Posted: Wed May 03, 2006 12:24 pm
So they election of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States came and went, and the same 9 were elected again.
I dont say this to dissent or anything. When I was in the Holy Land a little over a month ago, someone asked a Universal House of Justice member what can be done about the same people being elected over and over again. The UHJ member said he understood completely, but that
"according to the Guardian, thats your own fault." Though, I have noticed a number of people in the community upset over this trend, but in a civil respectable fashion.
When we think about it, its very difficult to stir things up without the political nature to elections we have in the west, but of course we are much better off without that, as the Writings explain. How can we get the word out about different people, while staying consistant with the Writings? There must be some way to innovate on the process as such.
On a side note, I thought it was extremely gracious and honorable for the NSA Members to request that the 9 spots (though it ended up being 4 more because of a tie of 5 for the last spot of that) following them in the tally by posted for all to see. This is a great measure, in that now the delegates can have an opportunity to weight the potential of different possibilities for the NSA, and may effect their choices later on.
Posted: Wed May 03, 2006 2:18 pm
Everything is about Teaching
one can effectively postulate
that those who teach get noticed by the Baha'i community
So far I would say America has very few Teachers who want a position
on the NSA
I say good for us.
A teacher could easily emerge
and take the Baha'i community by storm
so far we have been blessed that no one wants to arise
in this form of super star power
On a mundane note and even a high spirtual sense of well being
I would say everything is going along just fine within God's plan
I got no complaints with my elected officials
none ... on any level ...
and as to faults
i have been thinking about that a lot lately
cuz God knows i got faults
and so I be thinking about diamonds and The Universal House of Justice
and how the lawns and gardens and buildings are immaculately cut
and how every bud and crack and leaf has it's own faults
and yet when a master craftsmens cuts diamonds he studies for hours
he cuts along fault lines to create dazzeling facets
so is there fault along a system
of course if one looks deep enough
but can faults be bleneded to create a surprisingly beautiful handiwork
yes if one is willing to look at a much bigger picture
and so the beat goes on
I am just glad we have an NSA at all
I mean look at Persia
they ain't got nothing
I mean not even their God given name for God's sake!
who needs the appearance of power
when you alone know the All-Powerful
that is to say
if you want fresh blood
if you want to shake things up
teach like there is no tomorrow
cuz we all know tomorrow isn't promised to us
again look at Persia
like your very soul depends upon it
cuz we all know our very souls do depend upon us teaching
and if all else fails
give someone the moral, the social and /or financial support needed
so that they may Teach where thou can not.
Posted: Wed May 03, 2006 11:38 pm
My first thought is: are you or were you a delegate to your National Convention? If not, then would you even be thinking about this matter? I don’t mean to offend, but only delegates need concern themselves with the nature and results of Bahá’í elections. The Bahá’í Comprehensive Deepening Program contained a book entitled, “The Bahá’í Electoral Process”, and in it we find:
After the formation of an Assembly, it is inappro-priate for the conscientious Bahá’í to analyze it in terms of personalities. He will, instead, begin a year-long pre-paration to exercise his right of self-expression at the next election-concentrating ”on the qualities and re-quirements of office, without prejudice, passion or partiality,” and then voting ”for none but those whom prayer and reflection have inspired him to uphold”.
Shoghi Effendi wrote in a letter:
It is individual merit that counts. Novelty, or the mere act of renewal of elections, are purely secondary considerations. Changes in Assembly membership would be welcome so far as they do not prejudice the quality of such membership.
The qualities required by elected members is well-known and is contained in the following passage from the Guardian:
Hence it is incumbent upon the chosen delegates to consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of UNQUESTIONED LOYALTY, of SELFLESS DEVOTION, of a WELL-TRAINED MIND, of RECOGNIZED ABILITY and MATURE EXPERIENCE.
It is of course acceptable to vote for people who you know personally, but also for those who you know by reputation. These might include those who have served in the past on institutions (they might have been a Counselor, an Auxiliary Board Member, a past member of the National Assembly, etc.), those who are well-published and have demonstrated a high level of expertise on various subjects, those who are widely known by many to be of a particular character, or those you might have seen on numerous occasions engaged in service in many capacities although you have not really come to know them.
