Dysfunction In Bahai Institutions
August 13, 2011 Leave a comment
The dysfunction that I’ve witnessed in Baha’i institutions is both tragic and awe inspiring. Like many Baha’is I assumed that the institutions where there to help, protect and to serve the community. Had I not been witness to them, there was a point where I would simply not have believed the things that I saw. In the second stage, I grasped at the hope that the dysfunction was isolated to the lowest rung (LSAs) or to a geographic area. But soon, I saw that this was not so. I won’t go into the details now because I’ve already talked about it a few times. Needless to say, there is something very wrong here. And it is hurting the Baha’i community severely. Yet we trundle along, managing to ignore it for the most part.
I often think about why things are as they are. Part of it is our propensity to not take cold hard looks at ourselves as a community to evaluate the results we are achieving. Part of it is the culture that prevents any and all feedback, especially if it is remotely negative. Such feedback is seen as criticism and an attack on the institutions – no matter that it be truthful and delivered with loving intentions.
Part of the problem is that the same people are elected to the same positions year after year. This causes a host of problems from feelings of entitlement, to rigid group think, to the creation of little fiefdoms. Part of the problem may be that we haven’t been able to counter a social framework that has a bias for incompetent but loud members. I read this article in Times magazine and was immediately struck by how much of it reflected what was going on in the Baha’i institutions:
“Dominant individuals behaved in ways that made them appear competent” the researchers write, “above and beyond their actual competence.” Troublingly, group members seemed only too willing to follow these underqualified bosses.
The only way I can think of to counter these harmful built-in biases is to create a culture of transparency (something which is completely lacking in the Baha’i Faith right now), to create a sense of accountability, to institute term limits that would bring in new faces and ideas to the table, to ask the community to give feedback to the institutions and to respond to it adequately, even if it means admitting mistakes.
Prepared by Baquia