childintime wrote: . . .
As for seeking out the opinions of the learned and the wise, we are quite accustomed to this, since it is something that humans have been doing for centuries. Unfortunately, we are now taking this to the degree that we are creating a polarization between "those who know and those who do not know", and it's only too clear the problems that are now arising. For a great discussion of this line, I suggest "Asking Questions" by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani.
A potentially interesting non-Baha'i article on the historical rise of the bureaucratic tendency toward "social engineering" in the industrialized world (to the detriment of self-sufficiency, local and vernacular values, etc.) was written by Ivan Illich
), the "father of the deep ecology movement" for Stewart Brand, the editor of the Whole Earth Catalog:
http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illic ... cular.html
Vernacular Values by Ivan Illich
[Note: These essays from CoEvolution Quarterly were the basis of most of Illich's book Shadow Work (Marion Boyars, 1981).]
Cuernavaca, April 12th 1980
Three years ago you asked, what had become of my plan to write an epilogue to the industrial age. Indeed, that is what I had promised in 1973 in the introduction to Tools for Conviviality
. . .
Counterproductivity, however, is a new kind of disappointment which arises "within" the very use of the good purchased. This internal counterproductivity, an inevitable component of modern institutions, has become the constant frustration of the poorer majority of each institution's clients: intensely experienced but rarely defined. Each major sector of the economy produces its own unique and paradoxical contradictions. Each necessarily effects the opposite of that for which it was structured. Economists, who are increasingly competent to put price-tags on externalities, are unable to deal with negative internalities, and cannot measure the inherent frustration of captive clients which is something other than a cost.
For most people, schooling twists genetic differences into certified degradation; the medicalization of health increases demand for services far beyond the possible and useful, and undermines that organic coping ability which common sense calls health; transportation, for the great majority bound to the rush hour, increases the time spent in the servitude to traffic, reducing both freely chosen mobility and mutual access. The development of educational, medical and other welfare agencies has actually removed most clients from the obvious purpose for which these projects were designed and financed. This institutionalized frustration, resulting from compulsory consumption, combines with the new externalities. It demands an increase in the production of scavenging and repair services to impoverish and even destroy individuals and communities, affecting them in a class-specific manner. In effect, the peculiarly modern forms of frustration and paralysis and destruction totally discredit the description of the desirable society in terms of installed production capacity.
Defense against the damages inflicted by development, rather than access to some new "satisfaction", has become the most sought after privilege. You have arrived if you can commute outside the rush hour; probably attended an elite school; if you can give birth at home; are privy to rare and special knowledge if you can bypass the physician when you are ill; are rich and lucky if you can breathe fresh air; by no means poor, if you can build your own shack. The underclasses are now made up of those who must consume the counterproductive packages and ministrations of their self-appointed tutors; the privileged are those who are free to refuse them. A new attitude, then, has taken shape during these last years: the awareness that we cannot ecologically afford equitable development leads many to understand that, even if development in equity were possible, we would neither want more of it for ourselves, nor want to suggest it for others.
Ten years ago, we tended to distinguish social options exercised within the political sphere from technical options assigned to the expert. The former were meant to focus on goals, the latter more on means. Roughly, options about the desirable society were ranged on a spectrum that ran from right to left: here, capitalist, over there, socialist "development". The how was left to the experts. This one-dimensional model of politics is now passé. Today, in addition to "who gets what", two new areas of choice have become lay issues: the very legitimacy of lay judgment on the apt means for production, and the trade-offs between growth and freedom. As a result, three independent classes of options appear as three mutually perpendicular axes of public choice.
On the x-axis I place the issues related to social hierarchy, political authority, ownership of the means of production and allocation of resources that are usually designated by the terms, right and left. On the y-axis, I place the technical choices between hard and soft, extending these terms far beyond a pro and con atomic power: not only goods, but also services are affected by the hard and soft alternatives.
A third choice falls on the z-axis. Neither privilege nor technique, but rather the nature of human satisfaction is at issue. To characterize the two extremes, I shall use terms defined by Erich Fromm. At the bottom, I place a social organization that fits the seeking of satisfaction in having; at the top, in doing. At the bottom, therefore, I place a commodity-intensive society where needs are increasingly defined in terms of packaged goods and services designed and prescribed by professionals, and produced under their control. This social ideal corresponds to the image of a humanity composed of individuals, each driven by considerations of marginal utility, the image that has developed from Mandeville via Smith and Marx to Keynes, and that Louis Dumont calls homo economicus.
. . .
In a commodity-intensive society, basic needs are met through the products of wage-labor - housing no less than education, traffic no less than the delivery of infants.
[*] The work ethic which drives such a society
[*] legitimates employment for salary or wages
[*] and degrades independent coping.
. . .
Fundamentally, the concept implies the replacement of general competence and satisfying subsistence activities by the use and consumption of commodities; the monopoly of wage-labor over all other kinds of work; redefinition of needs in terms of goods and services mass-produced according to expert design; finally, the rearrangement of the environment in such fashion that space, time, materials and design favor production and consumption while they degrade or paralyze use-value oriented activities that satisfy needs directly. And all such worldwide homogeneous changes and processes are valued as inevitable and good.
