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Re: An idea

Feb 16, 1998 09:08 PM
by JRC

>    There is plenty of communication. What is being requested is a specific
>FORM of communication, with a small portion of the membership, and a lot of
>non-members who publicly lambast the organization's leadership on a regular
    Bull. Several weeks ago the "reason" why no one responded to member
internet queries was because "no one at Wheaton even pays attention". When
that was pretty much exposed as being patently absurd and factually
incorrect, suddenly now its because there's only a few members, and they
"lambast" the leadership on a regular basis? Well guess what Bart ... I've
been on these lists from close to the very beginning, and at first no one
"lambasted" anyone. Most queries were polite and very honest and well
intended questions, asked by sometimes long-time Theosophists whose years of
membership and Theosophical work certainly made them deserving of at least
an acknowledgement - and they were utterly ignored to the same degree as
queries currently are. It hasn't mattered a bit *how* Wheaton has been
    Over time, the leadership came to be "lambasted" only *after* two things
happened ... first, it became clear that online members would simply be
completely ignored, and second, a number of different situations began to be
discussed that demonstrated that the way Wheaton was presenting information
was *very* distorted, and a number of behind the scenes activities began to
be made public.
    Yes, there *is* "plenty of communication", but *only*
in those "FORMS" in which Wheaton gets to completely control the
communication. On this list last year there was a vigorous discussion off
and on for two or three months about "minor housekeeping changes" to the
bylaws. Strong opinions were held, cases made, information presented,
possibilities discussed - and certainly both supporters and those who
strongly disagreed with the changes both made their arguments. Probably very
few people's minds were actually changed among the participants (though I
hear that a number of the listeners *did* come to understand that the
changes were more significant than Wheaton was presenting), but the point
is, it was the *actual debate*. In fact IMO there's a very good chance that
had the whole Society seen the real debate, the changes may *not* have been
passed, or would have at least been a lot closer. What sort of
"communication" did Wheaton provide? It made its own case in its newsletter,
and permitted one or two minor critiques (that didn't even touch the most
significant points) and then immediately responded to the
critiques. For anyone not online ... one would think that the changes were
just "minor", that there *was* no debate and barely any questions at all. On
the internet Wheaton *wouldn't* be able to control the spin ... it could try
to make its case, but would be asked a whole lot of questions it clearly
does not even want to be topics of discussion.
    The lists may be small ... but a number of long-time, well known members
are participants. There are members on this list with every bit as wide a
knowledge of Theosophical writings as John Algeo, and at least a dozen with
*considerably* more experience at actually *running* businesses and
organizations. These are *not* people who just humbly accept being treated
as though they are freshmen in one of his English classes.
    Frustration at being completely unacknowledged has *lead* to the
lambasting. Guess what, *any* leadership that ignores any members other than
those acting in an "approved" fashion gets two results: First, a lot of
people just *quit*, and second, some choose to remain out of loyalty to the
organization, and over time they get really angry and frustrated. John Algeo
& gang certainly have the power to act any way they want to - they can sue
their own Lodges, and then change the bylaws so they don't even *have* to
sue them again, can ignore any members or queries they want, discover all
sorts of new "meanings" in the Objects, can, in short, completely control
what the TS is regardless of what any members think or say, and can so
completely control communications that they supress any evidence of growing
discontent - BUT THEY ARE REAPING WHAT THEY HAVE SOWN: Plummeting membership
numbers and growing amounts of "lambasting" in every forum over which they
*don't* have control. But its the height of arrogance to now point to that
intense criticism, which is an expression of anger and frustration created
by Wheaton itself - and now claim that *its* the reason why the poor
victimized Wheaton remains, *as it has been from the very beginning*,
utterly silent. You can starve a dog for a week, but you can't then claim at

the end of the week that the reason you're not gonna feed it is because its
barking at you so loudly.

>Or, put it another way: Let's say a member of an organization decided
>that the officers should call each member individually on the phone. Would
>you think it strange that a massive lobbying effort might be required to
>make it happen?
Why put it another way when doing so confuses rather than clarifies? Email
and/or participation in discussion lists, are *not* the same things as
either snail mail or the phone. I help run one non-profit, and do volunteer
work for two others, including one large one, and in all three cases the
Executive Director either directly responds to all email addressed to
him/her, or has staff do so - and in two out of three the ED's insist that
the response be immediate ... hell, I've even received personal email
responses from my Montana Congressman (a number of members of Congress and
the Senate have staff members respond ... but also answer selected messages
themselves - but then again, they actually believe they are *responsible* to
the people that elected them). Email is by far the quickest and cheapest
form of communication that exists today - and cannot even be compared to
phones. Besides, the point isn't the *form* of communication, its the
*attitude towards members*. Executive Directors and Presidents of small
organizations, or their staffs if the organization is larger, generally feel
RESPOND TO EMAIL* - the ridiculous fact that we are even having this
argument on this list is just bizarre. This isn't a single member trying to
convince the TS Board to phone 4000 people, its a group at least partially
composed of *dues-paying members* of the Theosophical Society *trying to get
its Officers and staff to answer direct questions about significant things
the Officers are doing with the organization*. There is not a *SINGLE*
organization I've ever worked for, or belonged to, save the TS, whose
headquarters does not *ROUTINELY* respond to all correspondence sent by
    Its ridiculous to say that what is being required is an effort in which
12 people are being told they need to call 4000 - what *is* being requested
is that the Headquarters of an organization *answer its damn mail*. Should
it take a massive campaign to get the TS to do what every business,
organization and government agency in the country does as a matter of

