- Empowerment Development Justice Oneness

10% of Humanity’s Population is Young People in India

Putting aside, for a moment, the truth that young people are characterized by having a “desire to bring about constructive change”, by having “a capacity for meaningful service”, by having “all the hope in their hearts that, through strenuous concerted effort, the world will change”; setting aside, for a minute, the fact that youth have an “eagerness to take on a measure of responsibility to aid the spiritual and social development of those around them”, and that they “share in the desire to dedicate their time and energy, talents and abilities, to service to their communities”; and ignoring, for a second, that “loving fellowship, mutual encouragement, and willingness to learn together” are properties of groups of youth and that young people possess “altruism, an acute sense of justice, eagerness to learn about the universe and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world” – why is it that so much emphasis is placed on young people?


In 1920 in the United States, Congress amended the Constitution to give women the right to vote.  Prior to this, it was state dependent.  Granting this contribution to the national society for roughly 50% of the nation’s population was a matter of justice – the principle of justice demands universal participation in collective decision-making, for justice is the only means by which unity is to be achieved.  Equality of men and women in the affairs of society is a prerequisite for progress and central to any advancement, not only at the level of the principle of equality – that the rational soul, a human being’s true nature, has no gender and denial of right based on sex is unfounded – and not only based on the principle of justice – because the contributions of all is required for unity, and unity is necessary for progress – but also simply because of sheer numbers.  Half of the people making decisions for the whole?



So let’s look at statistics.  50% of the current world’s population is under 30 years of age.  The percentage has been gradually increasing, and is projected to continue.  As the population grows, more humans are born, and these humans start out under the age of 30.  So it makes sense that over the past few decades the percentage and number of young people have risen.  Those under 30 now outnumber those over 30.  Of course, not all this 50% of humanity’s population are able to speak in complete sentences or are even fully conscious (ie, the infants and toddlers).  However, on both the level of the principle of justice and based on sheer statistics, it makes sense to involve the contribution of young people to the future progress and prosperity of humankind.


Some more statistics.  The average age of nations across the world ranges from 15 years old to 49 years old.  There are around 33 countries in which the average age is between 15 and 18, and another 29 countries in which the average age is between 19 and 21.  There has been a 14% increase in those aged 15 to 24 in the last 20 years – currently 18% of the world’s people are between 15 and 24; while 20% are between 5 and 14.   People 14 years old and younger currently make up about a quarter of the world’s population.  Those 15-30 also make up 25% of human beings on earth.  How can these large numbers contribute to advancement of humankind?  Perhaps one-quarter (15-30) can become empowered by responding to the spiritual aspirations of another quarter (those 14 and younger)?


We are in the midst of a youth movement – whether coordinated or not, whether purposeful or not, whether towards laudable aims or not, whether united or not – the movement is gaining and growing.  What will be its direction?  What will be its influence in the affairs of humankind?  Their contribution will be needed in order to even begin to strive for universal participation, without which there can be no justice, without which no unity, no progress.


The Universal House of Justice is charged with the duty of ensuring the advancement and betterment of the world.  50% of the world’s people are 30 and under, half of them youth between 15 and 30.  Now we can go back to all the characteristics of young people mentioned in the first paragraph – combining this with the percentage of humanity they represent, little wonder, then, that the House of Justice is working to coordinate and unify this youth movement, to instill in them a “twofold sense of purpose that impels them to take charge of their own spiritual and intellectual growth and contribute to the welfare of society” and make a decisive contribution to the fortunes of humanity.  Towards this end there are currently happening 114 youth conferences, to spur on this mighty youth movement – the first world-wide, unified, purposeful, commendable youth movement in the history of humanity.


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Coherence in Conversations

Recently, a gathering took place in which friends from diverse backgrounds, ages, geographies, and experiences came together to explore participation in discourse.  Coherence, it seemed, was the key.


The weekend began with a study of a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 4 January 2009, which encourages examination and conceptualization of the community’s work in terms of three broad area of action – “enabling the protagonists of collective effort to strengthen the spiritual foundations of villages and neighbourhoods, to address certain of their social and economic needs, and to contribute to the discourses prevalent in society”.  All of these efforts require coherence in methods and approaches, something that was implicitly, as well as explicitly, explored during the weekend.