I have been a delegate to the Canadian National Convention several times, and the more I understand the electoral process, the more difficult become the choices. I have often heard Bahá’ís wondering about race, gender, geographical, linguistic, and age representation on Assemblies, and while it would be nice to see our institutions made up of every strata of society, this is a secondary consideration. It says more about our society, both Bahá’í and otherwise, than it does about our electoral system.
This past Convention, I tried a new method. I wrote one column of the names of the outgoing National Assembly. Then I wrote a column of the names of those people I know personally who possess the necessary qualities. Finally I wrote those names of the people I know by reputation who possess them. What it came down to in the end is that, all things being equal, last year’s membership have one quality that the rest do not, and that is in the category of MATURE EXPERIENCE. In order to vote for someone who was not on last year’s Assembly, you have to decide whose place they will take. And unless there is a past member who has demonstrated that they didn’t really meet the criteria, or didn’t serve appropriately, you have to decide that the experience they have gained in the past year is not as valuable as some quality the “newer” person has.
As it turned out, the one member of last year’s Assembly who wasn’t elected this year has been a member of our Assembly since 1962!!! That is 44 years of capable and exemplary experience! You’ve got to think that the reasons for choosing someone in his place had to be pretty significant. I just hope it had nothing to do with thinking that he needed a break, or that he was getting too old to be effective, etc.
But one thing that we Bahá’ís seem to overlook often is that the Bahá’í electoral process is SPIRITUAL in nature. We don’t nominate or campaign, we pray! That is so profound. For every moment you spend analyzing elections, you should spend ten moments, nay, a hundred, pondering, reflecting, and meditating on that astounding principle. It is prayer that enables the International Convention to achieve what it does. Imagine: the membership of an infallible institution is elected by people from all over the world.
Who are these people? At the risk of stereotyping, we can imagine a senior professor from a prestigious English university, an experienced lawyer from a major American city, a wealthy European banker, a successful businessman from India, an immigration official from Saharan Africa, a housewife from Sri Lanka, a mechanic from Uruguay, a goat-herder from Swaziland, a family planning consultant from Japan, a doctor from Borneo, a bus driver from the Ukraine, a Native elder from Alaska, or a nurse who pioneered as a youth from Quebec to a small French island and has never even served on a Local Assembly in her homeland. They each have the same grave responsibility, and they each have an equal vote. The professor may know Bahá’ís from all over the world, the goat-herder may know a few hundred Bahá’ís in his native land.
The membership of the Universal House of Justice remained the same for the first twenty years of its existence, apart from a by-election necessitated by a resignation for health reasons. Would anyone have suggested that the infallibility of that august body was compromised by the lack of new blood infused into it? By the same token, the potency of a National or Local Assembly derives more from the spirit of unity, humility, service and obedience which elects it, not from the constituent demographics of the members who serve on it.
But if you are still convinced that we need to “turn over” our Assemblies more often, the answer is the same as what the beloved Guardian said was the answer to all of our problems: entry by troops and mass conversion. So instead of analyzing the results of elections, get busy with the institute process. I hope this helps you somewhat in your search for answers. If you can find a copy “The Bahá’í Electoral Process”, give it a read; it is very informative. If you can’t find a copy, I may be able to e-mail you a scanned version.
Re: NSA Elections
Posted: Thu May 04, 2006 11:26 pm
Keyvan, what happened in the States is not a strange phenomenon, it occurs the same in many countries, and we notice that this parallelism is some kind of idiosyncrasy in political/governmental elections too. I agree with Majnun "everything is about teaching", the Master in last paragraphs of W&T said that teaching is a activity that can fill the grasp of inactivity in the community and it’s in harmony and contains the spirit of the Faith and is a antidote against covenant breaking, apathy and red tape (burocracy and plutocracy). I’m not sociologist to explain the re-election phenomena, but when this happening (especially when members are re-elected five or more continual years) I have in mind these words of our beloved Guardian:
"Shoghi Effendi has never said that the members of the National Assembly have to be renewed partially every year. The important thing is that they should be properly elected. It would be nice if there should be new members elected, for new blood always adds to the energy of the group and will keep up their spirit. But this depends entirely upon the will of the delegates as represented in the result of their voting."
