Thursday, January 29, 2009

Followership and World Governance

By-words for World Order

By John Taylor; 2009 Jan 28, 10 Sultan, 165 BE

Part IV
"But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Matt 23:8-12, KJV)
I hate to think how often I have read this without ever giving it a second thought, except maybe wondering how it can be that certain Christian sects in spite of this persist in calling their leaders by titles like "father" or "patriarch." That is, I thought of it as a purely religious order rather than a practical one. The idea that a "no master" rule could be built into a political system just did not occur to me. Nor have I read any political author outside the Baha'i Faith who took it as seriously as it clearly deserves. Until, that is, I came across Jan Amos Comenius. In the following Comenius is considering the role of the individual in the three-pronged world government that he envisions,
"Indeed we ought to make several appointments to the office of guardian of human salvation, as Christ in his everlasting Wisdom has taught us in the famous passage in Matthew XXIII, 8-10, forbidding the establishment of one sole form of rule, worship, or wisdom amongst men." (Panorthosia, Ch. 15, para 9, p. 218)
That is, Comenius interprets this saying of Christ as forbidding all but poliarchy, rule of more than one in any of the political, religious and scientific institutions that would constitute a world government. No individual can take it over or even take on any direct power to the extent of meriting the title "master." Does that remind you of anything? Baha'i Houses of Justice, for instance? Comenius continues,
"For he (Christ) forbids the use on earth of the title master, father or leader in reference to the position of scholars, churchmen and politicians. Surely we must learn the lesson that the only form of world organisation should be for all men to unite in brotherhood, and all to depend on one Heavenly Father and the one Master and Leader whom He gave unto us, namely, Christ."
Of course avoiding the use of titles and other honorific forms of address for our leaders does not mean that we should not have any leaders at all. This is not doctrinaire egalitarianism, it says only that the "greatest among you shall be your servant." There will still be great ones among us but they are to be servants of the people, held to account for their words and actions. The goal is thus to create an "Aristos" (meaning "the best" in Greek) without an inherited, uppity aristocracy.
Reading over the context of the above saying of Jesus, I just noticed that He brackets it with very strong condemnations of hypocritical leaders who revel in titles, trappings and pageantry, and glory in high sounding words while their deeds belie their beautiful ideals.
The leader who humbles himself and, for that reason, is exalted to the station of service is put in stark contrast with the pompous hypocrites who persecute the Manifestations. Here is the source of the dictum, attributed to Lord Acton, that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Honors and titles, corrupt us no matter who we are, and like a poison gas the only way to avoid getting ill from it is to stop breathing it. Furthermore, as long as we followers give these honors and farm out our power without conditions to individuals, so long will leaders be sickened and continue to pervert the public thing.
Consider the very similar condemnation that Abdu'l-Baha gave in the "Noam Chomsky" passage that I cited more at length here lately,
"Glory be to God! What an extraordinary situation now obtains, when no one, hearing a claim advanced, asks himself what the speaker's real motive might be, and what selfish purpose he might not have hidden behind the mask of words." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, 103)
Who is Abdu'l-Baha condemning here? Certainly He goes on to talk about the hypocritical Muslim leader who puts his narrow, petty interest before that of all, and who bellows loudly about niggling points of ritual. Abdu'l-Baha does not praise the hypocrite any more than Christ did. But the real object of His criticism here is poor "followership," uncritical followers who abdicate their sacred responsibility to treat their leaders as their servants, that is, to make certain they do their job for the common good. Instead, most followers are totally uncritical; they blithely abdicate that responsibility and accept whatever their leaders tell them at face value.
I think both Comenius and Abdu'l-Baha realized that we will never have a world government until the people become better at "followership." Until we as a collectivity gain the skills of holding our leaders into account like a boss holds his employees into account, until we get into the habit of keeping pomp and titles from public service, so long will the old fear of a world dictatorship continue to block real power from being passed over to a world institution, however well designed and representative it may be.
In order to encourage such a critical attitude on the part of large numbers of people, Comenius suggests an interesting technique. As we noticed last fall in our series about Comenius's reform program for the family, Comenius suggests the repetition and display of specially chosen mottos. He does this throughout Panorthosia, suggesting a short motto for every important area of life.
He wrote of course centuries before advertisers arrogated this technique for their narrow, corrupt commercial purposes. Nonetheless the growth of an entire profession and the billions companies spend on publicity campaigns prove that dunning the mind of the masses with endless slogans, jingles and brand names is at least an effective technique.
Comenius was an educator, not a propagandist or advertiser. But he saw how a brief saying can remind us at the right time of the right thing to do. He suggested that the following mottos be posted everywhere to promote awareness of the role and value of the three world institutions:
Educational and Scientific Institution: "Light in Things"
Political Parliament: "Peace on Earth"
Parliament of Religions: "Peace of Conscience"
These three three-word mottos for three international bodies require further illumination. Here is the explanation that Comenius gives,
"Perfect Philosophy will take the form of universal agreement and harmony between Art and Nature, and its end will be LIGHT IN THINGS, and an abundance of them. The test of perfect Politics will be the restoration of human prudence to the certainty of the mechanical arts, and its end will be PEACE ON EARTH, and a quiet life. The seal of perfect Religion will be full agreement between the human will and the Will of God, and its end will be PEACE OF CONSCIENCE, that passeth all understanding, which would be heaven on earth." (Comenius, Panorthosia II, Ch. 10, para 38, pp. 167-168)
Having these three slogans in mind, the average citizen, no matter who they are, will be able to ask pointed questions of their leader-servants, no matter who it may be, be they in the family, the city, the nation or the world. If the person of prominence is a scientist or teacher, we can call to mind the slogan "light in things" and ask: "Is this a perfect philosophy? Does it promote enlightenment? Is it going to do the world any good?" If the head is in an institution dealing with practical or political affairs, the motto "Peace on Earth" reminds us always to ask, "Will this lead to peace or just stir up more conflict?" If the mugwump is in a religious inspired group, the slogan "Peace of Conscience" reminds us to ask: "Is your choice moral? Is it inspiring? Is this a harmonious application of God's teaching?"
There is no doubt that poor followership causes wrongheaded thinking, extremism, zealotry, fanaticism and fundamentalism in science, politics and religion. This blocks peace everywhere. Comenius's idea of mottos designed to uphold the true fundamentals of peace, love, and enlightenment, would be a powerful universal weapon against corruption, prejudice and misused power.
John Taylor

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