. . .
At this juncture, it is the task of the historian and the philosopher to clarify the sources of and disentangle the process resulting in Western needs. Only thus shall we be able to understand how such a seemingly enlightened concept produced such devastating exploitation. Progress, the notion which has characterized the West for 2000 years, and has determined its relations to outsiders since the decay of classical Rome, lies behind the belief in needs. Societies mirror themselves not only in their transcendent gods, but also in their image of the alien beyond their frontiers. The West exported a dichotomy between "us" and "them" unique to industrial society. This peculiar attitude towards self and others is now worldwide, constituting the victory of a universalist mission initiated in Europe.
. . .
The perception of the outsider as someone who must be helped has taken on successive forms. In late antiquity, the barbarian mutated into the pagan - the second stage toward development had begun. The pagan was defined as the unbaptized, but ordained by nature to become Christian. It was the duty of those within the Church to incorporate him by baptism into the body of Christendom. In the early Middle Ages, most people in Europe were baptized, even though they might not yet be converted. Then the Muslim appeared. Unlike Goths and Saxons, Muslims were monotheists, and obviously prayerful believers; they resisted conversion. Therefore, besides baptism, the further needs to be subjected and instructed had to be imputed. The pagan mutated into the infidel, our third stage.
By the late Middle Ages, the image of the alien mutated again. The Moors had been driven from Granada, Columbus had sailed across the ocean, and the Spanish Crown had assumed many functions of the Church. The image of the wild man who threatens the civilizing function of the humanist replaced the image of the infidel who threatens the faith. At this time also, the alien was first described in economy-related terms. From many studies on monsters, apes and wild men, we learn that the Europeans of this period saw the wild man as having no needs. This independence made him noble, but a threat to the designs of colonialism and mercantilism. To impute needs to the wild man, one had to make him over into the native, the fifth stage. Spanish courts, after long deliberation, decided that at least the wild man of the New World had a soul and was, therefore, human. In opposition to the wild man, the native has needs, but needs unlike those of civilized man. His needs are fixed by climate, race, religion and providence. Adam Smith still reflects on the elasticity of native needs. As Gunnar Myrdal has observed, the construct of distinctly native needs was necessary both to justify colonialism and to administer colonies. The provision of government, education and commerce for the natives was for four hundred years the white man's assumed burden.
[*] Each time the West put a new mask on the
[*] alien, the old one was discarded because
[*] it was now recognized as a caricature of
[*] an abandoned self-image.
The pagan with his naturally Christian soul had to give way to the stubborn infidel to allow Christendom to launch the Crusades. The wild man became necessary to justify the need for secular humanist education, The native was the crucial concept to promote self-righteous colonial rule. But by the time of the Marshall Plan, when multinational conglomerates were expanding and
[*] the ambitions of transnational pedagogues,
[*] therapists and planners knew no bounds,
the natives' limited needs for goods and services thwarted growth and progress. They had to metamorphose into underdeveloped people, the sixth and present stage of the West's view of the outsider.
Thus decolonization was also a process of conversion: the worldwide acceptance of the Western self-image of homo economicus in his most extreme form as homo industrialis, with all needs commodity-defined. Scarcely twenty years were enough to make two billion people define themselves as underdeveloped. I vividly remember the Rio Carnival of 1963 - the last before the Junta imposed itself. "Development" was the motif in the prize-winning samba, "development" the shout of the dancers while they jumped to the throbbing of the drums.
Development based on high per capita energy quanta and intense professional care is the most pernicious of the West's missionary efforts - a project guided by an ecologically unfeasible conception of human control over nature, and by an anthropologically vicious attempt to replace the nests and snakepits of culture by sterile wards for professional service. The hospitals that spew out the newborn and reabsorb the dying, the schools run to busy the unemployed before, between and after jobs, the apartment towers where people are stored between trips to the supermarkets, the highways connecting garages form a pattern tatooed into the landscape during the short development spree. These institutions, designed for lifelong bottle babies wheeled from medical centre to school to office to stadium begin now to look as anomalous as cathedrals, albeit unredeemed by any esthetic charm.
. . .
The "bureaucratic" form of "westernized" Baha'i culture was obviously modeled on the pattern that Illich is critical of.
The more "vernacular" forms of Baha'i culture, for instance the Iranian communities structured along the lines of old sufi families where mysticism was more important than "modernized" bureaucracy and engineering, were marginalized at the same time that many other middle eastern cultures were adopting the western paradigm of social engineering (most of those efforts were unsuccessful, leading to various failed experiments in political reform). Apparently the conflict between Hand of the Cause Mazandarani and the Iranian NSA over the "official" version of Baha'i history was an example of how the "social engineers" marginalized alternate models of community.
(Mazandarani reportedly attempted to "objectively" interpret Babi and early Baha'i history by collecting the memories of the "vernacular" participants in the actual historical events themselves, which was problematic since the information presumably tended to contradict the prevailing version of Baha'i history that was from the viewpoint of the leadership elites.)
