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Re: Lock-step mentality

Sep 21, 1999 09:30 AM
by JRC

>hesse600 wrote:
>> Certainly, but I do want a TS where a person who does not
>> believe in reincarnation will feel as welkom as one who
>> does, and to achieve that, we need an open and therefore
>> democratic environment where criticism is as possible and
>> welkom as it is on this (and other) lists.
> There is criticism, and there are pot shots. I have had a lot of
>experience here where some people took every thing I said and twisted my
>every word into something sinister, or drew conclusions that were
>completely unwarranted to the point where even a number of people on
>their side of the debate started telling them to lay off.

This is perception. More than one person feels as though *you* have twisted
their words. And the difference between "criticism" and "pot-shots" is
highly subjective. It is possible to *use* very polite words and still be
taking "pot-shots" ... and you have proven a master at this ... in fact this
whole post is full of little "pot-shots". And for every person that thought
people went too far in answering your apologies for the administration,
there were others that didn't think they went far enough.

> There was a time when, if John Algeo had come on this list and left a
>message saying, "I'm happy to be participating on this list and look
>forward to participating in the discussion", several regulars would
>somehow take this as a sign that John Algeo was going to be spying on
>them, and going to take actions against sections which disagreed with
>him. Nobody likes to be in a forum where they are going to receive one
>unjust attack after another, where anything they say in their defense,
>up to and including solid evidence that the attacks were completely
>fabricated, will be used as further evidence against them (it was only
>because a few people here urging me on, including people on the "other
>side" of the debate, that I didn't quit in disgust myself, much to the
>disappointment of some who consider me to be the dupe of the

Much to the disappointment? Of who, exactly? Care to name a single person
that you *know* wanted you to quit? In one paragraph you complain about
people "drawing unwarrented conclusions", and in the next you assert that
"several regulars" would have taken John Algeo's appearance on the list as a
sign he was going to be spying? None of those "several regulars" I know
would have made that assertion (especially since they all *know* this list
is read at Headquarters already) - indeed, they *BEGGED*, over and over, for
*someone* from the administration to appear on the flippin' list, and would
have loved nothing better to have engaged them.

And your assertion that the*reason* John Algeo didn't appear on this list is
*because* he would receive "one unjust attack after another" *is* rubbish,
and has been explained before. I remember your first "explanation" was that
the administration just didn't have time, and didn't pay attention to the
lists. That one proved so ludicrous, provoked widespread disbelief and even
cyberlaughter, and was answered by a  couple of people who said they
personally *knew* that the discussions here were followed exceedingly
closely by people at headquarters.

So *then* the explanation turned into "well, people would be unjustly mean
to the poor innocent well-intentioned leaders". The only problem with *this*
explanation is that it didn't fit the facts. A number of those "several
people" have been on this list almost from the very beginning. The intense
criticism of the leadership was *not* present at the outset. In fact, their
good intentions were initially *assumed*. People *assumed* their voices had
validity, that their opinions mattered, that their leaders were *responsible
to them - the people that elected them*. Fact is, the leadership has *NEVER*
appeared on this list ... a list that at times has probably been the single
most active theosophical list on the internet. As the Algeo administration
gradually took control of the TS, and people on this list starting *talking*
to each other, they started hearing about all sorts of things that were very
disturbing ... things that were never even mentioned in any of the
"official" TS publications. Started seeing a step by step alteration of
bylaw after bylaw that served to centralize previously decentralized
control. Started seeing publications all being brought under the complete
editorial control of one man ... even the American Theosophist (that, when
it was split from Quest - was promised to the membership as a "membership
forum"). And began witnessing significant declines in membership.

