plague of so many other fine organizations in the past, has officially set in.
Getting back to the question of why this is happening, I can think of some ideas. One, the members of the ITC are very highly visible in the Baha’i world community. Especially at the level of national administration. They are given portfolios (much like the members of the House) and are responsible for geographic areas and countries. They travel often and are in touch with the NSA members of those countries under their watch. Which results in a very powerful, albeit, informal candidacy and implicit campaigning. I’m sure they don’t mean to do this but the results are the same nontheless. The various members of the NSAs around the world can’t help but see them, hear their speeches, read their letters (with the authority of the ITC) and be effected by their decision making authority.
The other reason is that the appointed arm of the Baha’i administration has, in the past 25 years, become more powerful than the elected arm. And what we have, in effect, are House members who were never elected for office but who have instead a career (some 20+ years) in the appointed arm as Counselors. In effect, the appointed arm of the Baha’i administration is running the whole show. That is not what was envisioned by Abdu’l-Baha when He created the twin institutions, and the two arms of the Baha’i administration.
All I know is if my clusters start to look like pyramids, its time to call a good proctologist.