The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Alison and Steve Marshall <>
To: <>
Subject: adjectives and anger
Date: Monday, June 15, 1998 7:19 AM
I've been reading this book called Surplus Powerlessness by Michael Lerner,
which Eric P recommends. In it, Lerner argues that anger has a bad
reputation in our society because it is a threat to "those who have power
... because it could be directed against them." He argues that it is an
emotion that leads "people to feel strong" and to struggle against
situations that are not right for them. He says that those in control
"always supported an approach to culture that saw anger as ugly and
He goes on: "Creating an anti-anger bias in the culture is not a matter of
giving good arguments against anger, but rather of indoctrinating people
with feelings of guilt and shame about the anger they felt, and associating
anger with everything that is repulsive and disgusting. It is more a matter
of getting people to internalize a sense that 'good manners' requires the
suppression of anger..." (p. 174)
As soon as I read this, I immediately thought about how we are trained to
write letters to the AO. As I understand it, there is a right way and a
wrong way to write to the institutions. It is better to write in a courtly
style, and include open statements of obedience and respect. The more one
moves away from this style, the more likely it is that your communications
will be seen as an affront to what is assumed (as opposed to deserved) to be
the mana of the institution, and the less likely you'll get a direct
response to the issue you raise, and the more likely it is that you will be
told to change your attitude. I read the correspondence relating to the
removal of the voting rights of David Langness, and the only 'crime' I could
see that he had committed was to have a 'bad attitude'. 
The expectation that one should not express one's constructive criticism and
emotions (and this includes not questioning too much) is all pervasive in
Baha'i culture. It's a great clobbering machine that makes sure nothing ever
changes. The other day, I was at a meeting and got angry and said that I was
very unhappy that here we were listening to what a counsellor had said at
convention as though it was gospel, when he was expressing ideas that had
been expressed locally on many occasions before but no one had listened to
them, and that this disempowering behaviour was never going to get us
anywhere. One person eye-balled me and said, "You seem very angry, what's
your problem." So you see, I *personally* had a problem; not, I give a damn
about the mess our faith is in and am expressing that. 
I agree whole heartedly that we go in for relentless cheerleading and that
anyone who dares to say that the emperor has no clothes is crushed - most
effectively by other Baha'is who can't bear it when someone breaks ranks and
points out what we could all see, should we just choose to repeat the gaze.
Alison & Steve Marshall, Aotearoa   | "Fanaticism consists in redoubling   (New Zealand) | your efforts when you have forgotten
Try:   | your aim."        - George Santayana