Re: replies (to Brett)

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Posted by Brett Zamir ( on June 17, 2002 at 01:10:29:

In Reply to: replies (to Brett) posted by Dawud on February 15, 2002 at 04:22:48:

Sorry not to respond earlier to this. Your recent post reminded me of it.

1) Yes, Baha'is do concern ourselves with "politcs" in the sense you mention.

2) I'm not sure why you don't see the Paris Talks reference as democratic, unless you are referring to the Greek ideal of democracy where literally everybody was to vote on every issue or if you mean that the choice of the Commission should be a direct election by the people of the world. However, in the Baha'i system, we do not have direct elections (some pilgrim's notes even look down on them) for our higher institutions (national and international).

As to your question as to who would select the delegates:

"However, the choice as to which language will ultimately be selected as the international auxiliary language has been left by Baha'ullah, in His Book of Laws, to the leaders of the nations or possibly to the House of Justice to decide." (email on behalf of the Universal House of Justice dated 10 February 1998 to an individual believer)

If it is the Universal House of Justice, however, I imagine it would be if such a language had not been chosen by such time as the mass conversion of the citizens of the earth to the Baha'i Faith had taken place (or if it were going to change the choice of that language). However, given that it is stated as an immediate need in the Baha'i Writings, I would imagine it would be appointed by the current political leaders of the world (hopefully).

Baha'u'llah addresses His summons in His Most Holy Book regarding the universal auxiliary language to the members of Parliaments throughout the world.

On the other hand, as I mentioned in the other post, the Baha'i International Community made an appeal for such a commission to be appointed by the United Nations General Assembly (currently weighed by states rather than population, though the same document recommends that the General Assembly become more reflective of population--perhaps through a bicameral system).

So in this latter case, it would be national governments appointing the delegates. But I think this is generally an appeal to world leaders, whoever they may be, so, in the absence of a bicameral General Assembly (or even if there were one), Baha'u'llah's address to members of Parliaments throughout the world would seem to me to imply this international Congress could also be appointed by perhaps such a body as the Interparliamentary Union which is a convocation including members of Parliament (and Congresses, etc.) throughout the world focusing on topics of concern to democratic nations. This body, being comprised of nationally elected officials might be more accountable to the people than is the current General Assembly.

Although academic institutions are not called to appoint the commission, it would seem that academics should be part of the body determining the language. As I stated earlier, the Baha'i International Community states in "Turning Point for all Nations", "We propose the appointment of a high-level Commission, with members from various regions and drawn from relevant fields, including linguistics, economics, the social sciences, education and the media, to begin careful study on the matter of an international auxiliary language and the adoption of a common script."

As far as how it would be weighed, I don't think that is referred to in the Baha'i Writings except, as the quote from 'Abdu'l-Baha in Paris Talks stated to include delegates from all nations in the world, Eastern as well as Western. I think that would be something the participating nations would need to work out among themselves. Your concern as to say how indigenous elements might be represented (or other groups transcending but not benefitting in representation from boundaries) is another issue which such a commission would hopefully consider and involve (though it may inevitably if multiple representatives were sent, probably including at least some of the minorities), just as the United Nations solicited native voices in hosting conventions for native peoples, etc. But, ultimately, as the Baha'i Writings state, the majority must rule (though all voices should be sought out, and minorities even given preference in the case of tie votes).

As to professional elites being more likely to choose a more complicated language, I don't see why professional elites would be less likely to consider an invented language than would any other group. Rather, I think professional linguists would be in a position to point out its advantages for ease in learning, etc., though they also could take into account the admitted advantages an existing language would have for it currently being in use.

But again, the majority must rule, and I believe that the solution of the Baha'i Writings in including both invented languages AND existing ones as a possibility is simply to get people to the table to make such an agreement, whatever it may be, since the cultural bias concerns would, as I mentioned before be more moot if say an existing language like English were chosen democratically (given Sapir-Whorf not being true at least in its extreme) and even ease of learning would be overcome in some generations as parents could teach their children more easily as the language was taught at earlier ages and more wholly committed to. This is not to say that the advantages of an invented language for illiterates, children, and current generations of non-speakers or its other advantages should be ignored by such delegates, only that the important thing, to a Baha'i, is to see the unity of action leading to such an international form of communication, whatever form it may take. We could even change to an invented language in the future after the world had selected say English--which could facilitate that possibility by there having been a more entrenched language even more entrenched for coordinating our discourse. But, I don't think it would be that easy for the nations to decide on a language like English, thus the possibility for an invented language being given.

The bottom line is that Baha'is have no business interfering in the choice of that language (or even stating whether it should be invented or existing). I am just arguing both sides here to win people over to neutrality so that we can get all sides to come willingly to the table!

3) I think you make a good point that knowledge of Esperanto could help even get at those core issues by reaching a diversity of people (though we are doing that now I think somewhat even though we are using a "national" language like English). But, as you point out, there are other ways, and I think spreading the idea of it is one of those, as I was told secondhand that a letter from the Universal House of Justice had recommended this latter approach of spreading the idea of a universal auxiliary language (though it also said study of Esperanto has been deemed praiseworthy in the Baha'i Writings).

4) I think you may be right in the sense that technology could make certain people less concerned about the need for a universal auxiliary language, because they have access to the technology to do so (as we already do to some extent given the amazing language translation sites which I have seen cropping up). This would have the added negative effect of increasing the gap of rich and poor. On the other hand, its imperfections may highlight the need even more greatly to the people using such technology as people are tied together even more, yet who feel its inadequacies, inconveniences, and misunderstandings.

I didn't understand your last sentence.

peace and best wishes to you and all,

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