Initially people *DID* try to contact HQ with good faith criticisms,
suggestions, questions. People on this list *would* have warmly welcomed
discussions with their leadership, explanations of changes. And not just
this list - I was a member of a Lodge, a very *active* Lodge ... in a very
small Montana community (population less than 5,000) we were drawing
sometimes as many as forty or fifty people to public presentations, and were
one of many Lodges working out entirely new forms of theosophical activity,
activity that clearly *did* meet the challenge of making Theosophy
applicable to this day and age. I remember our growing concern ... national
speakers coming and practically insulting the sophisticated audiences we
were cultivating with almost condescendingly simplistic talks, videotape
presentations and study materials produced at HQ that actually *literally*
put several people to sleep. Suggestions to HQ were ignored. A member wrote
an article to HQ, for submission in the American Theosophist (the "member's
forum"), politely criticizing several things, and offering well thought out
suggestions (this was a woman with a doctorate in education administration
... that both studied theosophy and had very practical experience in running
education programs). She was told flat out that nothing critical of the TS
would be published.

*OVER TIME* it became clear to people both on this list, and in Lodges all
over the country, that John Algeo was going to run this organization like he
ran classes full of college freshmen. That he was not going to *facilitate*
the activities of the very different Lodges and study groups around the
country, but was going to pursue solely the activities chosen by him,
restrict communication in member publications to content approved by him,
alter the bylaws as he saw fit, not even bother to respond to people that
weren't "on board", and take the TS in the direction he chose - regardless
what effect that had. I don't know exactly why the entire *one-third* of the
membership that has left this decade has left, but I *DO* know why *my*
Lodge went out of existence: John Algeo. Ultimately, *none* of us had any
desire or need to support *HIS* vision, to support an organization that
clearly didn't support *us*, or indeed believe it had even the faintest duty
to respond to its membership. *I* happen to be a loud mouth, and
*articulated* my reasons and displeasure - but the rest of the members ...
as it is possible members all over the country did ... just quietly didn't
renew their memberships. They were, of course, never *ASKED* why they

*OVER TIME* - as more and more people left, as more and more of some of the
most long-time and active theosophists saw their voices marginalized, as
repeated, genuine, and very polite *good faith* requests for conversation
were ignored - *OVER TIME* the criticism on this list *THE ONLY PLACE WHERE
intense. *YOU* Bart, came onto this list *after* this had happened. Did you
actually try to discover *WHY* the criticism was so intense? *NO*. You
immediately became a defender of the administration. Immediately assumed our
motives were suspect, our intentions nasty, and that the poor hard working
leadership was being beat upon, and should certainly be excused for not
appearing in such a "hostile" environment.

Fact is, the current leadership has *NEVER* appeared in *ANY* forum over
which they didn't have *complete control*. You have been, and still are,
vigorous in your defense without having ever investigated the *causes* for
the current antagonistic environment, an environment that came about
gradually, and as a direct *result* of the silence or marginalization *many*
people felt at the hands of the current leadership - and yet *YOU* have the
balls to accuse *others* of leaping to "unwarrented" conclusions, of
twisting words ... and in doing so have taken profound "pot-shots" at some
extremely committed theosophists.

Do you think the critics *WANT* to be negative? To be outsiders? Hell no -
every one of them were very active in Theosophical work, many of them
expended enormous energy building Lodges, running organizations, researching
and publishing. They had become *USED* to leaderships in which their voices
*WERE* recognized, acknowledged. Long before this list - in the late 80's -
I wrote (for instance) a short piece that raised a couple of criticisms, and
warned that I thought we were growing increasingly out of touch with the
world around us, that we needed new and creative approaches in the 21st
century. Dorothy Abbenhouse, who *personally* didn't agree with most of it,
nonetheless *published* it in the AT ... and then published a much longer
piece in the next issue that was full of suggestions and possible ideas. It
provoked discussion - letters for and against, provoked other people to
offer suggestions ... an entire discussion was begun in a number of Lodges
concerning the direction the TS needed to go. It was a *vigorous* discussion
... and it took place *in TS publications and Lodges*. People did *not*
think that their suggestions should simply be *followed*, but they *did*
believe they had the right to be *heard*. Any thought of anything *remotely*
resembling that kind of environment is long gone now - but it *IS* what
Theosophy was for a good part of this century.