Next, a message dated Ridvan 2010 was studied, particularly the paragraphs regarding “two interconnected, mutually reinforcing areas of activity: involvement in social action and participation in the prevalent discourses of society.”  Though the content was overtly about social action as a field of endeavor, under a framework of coherence the same concepts and principles are easily applied to discourse.  For instance, discourse, too, requires efforts to draw on insights from Revelation as well as tap into the accumulating knowledge of the human race; involves the application of the teachings of the Faith toward improvement of some aspect of society, keeping in mind a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life; is built upon the principle that access to knowledge is a right of all human beings; fosters universal participation in the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge; is not the provision of insights and principles, but is concerned with building capacity to apply and reflect upon the application on concepts; is not a series of conversations one group of people does for others, but includes insights and perspectives from all; is founded on the immutable conviction that every human being is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value and can contribute to discourse.


While coherence was explicitly the topic of discussion, as demonstrated by the Ridvan 2010 and 4 January 2009 messages, the structure of the weekend sought to be implicitly coherent in approaches and methods with, say, what has been learned from the institute process.  In efforts of community building all throughout the world – through “meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives” – Baha’i communities are learning about how to “raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development”.  One of the methods and approaches toward this end is that all participate in the generation of insights.  Reality is multifaceted, and therefore a sincere investigation of reality, or truth, requires the harmonization of diverse perspectives from all.  In fact, the culture of protest that has come to characterize much of political activity is a predictable reaction to lack of ability to voice opinions in political decision-making processes, a clear injustice – for justice demands universal participation.  A weekend gathering regarding discourse used the same participatory method and approach as has been learned from institute campaigns and study circles.


Another principle that this first area of endeavor – community building – is founded upon is the wedding of study and service.  True education is the process of revealing the gems latent within all human beings so that mankind can benefit therefrom.  Study and service.  Neither is effective without the other.  In such a short period of time, such as a weekend, study becomes the overwhelming emphasis.  Yet, multiple times were participants asked to each one voice an insight through their subjective mind to enrich the collective understanding.  And on the last day, individuals and pairs presented insights from specific-subject discourses that they had studied that morning, each presenting something unique that others didn’t have a chance to study.


By all accounts, the result of this coherence was highly energizing.  These participants, who had been used to attending lectures and presentation, who considered the norm a 50 minute talk with 10 minutes for irrelevant Q&A, and who felt that they needed to muster up energy for any conference since all collective activity was draining, all verbalizing feeling charged by the end.  Clearly, the galvanizing effects of participation in collective knowledge generation coupled with such a simple act of service as sharing insights with others was evident.  Participants left animated and inspired to share their understandings of the conceptual framework they studied.


* * *


At a foundational level, all areas of endeavor – whether a grassroots educational process aimed at the spiritual empowerment of large numbers, involvement in social action projects seeking to raise capacity, or participation in public discourses and humbly offering one’s perspective illumined by the Faith – are built upon conversations.  It follows, then, that all the conversations we are having in these diverse areas and fields must be characterized by a high degree of coherence.  In fact, in this way, the methods, approaches, principles, and framework will be more naturally coherent.


Coherence entails reflection on what we are learning about “meaningful and distinctive conversations” in the area of community-building, where we are seeking out receptive souls “who are willing to engage in a conversation about the world around them,” in order “to undertake with them an exploration of reality that gives rise to a shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history and the means for addressing them.”  If we are striving for coherence across all three fields of endeavor, then the nature of our participation in the discourses of society will share some of the same qualities as conversations we are learning to have in our community building efforts.


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The Structure of Future Scientific Revolutions

Science is in its infancy. It will evolve, change, and grow until it achieves a more mature form. To date, the human experience suffers from an underdeveloped understanding of the nature and scope of the scientific enterprise. Those who suffer from this misunderstanding are scientists themselves most of all. Popular culture imagines science to operate at a superficial level of significance, with technocratic objectives, outlandish methods, and esoteric membership rolls. Scientists strive for this image sometimes, and so perpetuate an unwelcoming stereotype, despite the fact that they are privileged to be engaged in a noble enterprise that is the heritage of the entire human race. Above all, one would anticipate that scientists would know its worth and potential and lead the way in democratizing the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge to encompass all people.

