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Re: Lock-step mentality

Sep 15, 1999 10:42 AM
by JRC

I figured I'd get in a little trouble for using Microsoft as an example ...
simply because virtually everyone reacts to the mere mention of the name
these days. And there was a real danger my comments would be misunderstood,
not read carefully, or taken out of context. And they were. I'd better

>Whoa!  I'll agree that Microsoft pays more attention to the world than the
>TS, but that does not mean that Microsoft has "good" intentions nore does
>it mean that Microsoft's way is to be emulated by those in the "spiritual

I never said Microsoft had good or bad intentions - in fact very clearly
said that their *end* (making piles of money) was very different from the
end pursued by Theosophy. Nor did I bring up Microsoft. Someone else did, in
what I believe was a sarcastic response to my sketch of what a responsive
organization or government in the modern world looked like. In fact, I was
explicitly clear that our ends were different, and never said we should
"emulate" Microsoft. What I *did* do was attempt to contrast the current TS
leadership with the Microsoft leadership, and I *did* say that there was
probably something to be learned from looking at some of the *means*
Microsoft used to achieve its ends. (I believe) the current TS is dying -
the leadership inbred and membership numbers dwindling - because it is still
running according to 19th century models, and has utterly failed to adjust
its attitudes (or even its language) to present its wisdom to a world far
far different from the one HPB lived in. Do you think there is *nothing* to
be learned from looking at a person and a company that, despite people's
emotional reactions to it, clearly *has* figured out how to run a successful
organization, and clearly *does* know how to respond to the world it works

And I'd also be careful about painting Microsoft or Gates as all that evil.
He and his wife now run the single largest non-profit trust in the world,
and over the next few years the money will in part be spent to buy
innoculations and vaccinations for millions (*millions*) of poor children in
the developing world. As with most people with larger than normal amounts of
money or power - he's a mixed bag. He's not a saint. But he's also not the
devil. When he's selling Windows 2000 he is as vicious a competitor as ever
walked the earth. But tell, me, what are his "intentions" in funding a
nearly 20 billion dollar charitable trust? Think he's doing it solely for
the tax write-off? In fact, that money-grubber might actually wind up doing,
in practice, more to ameliorate the suffering of "orphan humanity" than a
half-dozen non-profit organizations run by "selfless servents" (a shocking
number of whom spend a sizeable amount of the money you give them on their
salaries and "administrative" costs ...) put together.

>Microsoft, as you say, has managed to dominate 90% of the world's PC's -
>meaning, it's their way or no way.  There are many paths to the Divine; to
>demand or manipulate people to do it your way, or to limit ways, is not

Two things: first - I agree, that demanding or manipulating people to do it
your way is not admirable. But Microsoft is not trying to carve a path to
the divine - its trying to sell software. I use its web servers and its
development tools. It hasn't demanded that I do so, nor manipulated me into
doing so. In fact - *name* someone that has actually been manipulated by
Microsoft ... you talking about companies? Most of them that have been
beaten by MS (and there are many) were run by people equally greedy - they
had the same ends, they just weren't as good at pursuing them. The press
(and the government) likes to paint pictures of poor helpless little
companies being eaten by the giant. But Bill Gates and Paul Allen used to be
a couple of those little guys - and they went up against a giant (IBM) ...
and won ... and in 5 years Microsoft could just as easily be almost
obselete. Are you saying Microsoft should be "nice"? If not companies, do
you mean manipulating people? Well, that's the case the government is trying
to make - most certainly almost every PC one buys has Windows on it. And it
comes with a browser. Poor Netscape! Its just terrible! Netscape's CEO
testified about how brutal MS was, and is helping the government try to
force MS to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows. Of course, no one
really brought up the fact that before Microsoft created Explorer,
*Netscape* had a 99% monopoly on the browser market - they had the first
commercial web browser in existence. And you had to *buy* it. Very funny to
hear *them* now complaining about Microsoft being a monopolist (because
Netscape's monopoly is now cut in half). About how Microsoft has the gall to
manipulate people into using their browser by ... by what? By *giving it
away free*, and forcing Netscape to give *theirs* away free. Have I been
manipulated because I'm now getting for free something that Netscape used to
make me pay for? I've got four different computers, with four different
operating systems (only one of them Microsoft), a half dozen different
browsers, and dozens of applications, some of them Microsoft, many of them
not. No one that doesn't want to needs to use a single MS product.

