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Posts Tagged ‘Shoghi Effendi’

Our hope is that the world’s religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth.

The Great Being saith: The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion. Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.

Those words of Baha’u’llah were on my mind today as I read the news of and some reaction to the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award this year’s Peace Prize to President Obama. Baha’u’llah sets a lofty standard: “Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth.”

In its press release, the committee focused only on Obama’s ability to get world leaders to “take counsel together,” commending him for the change he has wrought in the tone of international politics:

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.

The committee made no mention of any movement among world leaders, sparked by Obama or not, to “administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth.” Many of the reactions I have been reading seem to have a similar bent.

Keeping that caveat in mind, I want to note that the Nobel Committee also focused specifically on the values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population:

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

I know of no better expression of those shared values and attitudes than that found in the Writings of Baha’u’llah. Shoghi Effendi, cataloguing in God Passes By the prophecies for which Baha’u’llah is the fulfillment, writes, “To Him Isaiah, the greatest of the Jewish prophets, had alluded as the ‘Glory of the Lord,’ the ‘Everlasting Father,’ the ‘Prince of Peace,’…”.

I will end with quotations from that Prince of Peace, all of which are taken from a compilation on peace, which I heartily recommend to you, with the hope and the prayer that Baha’u’llah’s vision may be made real, through the efforts of all of us, whether we be President, Nobel Peace Prize winner, or otherwise.

O ye that dwell on earth! The distinguishing feature that marketh the preeminent character of this Supreme Revelation consisteth in that We have … laid down the essential prerequisites of concord, of understanding, of complete and enduring unity. Well is it with them that keep My statutes.

The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven of God’s holy Will is to establish unity and concord amongst the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife. The religion of God and His divine law are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for the dawning of the light of unity amongst men. The progress of the world, the development of nations, the tranquillity of peoples, and the peace of all who dwell on earth are among the principles and ordinances of God. Religion bestoweth upon man the most precious of all gifts, offereth the cup of prosperity, imparteth eternal life, and showereth imperishable benefits upon mankind. It behoveth the chiefs and rulers of the world, and in particular the Trustees of God’s House of Justice, to endeavour to the utmost of their power to safeguard its position, promote its interests and exalt its station in the eyes of the world. In like manner it is incumbent upon them to enquire into the conditions of their subjects and to acquaint themselves with the affairs and activities of the divers communities in their dominions. We call upon the manifestations of the power of God—the sovereigns and rulers on earth—to bestir themselves and do all in their power that haply they may banish discord from this world and illumine it with the light of concord.

The Great Being, wishing to reveal the prerequisites of the peace and tranquillity of the world and the advancement of its peoples, hath written: The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. If this be done, the nations of the world will no longer require any armaments, except for the purpose of preserving the security of their realms and of maintaining internal order within their territories. This will ensure the peace and composure of every people, government and nation. We fain would hope that the kings and rulers of the earth, the mirrors of the gracious and almighty name of God, may attain unto this station, and shield mankind from the onslaught of tyranny. …The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script. When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home. These things are obligatory and absolutely essential. It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action…. That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.

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Gary Hamel has a blog at the Wall Street Journal called “Management 2.0,” which I occasionally read as someone who has taken on some management within my organisation in the past year or so. Imagine my surprise, then, when I went back to the blog after a hiatus and found Hamel giving advice to church leaders about their management issues. It’s quite a long post, but he summarizes his analysis and advice neatly at the end:

Over the centuries, religion has become institutionalized, and in the process encrusted with elaborate hierarchies, top-heavy bureaucracies, highly specialized roles and reflexive routines. (Kinda like your company, but only more so). Religion won’t regain its relevance until church leaders chip off these calcified layers, rediscover their sense of mission, and set themselves free to reinvent “church” for a new age.

Doing this is going to take a management revolution. Back in the first century, the Christian church was organic, communal and mostly free of ritual—and it needs to become so again—as does every organization, public or private, large or small.

