As we can clearly see around us, governance stands in need of reconceptualization. At this moment in history, when humankind is in a transition phase, and when changes are occurring at accelerated rates, the development of just and effective forms of government is imperative. Democratic government, which has become the predominant form over the last century, has lost its legitimacy as a result of the corruption, hypocrisy, and elitism that has come to characterize its practice, rending it ineffective to address complex social challenges. One main cause is its cooptation by lobbyists and interest groups – which, nominally may seem democratic, but in reality are just manipulations through selfish expressions of power. These problems are not just confined to politics. At the level of the market, corporate governance is viewed with distrust and suspicion – again, through the corruption and hypocrisy that characterize their economics, and through their pursuit of self-serving goals at the expense of broader concerns. The result in this case has been outrageous ecological damage, a collapsed worldwide economy, and an ever-widening abyss between the rich and the poor. Even governance of civil society and social organizations have been subject to the same problems of competing selfish factions, corruption, and viewing with otherness – rendering anarchy in the management of a school board or a hospital. Considering the interdependence that characterizes all levels of governance, the interactions of these three levels leaves dismal expectations in one’s mind.
These are just the symptoms. Any change must be at the level of principle – deeper still, at the level of assumption. Some assumptions underlying these problems include: 1) Governance has to be divisive. 2) A single individual with good intentions can go into the system and change it. 3) Government is inherently ineffective, but necessary, so the more privatization, the better. 4) Governance is just an expression of power struggle. 5) There is no role for nurturing human potential. 6) Governance is largely a bureaucratic endeavor, and bureaucracy is cumbersome by nature. 7) To prevail, you have to undermine; to win, another has to lose. Can you think of others?
The next series of posts will provide some insights into the concept of governance based on the assumptions provided throughout previous posts, rooted in a recognition of the spiritual dimension of human existence as well as drawn from the experience of governance within the Baha’i community. What will be extremely helpful is your thoughts and contributions on the topic – to generate more and more insights; to understand issues, concerns, and needs; to raise questions for further exploration; and to identify challenges associated with profound changes both at the level of thought and at the level of structure.