April 7, 2008

Just in time

Things aren’t always as they seem. If there are gaps we will gladly fill them in.

Yeah, yeah, you know that.

Good, you seem to be a person that is not easily fooled, but there’s no need to be rude. It hurts my feelings.

In the Baha’i scriptures, justice is the best beloved of all things. If you are so clever, can you see the self-evident truth that justice is like cold water? Like it or not, it wakes us up to reality and allows us to make sensible decisions. We desperately need cold water. Whilst cold water is effective from whichever utensil it is poured, you’ll find this modern thermos flask to be most consistent in its application. As for gaps, nature may abhor a vacuum but that aspect of the flask is not relevant here. Concentrate, instead, on the silver surface – that part of the analogy is useful.

What humanity needs today, Joe, is not just decisions, oh no, it requires just decisions. If they are just decisions, they can be reviewed in the light of further information and, acknowledging previous errors, more just decisions can be agreed.

Do you agree and how about a piece of Momma’s apple pie? Confused? Join a religion.

I did and it all made perfect sense at the time. They could have told me black was white and I would have accepted it. I was lucky though, my religion really was the right one. I just worry about all the others.

The strength of the religious epiphany – getting from A to B

Trust me. The squares marked A and B below are exactly the same shade of grey.

What? You don’t believe me? Shame on you.

Go on then, click the picture, see the proof if you must but let that be a lesson to you.

Next time, you will trust me, won’t you?

No, no, be fair. I have demonstrated what you thought was impossible. You are better off turning to me for advice than relying on your own senses, feelings and thoughts. Well, I’m right aren’t I? Yes, so tell me now what the truth is Joe.

Return of Cuddus

After his progressive revelation inspired A to B moment, Brian was euphoric. God was nearby, not lost in ancient history, and he could play his piece in God’s great and continuing game – the only game in town. He saw with new eyes and was all ears for the rest of the plan.

He listened intently, his mind a sponge, as he was informed:

The future of the world is at stake. What the world needs most is unity. The way to achieve this unity is to undergo the spiritual transformation described in the healing message of Bahá’u’lláh and shelter beneath the divinely ordained institutions of the Baha’i Faith. With political unity currently being established, as prophesized, it would only be a matter of time before the peoples of the world, reeling from their spirit of unrest, would turn to the Faith for leadership and the wheels for a fuller, spiritual unity would be set in motion.

Now is the time for action, no delay can be countenanced. As the understanding of the oneness of humanity becomes fixed in the minds of men, the old adversarial approach to conflict resolution and decision making will fade away and be replaced by constructive consultation techniques. Don’t take much notice of this current old world order; it’s an old house that is being patched up at great expense. We’re building a new house big enough for everyone. Beware though; it has also been prophesized that the Faith will encounter fierce opposition along the way.

Brian was bursting with new knowledge and he wanted to share it. On fire, he immediately became a Baha’i, married Laleh soon after, and then pioneered eastwards to Omaha. He set up an MMA gym and, by the time of the next local election, had converted enough of his fighters to form the toughest Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly in America. Two years ago, the Pains moved to New York where Brian facilitated a career change by taking a course in Stream Editing and Shaping.

His new job entailed spending much of his day interacting with the Stream. Brian had been concerned at the slackness of some of the Baha’is in his local community but he was appalled at the level of antagonism and ridicule directed against the Faith on various Stream forums. He noted that it wasn’t Covenant Breakers that caused the most turmoil, it was, incredibly, supposed Baha’is… and ex-Baha’is… and their ilk. How ungrateful.

This was certainly the prophesized opposition. Those timid and lovely Baha’is; they were not equipped for a fight like this but it was right up his alley. Inhaling the battling spirit of one of the Faith’s great martyrs, he created his Cuddus profile and hit the Stream hard. In little time, his pummeling of hitherto smart-ass nay-sayers made him the de facto leader of the Beadies.