“Organic, communal and mostly free of ritual”: that reminds me of the best of the Baha’i communities in which I’ve lived. Indeed, the whole program of the current activities of the Faith around the world could be described in just that way. At Transforming Neighbourhoods, you can have a look at how this works within the Canadian Baha’i community, though it’s certainly happening in other places too. This video by Dan Scott gives an excellent overview, though the other videos at the site are much more illustrative of the individual activities. (I would love to embed the video here, but the original site doesn’t have a ‘share’ feature, so you’ll have to go look for yourself.)

The core of Scott’s talk is in these two paragraphs:

When we talk about elevating a community, I think what we mean is endowing the community with a sense of mission, in which all the members, as diverse as they may be, work together in a common purpose: to promote the welfare and the well being of its membership, as well as those beyond its own borders. In which everyone works tirelessly in an unremitting quest for spiritual and social progress.

Practically speaking, much of the work now focuses on what we can call “four core activities”: children’s classes, junior youth groups, devotional gatherings and study circles.

A broader description of the Baha’i community can be found here.

Indeed, the very nature of the Baha’i community is to be organic, communal, and without ritual. This is at the heart of its promise as the nucleus of a new system of human organization. Writing in 1934 of the Administrative Order of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi shared these auspicious words:

It will, as its component parts, its organic institutions, begin to function with efficiency and vigor, assert its claim and demonstrate its capacity to be regarded not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the New World Order destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind.

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Following from yesterday’s post on the relationship between capital and labor, I want to post today on markets and the role of financial crises. I’ve read Paul Krugman’s piece on the sate of economics from the weekend’s New York Times Magazine and recommend it to you all. (Krugman also has a post on his blog, The Conscience of a Liberal, responding to a few criticisms that came up, and Andrew Leonard has his take over at Salon’s How the World Works.)

In the Magazine article, Krugman lays out a narrative that attempts to explain the trends in the academic study of economics since its inception. He then uses that narrative to make the case that the current recession, sparked by the crisis of 2008, must in turn spark a re-evaluation of dominant economic theory. He focuses most of his attention on developments of the 20th century, specifically the response of John Maynard Keynes to the Great Depression and the later resistance to Keynes, led by Milton Friedman. Krugman, in response to the current situation at least, is an unabashed Keynesian, believing that governments must drive demand through spending in times of severe recession.

Most interesting to me, though, is Krugman’s analysis of the shortcomings of economics:

Economics, as a field, got in trouble because economists were seduced by the vision of a perfect, frictionless market system. If the profession is to redeem itself, it will have to reconcile itself to a less alluring vision — that of a market economy that has many virtues but that is also shot through with flaws and frictions.

Krugman goes on to suggest how he thinks economics ought to develop:

There’s already a fairly well developed example of the kind of economics I have in mind: the school of thought known as behavioral finance. Practitioners of this approach emphasize two things. First, many real-world investors bear little resemblance to the cool calculators of efficient-market theory: they’re all too subject to herd behavior, to bouts of irrational exuberance and unwarranted panic. Second, even those who try to base their decisions on cool calculation often find that they can’t, that problems of trust, credibility and limited collateral force them to run with the herd.

So, Krugman wants an economics that acknowledges people’s irrationality and the dynamics of group behavior. That seems reasonable enough. What Krugman doesn’t seem to want, though, is an economics that considers that people might not be entirely self-seeking, either. On this point, I think, a Baha’i view can be helpful.

In his letter of 1931, know to us now as The Goal of a New World Order, Shoghi Effendi made the following comments about the forces contributing to the upheaval of the present-day world order:

The disquieting influence of over thirty million souls living under minority conditions throughout the continent of Europe; the vast and ever-swelling army of the unemployed with its crushing burden and demoralizing influence on governments and peoples; the wicked, unbridled race of armaments swallowing an ever-increasing share of the substance of already impoverished nations; the utter demoralization from which the international financial markets are now increasingly suffering; the onslaught of secularism invading what has hitherto been regarded as the impregnable strongholds of Christian and Muslim orthodoxy—these stand out as the gravest symptoms that bode ill for the future stability of the structure of modern civilization. Little wonder if one of Europe’s préeminent thinkers, honored for his wisdom and restraint, should have been forced to make so bold an assertion: “The world is passing through the gravest crisis in the history of civilization.” “We stand,” writes another, “before either a world catastrophe, or perhaps before the dawn of a greater era of truth and wisdom.” “It is in such times,” he adds, “that religions have perished and are born.”

