fault-finding, silence, and biographies

All research or scholarship questions
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fault-finding, silence, and biographies

Postby Irish » Wed Jan 03, 2007 4:18 pm

I'm curious about whether people think that the Baha'i prohibition on discussion peoples faults has any implications for the way that Baha'is write biographies and histories. Has the Guardian or the House ever clarified this? I mean, can Baha'is write biographies that don't just say "she was a wonderful person, and these are all the wonderful things that she did, and these are all the adversities that she had to overcome etc, etc". Let us say that a Baha'i was writing a history on a famous personality: could they openly discuss their faults and failings, and critize them for not doing better, for hurting people, for not acting in the best interest of the public, and undermining public trust, for example". What about if the subject was quite good publicly, but had a darker private life. Could a Baha'i biography writer openly write about that? How far do we have to take the principle of the so-called 'sin-covering eye'.

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Postby Zazaban » Wed Jan 03, 2007 6:18 pm

There's something called the "Neutral Point of View" or "NPOV" Which is used in Wikipedia and such. It more or less means not to take a side when discussing something.
Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.
~ Bahá'u'lláh

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Postby FruccalFrilia » Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:26 pm

I think biographies have a purpose of conveying certain realities, I would assume that a Bahai author would would voice criticism with the purpose of the book in mind. Bahais also have an obligation towards truthfulness and justice as well as tact, so they must learn to find a balance.
Moojan Momen comments about a Bahai author "He[Hasan Balyuzi] wrote only what he thought correct after due consideration....He always maintained that it was best to tell it "warts and all."'
In the end its up to the author's judgement.

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Re: fault-finding, silence, and biographies

Postby Baha'i Warrior » Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:59 pm

I'm sure for example many of the early Baha'is, even some of the famous ones, had some major faults. It depends on the context, if it's a scholarly one I think you'd also list some negative aspects of the person's life, especially if his hidden (or obvious) dark or negative actions would help us better understand him as a person.

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Re: fault-finding, silence, and biographies

Postby Dorumerosaer » Fri Jan 05, 2007 6:14 pm

I recall hearing that Shoghi Effendi did not want certain aspects of Mirza Yahya's faults to be published -- those that had no bearing on the history of the Faith. The Guardian exposed his vacillation and lust for leadership in his writings; but he left out discussion of those traits that were personal flaws that did not directly relate to the Cause.

I think that writers feel the pressure from the falling standards of this age, to bring to light the weaknesses and shortcomings of their subjects, so that they avoid their book being termed a hagiography. I am not a professional writer, but in my personal view, I really think that the pendulum has swung too far, and that most of the time, if a writer unearths someone's failings, they should remain buried.


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