Street Smarts

Brian had ceased formal schooling at seventeen but he was more than a match for any passing philosopher, arts academic or lawyer. He knew how to prepare for a fight better than any of them.

Brian was obsessive in his thirst for knowledge about the long-running Internet and Stream Baha’i Wars. He studied the most successful players on both sides. He had both pithy and ten page responses to any issue you could think of. He could cut you down with venom or humour. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of all the current anti-Administration lot, that crowd of Johnny-one-notes. He challenged them all, one by one, forcing discussions to be waged in their most vulnerable areas.

Many of his opponents made the grievous mistake of believing that they were engaging in a discussion for increased mutual understanding or, at the very least, a debate to demonstrate the validity of their respective ideas. Nope. Cuddus had just one aim – to protect this divine religion from unwarranted criticism. And, in the context of a divine religion, where all criticism is unwarranted, the best way to do this was to destroy the reputations of the critics. Many a learned agent of change, on espousing a radical theory, found himself at loggerheads with his own spouse over sexual indiscretions revealed by Cuddus.

He was not above black ops either. As related by an ex-Beadie, Cuddus and the other Beadies, created a myriad fictional anti-Administration identities. They cultivated these characters over a period of months or longer. Eventually, they would crush them remorselessly following lengthy debates or have them revert remorsefully and loudly to the mainstream fold. Some infiltrated the opposition’s private forums, some were in obvious need of psychiatric care.

For Cuddus, the biggest difference between the Stream War and his former MMA career was that, in the Stream War, there were no holds barred. Some might say that his behaviour is the very antithesis of that demanded of a Baha’i; others understand that it is for the greater good.

Cuddus and his Beadies are quite a sensation. The bad ‘noise’ on the Baha’i Stream is considerably reduced. The Baha’i Administration preferred not to directly engage any of the warring parties on the Stream. Instead, off-the-record contact would be made by such as ABM James Jones. Jones had indeed made contact with Cuddus. While not wanting to know the specifics of any operations, Jones had provided Cuddus with some ‘human resources’ that might prove useful. Jones wanted nothing in return except that Cuddus perform his Baha’i obligation and inform him should he suspect people of acting against the best interests of the Faith.

The Apostinals

One of Brian Pain’s many claims to fame was that he invented the term – The Apostinals. This is the collective term for Baha’is and ex-Baha’is that produce the dangerous oppositional material strewn across the Stream. It represents the dark place you fall into when you publicly criticize the Faith or look as if you might.

Some of the branded are self-proclaimed celebrities from the Unenrolled Baha’i faction; some are stand-alone attack dogs but the vast majority are kids in a rage – square B’s. They certainly aren’t that group of like-minded and highly organized comrades as Cuddus declared. When not targeting the inadequacies of the Baha’i Administration, its members, actions and policies, the Apostinals are quite likely to be pulverizing each other.

Cuddus had resurrected an apologetic academic article written in 2007 by the eminent Baha’i scholar Dr Moojan Momen. It was titled “Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha’i Community”. Mostly, it looked at some of the key opposition personalities in the early Internet Baha’i Wars from the perspective of a core believer. It claimed to show how the Internet had provided a community setting that allowed some dissatisfied believers (marginals) get onto that slippery slope resulting in them becoming jealous, revenge-seeking, delusional haters (apostates).

Brian loved it. Here was a tool he could use to pummel non-conformists. He’d been sick to death at the rise in influence of the Unenrolled Baha’i faction and the tendency for many younger Baha’is to take the directions given by the Administration ‘under advisement’. So he stuck the words together and coined his clever term – The Apostinals. Despite it being an entirely fabricated group, the Beadies were somehow able to produce Apostinal mission statements, policies and secret Stream discussions when the need arose.