Shoghi Effendi attends to the spiritual elements of a financial crisis – in this case, the Great Depression – and considers the wider effects such crises may have on people’s fundamental views of themselves and the world around them. While I doubt the current recession will be strong enough to spark such a change, there is no doubt that the continued upheaval of the world’s systems leads an increasing number of people open to the possibility that fundamental change is necessary. Such fundamental change requires us to reconsider economics in light not just of such factors as human irrationality and group dynamics, but also of human qualities such as a desire for unity and justice.

Writing in The Prosperity of Humankind in 1995 about the need for women to be accorded their rightful equal place in society, the Baha’i International Community had the following analysis:

The classical economic models of impersonal markets in which human beings act as autonomous makers of self-regarding choices will not serve the needs of a world motivated by ideals of unity and justice. Society will find itself increasingly challenged to develop new economic models shaped by insights that arise from a sympathetic understanding of shared experience, from viewing human beings in relation to others, and from a recognition of the centrality to social well-being of the role of the family and the community. Such an intellectual breakthrough—strongly altruistic rather than self-centered in focus—must draw heavily on both the spiritual and scientific sensibilities of the race.

Only when we are able to embrace both the scientific and the spiritual sides of our reality in shaping our economic analyses will our crises finally result in the victories for which we are destined.

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In my last post, I outlined competing ideas about what kind of judicial philosophy a Supreme Court Justice ought to have. In their basic outlines, the two arguments are for judicial restraint (emphasizing the limited role of the judiciary) or for compassion from experience (emphasizing the human effects of court decisions). I should be clear, too, as I probably wasn’t in my first post, that Obama actually calls for both of these qualities in a nominee to the Supreme Court, though he does deem the first “insufficient” without the second. Also, McCain does call for a nominee to have “experience,” though his interpretation of experience is different than Obama’s. Stemming from this debate, and important in its own right, is the notion of whether a the Supreme Court (or the judiciary more broadly) should be representative of the nation’s diversity, specifically its ethnic diversity.

The process of Baha’i elections, as established by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, provides a useful lens through which to analyse the process of selecting Supreme Court Justices.

Writing to the delegates chosen to elect the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in 1925, Shoghi Effendi established criteria that Baha’is use to this day in their elections, even at the local level:

Hence it is incumbent upon the chosen delegates to consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience.

Several parallels bear noting here. First, Obama’s call for a “rigorous intellect” and McCain’s for “legal competence and ability” in a nominee parallel Shoghi Effendi’s requirement of a “well-trained mind” and “recognized ability”. So, both politicians have this criterion correct: the nominee must be intelligent and able.

The two politicians also mention what we might call qualities of character. McCain notes that two qualifications in his mind are “integrity” and “character,” and Obama mentions that life experience “can give a person…a sense of compassion.” Shoghi Effendi clearly has in mind personal character in mentioning “unquestioned loyalty” and “selfless devotion” as two of the necessary qualities, but the difference between his standard and those of the politicians bears note. Shoghi Effendi requires that a person have loyalty and devotion to the Baha’i Faith, the system he or she will support and defend if elected. Any other qualities of character a person might have – integrity, say, or compassion – would be subordinate to this loyalty and devotion and would thus be used in service of the larger system which the role exists to support. So, perhaps Senators and Presidents should satisfy themselves of a nominee’s loyalty and devotion to the United States Constitution and let the nominee’s other qualities of character serve that loyalty.

Last, and most divisively, comes the question of experience. Both McCain and Obama require experience in a nominee, and their requirement aligns with Shoghi Effendi’s inclusion of “mature experience” as one of the necessary qualities for a potential member of the National Spiritual Assembly. Obama and McCain seem to disagree in their understanding of “experience,” though, as it relates to Sotomayor. McCain focuses on her professional experience as a lawyer and judge, while Obama includes that but goes beyond it to consider her broader life experience. As Obama put it, “What Sonia will bring to the Court, then, is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life’s journey.” That wisdom, for Obama, will help the Supreme Court take “another important step towards realizing the ideal that is etched above its entrance: Equal justice under the law.” For McCain, that “wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life’s journey” is not as important as a philosophy of upholding “all acts of Congress and state legislatures unless they clearly violate a specific section of the Constitution”.