Another analysis of some of the same themes that Illich raises is provided in the "libertarian" (von Hayek/Chigaco school) historical articles of Leonard P. Liggio of the Atlas Foundation and Mount Pelerin Society. Liggio traces the changes in european religious culture through the medieval period and into the post-fedual and colonial eras with reference to how politically centralized "social engineering" bureaucracies developed in contrast to older, more decentralized, and more "democratic" structures.
Leonard Liggio "The Hispanic Tradition of Liberty: The Road Not Taken in Latin America"
(lost/broken URL: http://www.townhall.com/phillysoc/liggiosa.htm
- - - - - - - - -
. . .
Spain had shared the liberation from Roman taxation and inflation
when the Germanic tribes burst the Rhine frontier in 406 A.D. The
Visigothic settlers in Spain brought
[***]German concepts of limited power of the ruler[***]
and extensive independence and rights of freeman.
[***]The king must live on his own resources[***], and
[***]the concept of taxation was unacceptable[***]
 to independent
freeman. But the representative institutions of the Germans
became limited to the Visigothic Christian kingdoms in the
Pyrenees, Asturias, Navarre, and Galicia with the Moslem conquest
after 711 A D. and the Moslem defeat by the Franks at
the Battle of Tours in 732 A. D.
During the five hundred years of the Reconquista, the Germanic
concepts of law and political institutions flourished in Spain.
In the various kingdoms of Spain, Asturias, Galicia, Navarre,
Leon, Castile, Aragon, Cataluna, and Valencia the rights of
freeman were clearly recognized. Taxation was at odds with
freedom. The king's capacity depended on possessing enough
funds of his own to pay for his costs as king. The nobles and
freeman, townsmen in municipalities with charters, and the
secular and monastic clergy embodied complete independence and
rights against the king.
The well-known oaths of the nobles, freeman, townsmen, and
clergy, as at the coronation of the kings of Aragon, and the
reciprocal oaths of the kings required kings to live up to their
oaths; and if not, the freeman, etc. were absolved of their oaths.
We find in the [***]Fueros[***]--traditional rights and
independence from taxation of the medieval nobles, freeman,
townsmen, and clergy, with their
[***]roots in Germanic legal concept[***]--the foundations of
modern rights. English legal and constitutional history,
with the Magna Carta, was parallel to the experiences in Spain,
such as the Great charter of 1020 issued by the Cortes of
Leon under Alphonso V."
"At the time (after 1760) of London's attempt to displace North
America's medieval heritage, a leading Bourbon reformer and
utilitarian advocate of Enlightened Despotism, Gaspar Melchor de
Jovellanos (1744-1811) declared Iberia's great tragedy to
be its Gothic inheritance. Jovellanos and the Enlightened
philosophers attacked Montesquieu and his assertion that it was
Gothic constitutional traditions which were the foundations of
the flourishing of liberty and wealth among Europeans. We
need to recall that Montesquieu and his defense of the Gothic
constitution was the most influential authority among the
American founding fathers."
"When the United States Constitution was written, it received
*-> violently critical reviews from the great philosophers of the
French Enlightenment. They did not understand, as Edmund Burke
well understood, that the Americans had revolted against
England because the English bureaucrats were attempting to
destroy the Americans' medieval institutions and to install a
modern, bureaucratic state. The French philosophers emphasized
repeatedly that the American constitution was retrogressive,
looking back to the institutions and concepts of liberty of the
middle ages. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams sought to
explain to the philosophers that the American revolutionaries
were traditional Whigs who wished to keep all the historic,
medieval institutions of England, from common law to
[***] absence of central government agents. [***]"
"The medieval supremacy of the judiciary and judicial review were
reflected in the U. S. Constitution and The Federalist
Papers. "The political and social philosophies that sprang from
the Enlightenment were [***]religious[***] because they ascribed
ultimate meaning and sanctity to the individual mind and also, it
must be added immediately, to the nation. The age of
individualism and rationalism was also the age of nationalism:
the individual was a citizen, and public opinion turned out to be
not the opinion of mankind but the opinion of Frenchmen, the
opinion of Germans, the opinion of Americans, and so forth.
Individualism, rationalism, nationism - the Triune Deity of
Democracy - found legal expression in the exaltation of the role
of the legislature and the consequent reduction (except in the
United States) of the law-crating role of the judiciary." Harold
J. Berman, The Interaction of Law and Religion (Nashville,
Tennessee, Abingdon Press, 1974, pp. 68-9)."
- - - - - - - - -
Also see: http://www.acton.org/publicat/randl/article.php?id=333
To me, the most interesting thing that Liggio unearths in the "marginalized" history of medieval eropean religious culture is the role that "vernacular" religious culture and "working class" organizations had at the beginning of the period in which the forms of "modern" (middle class) economic behavior and culture were developing.
The Baha'i Faith of course contains a blend of centralized and decentralized elements in its organization, but as far as I can tell, the kind of populist/decentralized political culture that is found in the anglo-american tradition has neve been favored in the dominant forms of Baha'i culture.
The Guardian of course was schooled in France and England, and probably absorbed a bias against "american populism/libertarianism" (the tradition of political decentralization) as a result.
The above analysis is just a preliminary impression, I'm not a deep "expert" in the historical matters involved.