By restricting membership in a scientific community to an elite circle of like-minded personalities, who share a particular culture, upbringing, and socio-economic status the scope of what questions emerge to scientific investigation is narrowly restricted. This hierarchical structure is maintained by the use of elaborate accreditation systems (such as MD, PhD, and the like) and exclusive membership policies in professional societies. The structure is reinforced by a disciplined academic hierarchy, not unlike those of a church order or ecclesiastic organization, like the Vatican or Caliphate. Though their subject matter differs, their use of dogma and ritual to perpetuate it, does not. As a result only a tiny minority pose the problems to be researched for the benefit of humanity. These questions arise from the interests of a miniature subset of the collective brain power available to humankind, and in the process skew the representation of humanity’s fundamental interests.

The foregoing analysis explains the structural impediments preventing the scientific enterprise from attaining its full stature as the driving force and bulwark of human welfare. This will change in the future. Statistical power is born of the sample size of the population being studied. By restricting research subjects to the interests, purview, and aspirations of an elite, the questions really needing answers, the life-and-death circumstance facing humanity have been relegated out of the research agenda. Research topics of infectious disease, sanitation and fresh water, agriculture and irrigation, public health policy, and vaccinations are some of the most important issues in medical science today, affecting millions.

Statistical power in defining specific problems facing the largest number of humans in the most severe way should be the ideal. Therein should science find its priorities defined. Instead decision-making power lies in the hands of individuals at the top of grant-lending and fund allocating agencies, or in the personal vantage point of chief editors of peer-reviewed journals. The number of people polled in the decision as to what questions deserve investigation in this way never exceeds a handful of individuals, and these are often in competition with each other or finally coerced by market or governmental forces that displace their decision-making even further from what matters, the well-being of the majority. This structural arrangement is inadequate to address complex and wide-sweeping needs.

Whether this scientific structure has arisen due to unregulated expedients accumulating inadvertently over time to define who sits at the decision-table or if it is the direct result of corrupt forces on regulatory mechanisms like the cultural analogue of corporate money on politics, the fact of the matter is that scientific goals are driven in large part by popular consumer values for technologically enhanced entertainment and consumer-satisfying commodities like iPad’s and video games. No doubt these are useful to a subset of individuals who seek to have their work efficiency enhanced or their children pre-occupied and off the streets. But what cannot be denied is the selfishness of this position, and the motivations that lie at the bottom of this type of science. What is needed is conscious effort to engage in discourse regarding issues of scientific reform and encourage ongoing dialogue on the nature and structure of the premises underlying the agenda of science and its priorities.

Science cannot reform its own structure from within, because it responds to market pressures and consumer demand. Economics has run rampant determining western middle classes destiny politically, economically, and scientifically. An external influence is necessary to prescribe in part to science its core values and give it direction. Science is the machine, it must be given a directive. In the absence of clear public interest, obscure private interests co-opt the machine and employ it to selfish ends. While allowing science to recommend its own opinions of what remains possible and tactically feasible, an understanding that values must be prescribed from an external source, and cannot be left to emerge naturally from within the field itself is necessary. Dysregulation always implies corporate co-optation as a rule — as evidenced by politics, finance, globalization, and now science. The parasite is familiar, the host is diverse.

In the process of structural revolution, the democratization of science will require us to insulate funding agencies and influential scientists from financial forces in the industry, academic pressures from the university, or market pressures as healthcare becomes increasingly monetized. The democratization of science will mean that it is determined by universal participation in a survey of human needs. The generation of knowledge regarding research priorities bubbles up in response to the appropriate system of training grassroots initiatives to engage laborers of all kinds. Systems for grass-roots training will allow the masses to build consensus on the most pressing demands of their respective industries, synthesize response in the form of experimental interventions, and coordinate solutions in segments before extrapolating to global practice. Only in this way will the enterprise of science become informed by the diverse needs of the real humankind.

