economic crisis: it’s about ethics

“The economy is in crisis”, the televisions at the gym blared. “you may no longer be able to afford that SUV.” “Due to the economic crisis,” read the printed signs at the fast food restaurant, “our sub sandwich supreme has doubled in price. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.” “Because of the economic crisis,” burbled the talking heads wearing corporate-looking suits, “we have had to reduce our workforce by half.” We all remember, right? Whose idea was it to have an economic crisis, anyway? It may be a better question than you think. Who plans ahead for misery? We all do, it turns out—when our actions are driven by a “concept of self-centered materialism”, as recently stated by members of the European Baha’i Business Forum.

Any response to the world economic crisis must address ethics, given that the crisis is “fundamentally one of trust and integrity,” the European Baha’i Business Forum said in a statement published last week. Furthermore, the situation requires an ethical response “at all levels” – from individuals, from corporations, and from governments and regulatory entities, said the statement, released as some 400 representatives from dozens of countries and organizations gathered in Geneva for a two-day Global Ethics Forum.

“We need to replace the concept of self-centered materialism with that of service to humanity,” the EBBF said. Cooperation must replace competition, the statement continued; ethical behavior must replace corruption, gender balance must replace sexism, world unity must replace protectionism, justice must replace injustice.

I remember having a talk with my boss at the Conference Board—one of Canada’s powerhouses in the business of economic research—during the time the fearful words “economic crisis” first hit the news screens, as we walked into work in the morning. The conversation revolved around what makes, or causes, an economic crisis. The conclusion was pretty similar to the one reached above by the EBBF in their statement: it’s about ethics. When people get into the habit of doing business unethically—by selling products (like mortgages, loans, etc) with exploitive terms, or otherwise cheating their clients—the system they put together will end up failing. When this situation arises in a business that relies so strongly on trust as the financial industry, the impact of that failure will naturally be much bigger. People do more business with people they think they can trust; if that trust is then broken, the chaos created as those people pull back out will naturally seem like a “crisis”. In contrast with most of the Western world, Canada’s economic system emerged into the first quarter of 2009 relatively unscathed—because Canadian banks, unlike their American counterparts, had long observed a policy of conservative lending that precluded the sort of unethical lending rampant in the American banks. Honesty is like a magnet: observe it and you will create a strong and stable network around you; disregard it and everything you build will crumble.

Read the Baha’i World News story.

michael jackson

michael jackson record player

Funny how people get so worked up about the passing of entertainers and yet fail to get similarly worked up about people who actually make a palpable difference in the lives of individuals and society. OK, no, I can’t really say that can I. People do remember those who make a difference in our lives—like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, for example, whose funeral clogged the streets of the city of Haifa with “no less than ten thousand mourners“.

And don’t get me wrong—Thriller was a great album, of course. Just not great enough to change my life. Regardless, “MJ” will be missed and mourned. Good night, sweet prince.

good news from vietnam

Vietnamese Baha'is reach milestone with election of National Spiritual Assemblyshame on me for not posting about this earlier! the Baha’i community of Vietnam, after many years of patience, elected its National Spiritual Assembly this year for the first time since the mid-1970s. the procedures for recognition were set in motion several years ago, coming to a head at Naw-Ruz of 2007, when the Vietnamese government issued a certificate to the Baha’i community authorizing their operations in the country. The final certificate, granting full recognition as a religious community, was presented to the community this July. From the Baha’i World News Service:

A certificate was presented to representatives of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Vietnam at a ceremony on 25 July.

It was the final act in a series of steps that included the election four months ago of the Baha’i Assembly – itself a landmark event in that it was the first time in many years that elections for the governing council were held. Government representatives were on hand to observe the balloting.

[…] The official government news agency reported the event and referred to comments by the chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, Mr. Nguyen Thuc: “(He) said the Government’s recognition of the Baha’i religion ‘charts a new course of development for the entire Baha’i community’ and motivates followers to make more contributions to social and humanitarian activities and to drive to preserve traditional spiritual values.”

Accolades and congratulations have followed steadily from government, institutions and sister Baha’i communities throughout the world, with one of the latest expressions of praise coming from Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister, Truong Vinh Trong, who “expressed his appreciation of the Baha’i Faith’s philosophy and its active contributions to the community”.

maxwell international school: forced to close, or ready for rebirth?

most of you will have already heard the news about the planned closure of the Bahá’í-inspired Maxwell International School, which was quick to spread when it broke back in mid-November. you may not have heard, though, of the recent grassroots efforts by students, parents and local community members to gather enough support to allow the school to stay open under a different administrative and financial structure. Victoria, B.C.’s A-Channel recently reported on the situation.

Learn more on the Maxwell International School‘s website, or on the Save Maxwell International School Facebook group (if you’re into that sort of thing!)

iran’s baha’i plan: persecute the living, desecrate the dead

This is a lamentably late post—along with all the others I’ve posted recently—but this one makes me so angry I couldn’t bear not to share it. Not content with the relentless (yet increasingly secretive) persecution of living Baha’is, Iranian authorities are sinking to desecrating the graves of those Baha’is who have passed away. Barnabas Quotidianus carries commentary about the bulldozing of Baha’i cemeteries in Iran—an insane, barbaric and callous act of malice. To quote the post’s author, Barney Leith, “[t]he destruction of the Baha’i cemetery in Najafabad is clearly part of a systematic campaign by the Iranian authorities to intimidate, persecute and destroy the Baha’i community in the land of its birth.” With the help of Youtube, we can see the destruction up close.

Update: The following video offers a voice-over and before-and-after video from the Najafabad cemetery, making its destruction all the more chilling.

The Muslim Network on Baha’i Rights also features this video, as well as additional photos of the cemetery’s destruction.

ahmadinejad: “baha’i” is a bad word

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s visit to America was newsworthy enough to make the front page of local, national and international news everywhere. You may have heard about his remarks to the American National Press Corps—in which he completely ignored a question posed to him about Iran’s Baha’is— or his talk at Columbia University and “public skewering” by Columbia president Lee Bollinger. Then, in a galling display of duplicity, Ahmadinejad delivered the following non-answer to a direct question about the persecution of Iran’s Baha’is at a United Nations press conference on September 25:

I doubt Ahmadinejad would ever read this blog, but just for the record:

  1. The name of the religion mentioned is the Baha’i Faith.
  2. The name of its divine prophet is Baha’u’llah.
  3. He first revealed His mission to mankind in 1863.
  4. You’re welcome.

Also blogged at Baha’i Faith in Egypt and Barnabas Quotidianus.