Second point: Doing things like manipulating elections, completely
controlling publications, using membership money against members ... do
these thing fall under the category of "... demand or manipulate people to
do it your way, or to limit ways ..."? Microsoft makes no pretense about
being anything other than a software company - it is a big and sometimes
brutal shark - but it is not a shark in a pond of helpless goldfish, merely
one of the biggest sharks in a tank full of them. And if it *wasn't* it
wouldn't survive for more than a few months. The TS, however, *does* claim
that its ends are "spiritual", and its leadership currently *does* demand,
manipulate, and limit. You labelled this post "Lock Step mentality". This
far more accurately describes the current TS than it does Microsoft.

>Nor do I agree that approaching Theosophy with a "religious fervor" (as
>Microsoft's employees do) is a wise philosophy.  Too much committment to
>something can make one blind and unintentionally cruel.  One walks a fine
>line between "religious fervor" and self-righteousness.

Tell that to HPB. There wouldn't *be* a TS were it not for an initial core
of people that *did* approach Theosophy with a religious fervor. In this day
and age that intensity of committment has gotten a bad name - because most
of the people the press shows point their fervor in the wrong direction ...
the neo-nazis, fundamentalists, and David Koresh's of the world are now what
is associated with the notion. Of course that intensity can be misused and
cause problems. So what should we do - all become nameless faceless bland
people who calmly hide in little houses and whisper about "the ancient
wisdom"? Our leadership be half-hearted bureaucrats who "manage" Theosophy?
Is that what the founders intended? Would you have told King to calm down?
Gandhi to be careful of becoming blind? HPB to lead a more balanced life? Of
course total committment to something can cause problems. It also, however,
has been responsible for most of greatest improvements to the life, health,
and spiritual advancement of our race.

>Microsoft may have succeeded in securing material wealth, pushing others
>out of business, and steering people like sheep in the computer field, but
>they would make lousy spiritual workers.

Again, the people it "pushed" out of business are generally people that
would have pushed *it* out of business if they could have. The software
industry is *not* filled with selfless servents of humanity. And it has also
permitted just as many people to succeed beyond their wildest dreams as it
has put out of business. I don't know who has been "steered like a sheep" in
the computer field. I'm in the computer field, am in daily contact with
people all over the world that also work in the field, some who like MS, and
some who loathe them. I can't think of a single one, however, that would
think they were being steered or in any way manipulated by Microsoft. If
someone *is* a sheep, they'll be steered by whomever is currently most
powerful. If not Microsoft, someone else. The problem there is not with the
powerful, its in the people behaving like sheep. The *TS*, however, *does*
value sheep. If you agree with John Algeo's idea of what Theosohy is, you're
fine. If you'll work according to his views, you'll get articles published,
even now and then a book contract. If you want, you may get considerable
help in getting a position on the board. If you *don't* behave, however, if
you actually have the gall to think very differently than he does, come to
conclusions different than his ... well, you'll find official publications,
and the full resources of the organization unleashed against you.

>Spiritual "success" cannot
>necessarily be counted in numbers - for if 90% of the whole world thinks
>"wrongly" about issues of Compassion and spirituality, it cannot be hailed
>as a "success."

No, spiritual "success" cannot be counted entirely in numbers. But spiritual
failure *CAN BE*. The founders had an *intention* behind the TS. It was
*not* to create a tiny little group of people studying esoteric philosophy
and believing the "Masters" thought they were special. It was (and they
clearly articulated this) to have an effect on the larger world. And the
original TS *did*. The current TS is having virtually no effect whatsoever
on anything. Almost no one has heard of it. Most of those that have either
think it is something from the last century, or as little other than one of
thousands of tiny little Hundu-based cults. Can that be hailed as a

>Microsoft's philosophy is good for Microsoft; but not necessarily for
>Apple.  It is the same with Theosophy.

Hell, even *Apple's* philosophy has not necessarily been good for Apple
(-:). But that's probably a poor example ... as the general consensus among
industry insiders is that Microsoft's philosophy *would* have been the best
thing for Apple. In the early days it had a far better underlying operating
system, and could have been as dominant as MS is - *but*, while MS opened
its systems up (i.e., let computer hardware and chip makers have its code to
specifically configure hardware to work with it), Apple refused ... and
insisted that only Apple hardware could run Apple software. Clones weren't
allowed. (In fact in a now famous conversation, Bill Gates once *told* Steve
Jobs that he *should* permit Apple clones ... advice that he ignored ...).
The fact that Apple *didn't* adopt Microsoft's philosophy is considered to
be one of the single hugest blunders of the computer age. Its why Apple has
a 7 or 8% market share, instead of dominating the PC market.