A process of increasing democratization in which fewer and fewer individuals call the shots for what is on the list of priorities and an ever-increasing number of unskilled laborers engage in dialogue that allows the organic assimilation of the experience of millions into an objective representation of what concerns humankind. These should then come to dominate public discourse, resource earmarking, priority setting in scientific agendas, and the daily concern of scientists. This is the transformation that so crucially beckons science into the 21st century.

In an age when social constructs are being torn down all around us, religious dogmas uprooted, social conventions systematically dismantled, gender roles questioned and experimented with, rules of personal conduct and language utterly recreated, and the very tempo of life on the internet re-envisioned — is it possible to constrain what constitutes the most powerful force for progressive civilization behind a veil of anachronistic and outmoded stereotypes of self-righteous elderly males donning lab coats and scheming over a slew of chemistry beakers and petri dishes, erlenmeyer flasks and bunsen burners? Is this image even tenable in any age of internet traffic and lightning media, of the democratization of skills, of the open-sourcing of software, and the free-flow of knowledge ? Why have we allowed stereotypes to restrict the prospects obvious to a dreaming and visionary world that can see the potential application of science to the betterment of the whole of humankind with participants numbering in the millions from every walk of life and every cultural persuasion? Such a prospect ought to invoke in the mind of an objective observer the promise of human longevity wrought by universal participation in the task of researching and discovering solutions to global impasse’s, with completely open source modes of disseminating research conducted and methods employed.

Ownership assumed across a representative spectrum of the human species would allow the generation of sufficient data to converge on statistically adamantine findings — discoveries the like of which humanity could never before have found, and which humanity could never before have felt so confident would benefit all equally. We all await the rise of science, the last great democracy.

child getting water

- Consultation Development Justice Knowledge Oneness

Justice and Universal Participation

The development of a just society requires universal participation.

Why?  Why is this the case?  If you’d like, respond with your thoughts below.

Surely, there are many of reasons.  Three come to my mind at the moment.  They are related to unity, capacity building, and knowledge.

The purpose of justice is to bring about unity within human society.  This is a basic reason why all who are a part of this society need to be involved in its development; otherwise how could one claim unity, when some are spectators and some are protagonists?  More significant than the actual actions of various people (because of course, contribution to society’s development is a spectrum; some more active, some less) it is the mindset of “us” and “them” – of otherness – that hinders unity.

One of the manifestations of justice is that the capacity of each created thing is revealed to its fullest.  Obviously, this, too, is a spectrum.  But, to use a tree as a simple example, it is just that a tree be allowed to bear its fruit.  Human beings have infinite talents and capacities, especially when each individual is viewed as part of a collective humanity.  In order to fully express the collective capacity of humankind, opportunities must be created for each individual to contribute to humanity’s well-being and development, according to his/her talents.  Otherwise, if only some develop capacities while others don’t, the collective capacity of humankind will not fully be actualized, which is not just.

Finally, justice is the process of investigating truth through one’s own eyes, and not through blind imitation of what has been already stated.  A human being who undertakes an exploration of reality with justice will necessarily have a unique perspective, since it is through his/her own eyes – some may say that it is subjective.  We know that reality is multi-faceted.  As an example, imagine that it’s a sphere.  Each individual will view from a particular angle, perhaps seeing a disc.  It is only as more and more subjective perspectives are harmonized together will reality be objectively known and understood.  Justice demands universal participation, because it is only through a diverse range of perspectives that our multi-faceted reality can be known, and justice is the process by which we understand truth.


- Consultation Justice Knowledge

Circle of Participation

This online forum for discourse shares content that is inspired by the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith. Learning how to apply what is written to reality, however, remains a formidable task. In order to accomplish this, capacity must be built in others; individuals, groups and institutions must arise to contribute to the discourse, sharing in action, reflection, and consultation, with a mature spirit of scientific and social discovery, at once dignified and enthusiastic, similarly rigorous and all-inclusive – and never losing site of the all-important fact that knowledge is generated in groups. Shared input and thoughts from various concerns for the betterment of society are needed to unravel complex issues requiring extensive exploration before solutions can be discerned. Any single individual, or even group of individuals, must in time fall short of advancing the frontiers of human learning in any field of importance to service or production, society or politics. No matter how diligent or intelligent this dedicated minority may be, without increasing circles of participation, the total intellectual and experiential reservoir available to solve the world’s increasingly complex and challenging issues will prove insufficient. Justice demands universal participation.