Edinburgh Crew

Ah now, at least the Edinburgh Crew is real. Small, but very real and very venomous. They are the only anti-Administration outfit to rival the dirty tactics of the pro-Administration Beadies and the only one which would actually fit into Dr Momen’s definition of Apostates. With a maximum current membership of maybe twenty, the Edinburgh Crew was launched in 2028 by a few ex-Baha’is from India, America and Brazil. Their initial intention was to honour the legacy of Steve Marshall from Dunedin, New Zealand.

The history is a little sketchy but it is believed that the following hagiography is, certainly, at least partially true. Before retiring from the Stream scene in the mid twenties to concentrate on his vegetating patch, Steve Marshall had been a prominent celebrity in the Internet and Stream Wars. He had jaded of the direction of the Baha’i Administration and became alienated from involvement in it. This was, no doubt, further exacerbated when his wife Alison had the honour of having one of the first Baha’i disenrollments bestowed upon her. This disenrollment hadn’t been the snappy decision by the House of Justice that many claimed; after two or three years of research on a scientifically constructed autostereogram, a clear pattern emerged that confirmed she could no longer be considered a Baha’i.

Steve was legendary for three reasons:

First, his subversive, tongue-in-cheeks and close-to-the-boner humour. He had once dobbed himself into the Baha’i authorities for masturbating. An Administration missive had suggested that Baha’is keep an eye on each other and inform the Administration of suspicious activities. Steve, obviously wanting to take his Baha’i duties seriously down to the last jot and tittle, felt he had no option but to put his hand up. Luckily, Steve provided no evidence save for his own good character which allowed the authorities to leave it alone and take no further action. Additionally, Steve plagiarized and popularized the idea that the Baha’i community could be aptly represented by the literary works and cartoon creatures created by the famous Dr Seuss.

Second, his use of emerging technology to aggregate the diverse Baha’i internet and Stream thought. Some felt his content aggravated more than aggregated because of the high heap of Apostinal material. Indeed, Steve did get a special mention alongside his wife in Momen’s discussion on the Twelve Apostates. Unfortunately, though Momen considered his attacks on the Baha’i Administration to be, in many ways, more bitter than his wife’s, he only achieved Marginal status. Possibly because twelve was a magic number. Possibly because of the next point.

Third, despite all this, he proudly proclaimed his status as a card-carrying BIGS (Baha’i In Good Standing). After a lengthy period of estrangement, Steve re-engaged ‘a bit more’ with the Baha’i Administration as the Unenrolled Baha’i faction exerted increasing influence.

Steve was asked to be the honorary life-President of the Edinburgh Crew but declined and, furthermore, requested that he not be associated with the Crew in any way. The name ‘Edinburgh’ Crew demonstrates a partial respect for his wishes; those in the know would understand it as being a synonym for Dunedin and at the same time about as far away from it as geographically possible.

The Crew has been responsible for the most vicious and sacrilegious Stream initiatives. Perhaps their most infamous incident occurred when they hacked the official Baha’i Stream portal and published a counterfeit but authentic-seeming ‘Ridvan’ message. The Ridvan message is an important, eagerly-awaited communication that the infallible Universal House of Justice publishes each year around the anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration of his prophethood.

The Crew timed their release such that the Baha’i world read it just hours ahead of the real one becoming available. The proposed new vision and direction laid down by the Crew was well-received and a whole pile of confusion broke out when the second, official and not quite so inspiring Ridvan message was published. The Learned arm of the Baha’i Administration was chasing its tail for weeks.

How the Crew had rolled around on the floor laughing. In due season, they claimed responsibility for the prank and even produced poll results from a fake pro-Administration portal they set up to show that their Ridvan message had outperformed the real one in the minds of the majority of Baha’is.

Brian, having ruled out the involvement of his own Beadies, could be forgiven for suspecting Crew involvement in the Layla repository.

Yoohoo, over here

Yes, while Layla, together with various leaders and citizen groups, blundered their way to some form of world unity, the fight for supremacy on Baha’i Stream forums continued unabated if largely inconsequential.


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