>      The overwhelming majority of the membership of TSA is not on the
>Internet. And not all of them have the stomach to take the kind of attacks
>I take for defending them every now and then.
    Which attacks Bart? Like a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned
"mindless supporters"? What was that post in response to? Oh yeah, a
condescending message from *you* in which you stated the delightful opinion
that apparently anyone who actually criticized the "good people" at Wheaton
were just starting groundless "rumors". You can try all you want to to
present Wheaton and its supporters as good people who are the poor innocent
victims of nasty attacks - but it won't work - it just *isn't the truth*.
This poor victimized leadership has *all the power and resources of TS
Headquarters*, and growing numbers of people are fully aware of evidence
that they are *using* that power to dominate the TS with their own narrow
views of Theosophy, and completely supressing any disagreement. You can
defend their right to do so if you want, say that all the critics are wrong
and anything other than nice supportive comments are "rumors", and try to
claim that its only on this list where a small group of malcontents
"lambasts" the leadership ... but if you and Wheaton actually *believe*
those arguments ... I suspect the next few years will hold some very
interesting surprises. You can defend their right to respond to, or
completely ignore members depending upon their whims, but do not be *too*
shocked when the same thing happens to them that happens to leaderships in
almost *any* organization that manages to alienate significant numbers of
its members.
    Yes the overwhelming majority of the membership are *not* on the
internet - but its also apparent that many of them don't have the "stomach"
to take Wheaton's attitudes any longer. ONE THIRD of the membership has LEFT
during the current administration. What do you think, that the intense anger
and frustration you see on this list exists *only on the list*? Do you think
that the information that circulates on this list *stays here* ... isn't
making its way through the larger TS? The list is simply the only place
where it is *visible*. Why have all those people quit? I can speak at least
for people I know - I was part of a group that started a branch in the late
eighties - who jump started Theosophy in western Montana. We were
recongnized as a Lodge, had a core membership of nine or ten, and were
holding public meetings that drew at times up to 40 or 50 people (as large
as Seattle branch meetings ... in an area with a population only a fraction
of the size). Last year the Lodge was dissolved. Out of the nine or ten
members, there are now two ... myself, and a guy whose membership *can't*
lapse because he's a life member. And *to the person* the reason the rest
quit was as a direct result of the current leadership. In fact 3 say they'll
join again if the leadership changes. The people actually still meet now and
then, and still study and cooperate with one another on public service
projects ... they are still *living* the Theosophical life ... and refuse to
be members because they don't want to support what they see as a leadership
that is being - even in empirical terms - *destructive* to Theosophy in
    I've spoken with several members at large, and people from at least 4
other Lodges around the country who have quit - *because* of the way the TS
is being run.
    I think you really *are* a committed Theosophist Bart ... and that you
are probably a good and loyal friend of John Algeo's, and naturally want to
come to the defense of your friend -  but maybe you'll also realize that a
lot of the *critics* are doing what they do because they *also* love
Theosophy, and many have had *bad* personal experiences with the current TS
leadership. You want to complain about the critics? Many of them would much
rather just *quit* (as many have) ... but they *don't*, because of a love
for and commitment to the TS. None of them "lambasted" Wheaton *first* ...
they all did so only *after* calm and polite avenues of approach received
nothing - often not even the briefest acknowledgement - in return.
    If you *really* think JA is "good", and wish to support him ... perhaps
instead of trying to defend his actions and attitudes, you should *help* him
understand that he needs significant work on the organizational and
emotional components of leadership. You may even agree with everything he's
done ... but isn't it clear that at the very least he has significant
*perception* problems - and that perception is as important to leadership as
policy is? Isn't the downright hemorrhaging of membership deeply disturbing?

    HQ can squelch any signs of discontent, and you can dismiss the
complaints on this list as just confined to this list ... but when the oil
light in a car comes on, simply snipping the wires to the oil light is *not*
the same thing as filling the car with oil. *Most* Theosophists *want*
whomever the leadership is to *succeed* ... but the situation now is beyond
serious - membership dropping, Lodges closing, growing numbers of members
all over the country feeling frustrated, angry, alienated - the *light* of
Theosophy is *dimming* in the US, and it is dimming *because* the current
leadership is simply not good at leading, and has so changed the bylaws so
as to make it increasingly difficult for any genuinely fresh blood and ideas
to gain leadership positions.
    The current leadership is "winning", but the result is that *Theosophy*
is *losing* ... and that feeling is *not* just confined to a few people on
this list. -JRC

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