(From letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, April 27, 1932: Bahá'í News, No. 67, October 1932, p. 4)
64. Election of New Members on the National Spiritual Assembly
"As regards the election of new members on the National Assembly, Shoghi Effendi finds no other practical method, that is in conformity with the spirit of the teachings, except through better acquaintance of the friends during the annual conventions and summer schools. It is the duty of the individual friends to come to know one another and finds out who are the persons best fitted to become members of that body. This is a slow process but surely the best one and gives the greatest amount of freedom of choice to the electors. It is the duty of the friends individually to become more intelligent voters and vote only after studying the situation conscientiously."
(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 19)
Posted: Fri May 05, 2006 12:11 am
this is a mixed bag addressed response...
i agree that such qualities must be looked for. and no i was not a delegate.
i agree that it comes down to teaching, absolutely, and we should never arise to the point where we "blame something" on officials. this is what CB's tend to do, i notice.
i have heard the arguements surrounding this, and radical suggestions to shake it up. i dont agree with it. the process the Guardian layed out is fine.
i have no opinion, nor any preference on who to vote for, thats beyond me and my position, and it comes down to the Divine Plan, and our work.
the reason why i bring it up, is that within the community ive been hearing such complaints about repeat members more and more. i had imagined that for this election, it would have trickled up to the delegates but it had not.
this makes me wonder if there is something we as a community could be doing more to have that kind of communication, to trickle up to the delegates. and i mean that in a BROAD sense, not particularly pertaining to elections, but how knit we are as a community in general.
onepence, i dont know where you got the information that Iran has no NSA. as i understand it, they do have an NSA.
one more thing, i do not agree that mature experience means having served before. again i dont have any opinion on the elections one way or another, i just dont think that those two mean the same thing, as in universal sense that would leave you with a catch-22 situation
but one more thing. on that note, that i myself have no idea who to vote for, or a preference of any sort....if i were in the position of a delegate, i would probably vote for the same 9 for that very reason. that is, i dont know who else to vote for..... i mean, i know members of my local community, certain scholars who tour, and maybe a Bahai tv personality, but thats it. what im getting at is, what could i do as an individual, if i were delegate, to get that whos who understanding?
Posted: Wed May 17, 2006 9:38 am
I for one enjoyed reading this discussion... A civil, quality exchange of different ideas...I also liked onepence's poetic appeal for teaching...
The question of incumbents being reelected not only affects the Baha'i community--it is something affecting elected institutions around the world. People have even voted for dead people, I have heard, because of this. And with name recognition, people may vote someone into office just based on the (apparent) familiarity of their name.
FYI, our local Spiritual Assembly wrote a letter to the NSA (of the US) regarding whether "discuss" in the paragraph below could refer to a dedicated portion of the convention to a general discussion of qualities that the elected ought to possess (with due concern for avoiding indirect reference to personalities). The NSA replied, insofar as I can recall, that this meaning referred to discussions such as those deepenings conducted by Counsellors or Auxiliary Board members (and not to a mingling session on what kind of people each thought they should vote for).
"I feel that reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences. What the friends should do is to get thoroughly acquainted with one another, to exchange views, to mix freely and discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals, but should stress the necessity of getting fully acquainted with the qualifications of membership referred to in our Beloved's Tablets and of learning more about one another through direct, personal experience rather than through the reports and opinions of our friends."
(From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the Spiritual Assembly of Akron, Ohio, May 14, 1927: Principles of Bahá'í Administration, p. 46, in Lights of Guidance, no. 36)
I think this letter is also important in underscoring the need for "direct, personal experience".
Posted: Wed May 17, 2006 1:13 pm
As to the NSA of Iran
... the Bahá'í community of Iran, whose principles have been described earlier in this statement, announces the suspension of the Bahá'í organizations throughout Iran, in order to establish its good intentions and in conformity with its basic tenets concerning complete obedience to the instructions of the Government. Henceforth, until the time when, God willing, the misunderstandings are eliminated and the realities are at last made manifest to the authorities, the National Assembly and all local spiritual assemblies and their committees are disbanded, and no one may any longer be designated a member of the Bahá'í Administration.
the apostle dean's note:
enjoy the Administrative Order while we stil can