- Consultation Discourse Justice Knowledge

Justice and Discourse, Part II

Both extremes are to be completely avoided; the first of accepting everything one reads – this is the state of being an easy prey to eloquence and dazzling and elaborate presentations of those who pretend to know or actually are recognized as world-renowned experts in a given field. The second is to criticize continually and instinctively everything that contradicts one’s own views or ways of phrasing or thinking about certain concepts than what one already has narrowly defined for one’s own self. Rejecting everything new is wisdom for turtles. Women and men of genus homo and species sapien are rich, confident and capable of considering something new, grasping its fundamentals and novelty, and disseminating and applying  new insights and knowledge to various tasks of human endeavor. The extremes mentioned above are in connection with Justice as it exists in application to the endeavor known as discourse – the present undertaking of the current forum you, the reader and we, the contributors, are taking part in. Neither of these extremes is in accordance with the principles of justice as accepted in our discourse.

We wish to demonstrate how subtle and profound the discussion of justice can be and how much there is to learn from theories such as the ones elaborated by the contributors and commentators. We also hope to demonstrate how numerous truths are lost when one insists on keeping references to God and Revelation out of the discussion of justice. Our avowed aim in discourse is to be concerned with the advancement of humankind towards a novel world civilization.  However important an open and sincere consultative process is here, regarding justice and other foundational concepts of our dialogue, such a discourse will not produce answers to the worlds problems if its is limited to material reality and consideration of within materialistic presuppositions and reductions. We wish to avoid the anathematic posture of  Western secular thought towards transcendental, evolutionary, and teleological interpretations of reality, drawing upon aspects of human consciousness capable of experiencing and knowing spiritual reality. For the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants it is consciously, culturally and empirically self-evident that human nature and human civilization with its rituals and kindness, schooling and organization, indeed all of reality, including the beauty of the natural world and the mystery of evolutionary origin – for these reasons and for most of the worlds (unspoken for) population: reality is fundamentally spiritual.  If discourse is to be relevant to the needs of humanity in this day, it must consider the concept of the spiritual reality of humankind as the pivot of its interactions, consultations, and deliberations. We aim as part of this discourse to demonstrate how reflecting on the Writings and ideas of certain powerful social thinkers as well as guided or Revealed truth and spiritual meditations will teach us to avoid the two extremes mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Development Justice Oneness

Approaches to Justice

In the collective life of humankind, justice manifests as a compass in decision making, protecting resources from being diverted towards extraneous values, and protecting groups of people from the oppression of a vocal and seemingly-powerful minority.

Justice cannot, then, be left to the “invisible hand” that is said to characterize our economic free market; cannot be facilitated through lobbying and partisan advocacy that characterizes our politics; cannot be a quixotic endeavor of struggling against a chosen injustice, one after another, that characterizes our humanitarianism.  Instead, justice requires mature approaches.

1)  If the purpose of justice is the appearance of unity, then its means and methods must be unified by definition – there cannot be a contradiction between ends and means.  Justice should be applied through a consultative approach, through cooperation, selflessness, and harmony.  All conflict and contention must be avoided as justice is applied and unity sought.  Obviously, one interest group cannot contest and overpower others in order to create unity.

2)  Justice calls for universal participation – after all, humanity is one, and its crises and victories are shared by all.  So shall be its development.  This requires the empowerment of all individuals to become active protagonists of their own development.  Each individual is noble, each individual has latent capacities that can be manifest through education, and it is just that each individual contributes towards the betterment of the world.  One segment cannot determine development values and assign roles to the rest.

3)  Response to oppression is met through foundational and fundamental changes to both human consciousness and societal structure.  It is extremely naive to think that tweaking aspects of the current thought and order will bring about justice and unity.  And it is utterly ineffective to narrow in on and battle one injustice at a time in order to satisfy a desire for heroic quest.  Interconnectedness and oneness govern reality.  Justice must be approached at the level of principle, with sustained action, and long-term vision.  Principles inform practicality, not vice versa.