Many of the people *YOU* blast for being so critical, for jumping to
conclusions, are not people that were newcomers that just wanted to cause
trouble - but were people that had for many years supported the TS, had
creative thoughts, a willingness to try new things, had poured their time
and their money and their hearts into theosophy ... and into a TS they were
*USED* to having a voice in. It took far more than a single small event to
produce the sort of criticism you see on this list - it took a couple of
*YEARS* of suddenly discovering that our experience, our *demonstrably
successful* experience in managing and building Lodges, suddenly meant
nothing. That if our ideas of Theosophy were *harmonious* with John Algeo's
we'd be published and supported, but if they *weren't* in tune with his
vision, HQ had no place for our voices, no avenues for our communication, no
use for our energies, and in fact felt no responsibility to even acknowledge
our existance.

> There was one point, for example, when there was a proposed change in
>the bylaws which would have allowed the American Section to seize and
>redistribute the property of any Lodge as they saw fit. It was brought
>up in this list, as evidence to the evil of the administration. I told
>the board of my Lodge, and then called John Algeo. He had not realized
>that important language had been removed, and I called barely in time
>for the language protecting local lodges to be put back. With all the
>complaining going on here, nobody even thought to complain where it

AAAAHHHHHH yes - *great* example. In one paragraph you *justify* the fact
that HQ utterly ignores people on this list *because* they complain, and in
the next charge them with not complaining. Your example is an excellent
president I can think of, a *DOZEN* different people I know personally would
have immediately called headquarters to bring up the points you mention. But
after *YEARS* of being completely ignored, of having doors slammed in our
faces, we no longer even bother. We no longer feel as though we'd be
listened to, longer feel as though HQ listens to us unless they are
practically forced to listen. You've tried this subtle little trick before
Bart ... first excusing HQ for not responding to us, then critisizing us for
times would you expect us to offer advice to HQ - and half the time not even
receive an acknowledgement that the suggestion had been received - before
you might see fit to *excuse* us for not *continuing* to do so. How bloody
*should* one's head get before one stops beating it against a brick wall.

> I hope that you can see why TS officials don't participate on these

Yes ... indeed ... I hope you now see a much more *complete* picture of why
they don't - of why they *NEVER* did. People, organizations, governments,
that want that sort of *CONTROL* know full well that the single way to
achieve it is through controlling *communications*. And this list is, quite
simply, unable to be controlled. (Though in fact after it had been
successful, HQ *did* attempt to start their own - moderated - discussion
list, where content *could* be controlled, but funny thing, it never wound
up generating even a fraction of the activity this list has ...).

Here are some *FACTS* Bart. John Algeo is the *PRESIDENT*. During the course
of his presidency, close to 1/3 of the membership has left. A number of
people on this list alone that were long-time, committed theosophists, with
*no* prior history of being anything other than active, polite participants,
supporters and *co-workers* with several past presidents and
administrations, whose first instinct was always to *assume* good intentions
on the part of their leaders, and who *did so* with John Algeo, now show
signs of being intensely alienated, of being increasingly and loudly
negative, of assuming the worst. This may not have happened to *YOU*,
because you may personally be in relatively harmonious accord with what he
seeks to do. But one of the real tests of leadership is how a leader handles
those that think differently.

Why don't you for once sit back and ask yourself *WHY* the current
environment exists. *HOW* it came about. And *WHO* is really responsible for
it. And while you're doing so consider this: *Every one* of those that have
expended tremendous energy in what you consider to be unfair and unfounded
criticism would *MUCH* rather be turning that energy towards addressing some
of the problems facing the TS, building Lodges, publishing research, and
exploring new directions and possibilities for theosophical activities - for
the most part *did so* under all presidents until this current one, and
initially *tried* to under him.


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