But more to the point .... let me be clear about what I did and did not say:

I *didn't* say that the TS should emulate Microsoft.
I *didn't* say its ends were anything other than commercial.
I *didn't* say the TS should adopt Microsoft's market tactics.

There are several different aspects to any company, government, or
organization ... the relations between the leadership and members (or
employees or citizens), the relations between the organization and the
people it seeks to serve (or its customers & etc.), and the relations with
its competitors (or other countries or groups in the same field). All of
your criticisms about Microsoft related to the latter ... but this is the
single area that is irrelevant to the discussion (because the TS isn't going
to *try* to put the Catholic Church "out of business" - it doesn't really
have competitors).

What *I* was talking about was the first two, and I was arguing that the TS
*could* learn something from them. Specifically,

1. Internally, the MS leadership not only doesn't try to quiet conflicting
views, silence people that disagree with Gates, hide from its employees, or
privilege people based on anything other than performance. In fact it
*seeks* to get powerful, intelligent people, *seeks* conflicting views,
*seeks* to keep its eyes open for new directions. The upper management - all
the way up to Gates - *seeks* his critics and *learns from them*. This is
*VERY* different from the current TS ... and *IS* something I think the TS
leadership should learn from.

2. In its relations with its customers, it is virtually *continually*
watching closely, continually adjusting what it has to offer, and the form
its offered in, to what it perceives to be customer desires. The American TS
has lost fully a third of its already miniscule members this decade. Its
retention rate is abysmal - even by the standards of the average US
non-profit or church organization. Why? Well, no one knows. *NO ONE KNOWS*.
No one is even trying to find out. In fact, leadership doesn't even believe
its important. I can only imagine what MS would look like if it suddenly
lost a third of its customers, if the majority of people that bought a MS
product never bought another one. They would consider it a *massive* crisis.
Would they say it didn't *matter*? Sit quietly and have the utter arrogance
to think that it was *people* that were at fault, that they weren't
"advanced" enough, or capable of enough "discipline" to use their products
... (which are *common* responses within the TS - voiced more than once on
this list)? Hell no! They'd launch an all out effort to discover *why*
people were leaving. They'd try a thousand thing to try to adjust their core
programs to better suit the world they were operating in. This is *VERY*
different from the current TS ... and *IS* something I think the TS
leadership should learn from.

Of course no one is going to change "the ancient wisdom" - and it doesn't
change. But if *it* isn't changing, and a third of the membership has bolted
... well, what *has* changed? The world to which its being presented, and
the leadership that is presenting it.

Its occured to no one that there might be a *correspondence* between the
gradual (and now virtually total) centralized control over the TS that has
occured this decade, and the decline in membership?

That there might be a *connection* between the terrible membership retention
rates and the fact that membership now pretty much means an almost
unbelievably dull monthly publication of articles written mostly by a small
little clique of people and approved by John Algeo, and a few letters asking
for money for various little pet projects?

That its almost ridiculous to live in a world with almost endless new
possibilities for groups to distribute information and ideas, and to see the
TS still basically using the same ones HPB used? A current *global* campaign
(for instance) to get rid of the thousands of land mines that still remain
in various countries from wars now over was almost single-handedly begun by
a woman who sat in a little rural house in the eastern US, and for three or
four hours in the early morning, logged on, and used the internet
(eventually catching the attention of the UN, and people like GB's Princess
Diana). She emailed everyone and their brother. Visited countless discussion
lists, networked with dozens of organizations. And *we* have yet to see a
*single* email from a TS President or Board Member on a discussion list
*devoted* to theosophy.

The TS is *utterly* out of tune with the world around it, its leaders often
condescending and arrogant towards humanity, and is failing by all
significant measures to achieve the purposes the founders clearly
articulated. I was using *some* aspects of the way Microsoft is run, in
terms of its internal relations, the openess of its leadership to dealing
with criticism, and the attention and responsiveness it gives to the world
in which it lives as *examples* of how an organization in the *modern* world
survives and thrives. -JRC

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