Baha’i Electoral System Elect only ambitious and greedy (and paranoid) to top offices
January 12, 2013 Leave a comment
The problem with the current situation in Baha’i Faith is not merely that the voting records of the NSA members are completely unknown. It is that the activities and policies of the NSA as a whole are almost completely unknown! What exactly do these people do? What policies have they made? What effect have the policies had? Have they been good for the growth of the community, numerically and spiritually? Without knowing the answer to this question, how can the delegates even begin to vote intelligently? Though, as we have seen, the very rules of the elections leave them with little potential impact.
We know that there were about 48,000 adult Baha’is with good addresses in the US in 1978. There are now about 60,000. In the meantime 12,000 Iranians immigrated. This means that there has been no growth in over twenty years. *None*. Of course, hundreds if not a few thousands of people have come in during the past two decades, but enormous numbers of them have gone right back out. Would any CEO who had not increased his earnings a single penny over twenty years be reappointed by the board?
The exclusivistic policies of Mr. Henderson, who is frankly mean-spirited, have contributed enormously to this Great Stagnation. He was the one who cracked down on Dialogue magazine in such a nasty way. He bullied Baha’i travel agents in 1991, for the Lord knows what reward from the corrupt Corporate Travel Consultants. He agitated behind the scenes for a crackdown on firstname.lastname@example.org. He has chased travel teachers out of the country, seeing them as an electoral threat should they become successful. I have no idea about the propriety of Jim Nelson’s book-keeping practices, but surely for Henderson to publicly smear him after Jim served on the NSA 1971-1999, in circumstances where Nelson cannot even publicly defend himself, is the height of sleaze. Henderson has arranged for himself to live rent free free in a 9-bedroom mansion (having the Bourgeois studio knocked down to build it, against UHJ instructions) with free Baha’i maids and gardeners, and his main business seems to be bullying Baha’is into silence behind the scenes. And I fully acknowledge that he is probably acting rationally given the way the Baha’i system is structured.
So, I think all these things are related: the fact that the Baha’i faith in the US has been going nowhere fast for decades; the fact that the electoral system seems to elect the ambitious and greedy (and paranoid) to the top offices; the fact that even initially upright people are made perpetual incumbents, exposing them to the temptations of absolute power held for decades and corrupting them; the fact that the electoral system provides an incentive for the incumbents to slap down and chase out potential competitors; the fact that it would not be in the incumbents’ interest for the faith to expand, become more open, attract a lot of new voters who might rock the boat.
Term limits would go a long way toward solving all these problems. In fact, why not have staggered elections for 4-year terms? You could elect 5 members in 2000 and 4 in 2002. People who don’t serve as long as Nelson did might not become tempted to act high-handedly. They wouldn’t face reelection and so would have no reason to fear being unseated by active young folks.
Counselor Fred Schechter, one of the people who falsely accused me, once told a friend of mine that anyone who becomes active in the faith will be attacked (by the faith’s officials, it is implied). We hadn’t at the time realized that Schechter intended to *act* on this observation!
This is a dysfunctional system, folks. There are ways in which it destroyed Dan Jordan (forcing him to live a lie and to resort to secret trysts), Allen Ward, and now Jim Nelson–not to mention the spiritual harm it has wreaked on the Baby Boom intellectuals who were enticed in with promises of tolerance and justice (!!!).
When Glenford Mitchell had become a huge pain in the ass as NSA secretary and was finally elected off it to the UHJ, everyone breathed a big sigh of relief. And when Henderson came in, the word was that he was a good guy, and we were all relieved. And then in a few short years he demonstrated that he was an even bigger pain in the ass than Mitchell had been. Even dumping Henderson wouldn’t solve the problem. The *system* creates the Hendersons and the Nelsons. If anyone cared about the fortunes of the faith as opposed to the size of their marble offices, they would fix the system.