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Re: Usage guidelines for ARCANA

Nov 19, 1997 07:27 AM
by Eldon B Tucker


>>From day one, Theos-xxxx lists have never had any guidelines, rules or any
>>restriction of any sort and had done very well. 
>Varied topics on theosophy, theosophical organizations and theosophical
>personalities have been discussed at various time. While everything that
>goes on may be not have satisfied everyone, still it is serving its purpose
>very well. Also from time to time, due to the openness and lack of
>guidelines or rules, subscribers have posted information which are
>unavailable from *any* other source. Some of the information some may not
>want the world to know about it. But Truth needs no defenders and it can
>take care of itself.
>I am for status-quo, and if it is not broken, don't fix it. Let us not
>tinker it and possibly ruin it.

Trying to understand how it works does not mean tinkering with it and
possibly breaking it. There *are* guidelines or norms of behavior in
operation. Because they haven't been articulated, they are implicit 
rather than explicit guidelines. They are established and maintained
by the consistent behavior of the list participants. There's nothing
wrong with attempting to articulate them, turning them from secret,
underground, unconscious rules into something that can be understood
and talked about.

The only new argument against coming out into the open about how 
things are operating, that I've heard lately, runs something like this:

"If you write a guideline about how theos-l operates you're
externally imposing an authority on my freedom-loving soul that'll
bring me to fight you or flee the list. But -- ha, ha! -- you can't
because John Mead owns the list and would never let you!"

I can't follow the logic in this line of thought since the 
attempt to understand implicit norms of behavior on the list *is not*
the imposition of either guidelines (voluntary) nor of rules

I've heard some discussion on theos-l in the past about how it
has been a problem that theosophical organizations have implicit,
unspoken rules and expectations of their memberships -- about how
this is bad, how issues should be aired and worked out by
people in the open. Is this something that we can only talk
about when it deals with other people?

A group -- lodge, organization, even mailing list -- tends to 
maintain its status quo. Many members are followers, listeners,
lurkers at meetings. A handful like to monopolize the air time
and control the direction of discussions and programs. That
handful is the group's "leadership". It maintains the status
quo by providing the group with programs along lines that it
likes and by keeping the group "on topic" or resisting the
introduction of new ideas by newcomers, if those new ideas
give the group a new direction. (That new direction is
perceived as a "takeover" since it may take power away from
the existing leadership.)

On a mailing list with no moderation and no explicit guidelines,
the implicit guidelines are defined and enforced by the
most-active participants. The statement "you can't tell us to
change" in response to any questioning of the status quo is
really saying "we're happy with how we're currently running
things, so shut up!" The status quo (implicit guidelines) is
enforced by both punishment -- a barrage of critical messages
both posted and privately sent to the offender -- and by
rewards -- a number of positive, glowing statements in 
response to people supporting the party line.

So ... back to my original questions: What are the currently
guidelines or norms? What are the pros and cons, the good and
bad in them? Why are things the way they are?

One point made was that there may be highly useful information
that may come out, information that may have been censored
or discarded as useless in an unmoderated list. This is given
as an argument against moderation, with the assumption
that a person moderating a list would not be bright enough
to see how important something is, or would be too prejudiced
to allow it out.

An example of a guideline would be to not use language
that might be considered as sexist and offensive to some
members. This is a guideline since it's a recommended 
behavior, but not a mandatory rule, since no one would be
kicked off the list if his writing failed inspection by
the "language police".

Another example of a guideline concerns the
discussion of theosophical historic figures (e.g. Leadbeater).
Some people were as pissed off and outraged at this discussion
as others were about sexist language. At the time, there was
a guideline established that the historic discussion move to
theos-roots, so as not to appear on theos-l and be seen by
and continue to offend them. This guideline held for a while
and then was ignored. 

A third guideline is that the list not be exploited for
the commercial gain of anyone, that it not be filled with
ads selling products or soliciting funds.

A fourth is that purely personal communications, being of
little or no interest to the overall list, be sent as
private email.

What else do we see that is going on?

-- Eldon

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