These two quotations return us to the “necessary qualities” of “unquestioned loyalty” and “selfless devotion” to the larger system that Shoghi Effendi mentions. For although they do not state explicitly what each man understands by loyalty or devotion, they do give clues. For Obama, loyalty means helping to achieve a national ideal, and a Constitutional necessity, that does not yet exist in reality. For McCain, loyalty means respecting the will of the people (as expressed in legislative acts) unless it violates the text of the Constitution.

It seems, then, that both McCain and Obama consider these two necessary qualities important, though each interprets them differently than the other. This difference in interpretation is perhaps expected among people of different political stripes and by no means invalidates either man’s approach. In fact, if there were not partisan politics involved, we might not consider their differences to be quite so worthy of note. Considering Shoghi Effendi’s criteria helps us remove some of the partisan tension from this weighty decision.

The last issue Sotomayor’s nomination raises in the question of minority representation on important bodies, and I will turn to that question in my last post on the topic.

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(Updated below.)
In my two posts on David Simon’s The Wire (Human Drama, Parts I & II, below), I touched on the theme of how social change happens. In response to Simon’s idea that people who were inspired by The Wire should demand more from those in authority, I countered with the suggestion that, though such engagement with leaders is important, it should be rooted in work in local communities. Only then can appeals to leaders be grounded in a real understanding of social structures in their complexity. I also agreed with Simon that drama can play a role in changing people’s understanding of social structures not only through an intellectual education but also through an emotional one. As ‘Abdu’l-Baha indicated, drama has the power to move people’s hearts, and such changes of heart play a role in broader social change.

In the context of that thinking, I was intrigued by Malcolm Gladwell‘s essay in this week’s New Yorker that examines two patterns of response to racism, especially in the American South, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

One pattern Gladwell calls Folsomism, after the Alabama governor Jim Folsom, who, according to Gladwell, personally welcomed black people to his inaugurations and greeted them warmly in public but did not advocate any changes to public policy, such as desegregation of schools. Gladwell calls Folsom a racial moderate and says that meant, in the context of post-war Alabama, “to push for an informal accommodation between black and white.” The other pattern Gladwell labels Activism, and cites as his categorical example Thurgood Marshall, who fought against racist structures through court challenges, most famously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the case that struck down Plessy v. Ferguson and outlawed segregation in U.S. schools.

The main case Gladwell examines in his analysis is that of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Describing Finch’s reaction to his loss in defending Tom Robinson, a black man, against allegations of the rape of Mayella Ewell, a white woman, Gladwell writes, “Finch gathers his papers into his briefcase. He says a quiet word to his client, gathers his coat off the back of his chair, and walks, head bowed, out of the courtroom.” Gladwell then makes this judgment:

If Finch were a civil-rights hero, he would be brimming with rage at the unjust verdict. But he isn’t. He’s not Thurgood Marshall looking for racial salvation through the law. He’s Jim Folsom, looking for racial salvation through hearts and minds.

Gladwell further explains his judgment of Finch:

Finch will stand up to racists. He’ll use his moral authority to shame them into silence. He will leave the judge standing on the sidewalk while he shakes hands with Negroes. What he will not do is look at the problem of racism outside the immediate context of … Maycomb, Alabama.

Moving his scope a bit wider, to the notion of how comprehensive social change can happen, Gladwell approving cites George Orwell’s criticism of Charles Dickens:

Dickens thought that large contradictions could be tamed through small moments of justice. He believed in the power of changing hearts, and that’s what you believe in, Orwell says, if you ‘do not wish to endanger the status quo.’ But in cases where the status quo involves systemic injustice this is no more than a temporary strategy. Eventually, such injustice requires more than a change of heart.

So, Gladwell’s criticism of racial moderates centers on their blindness to systemic injustice. In (quite rightly) rejecting that blindness, Gladwell misses the necessity of moving hearts, of “small moments of justice” in creating long-lasting, firmly-rooted social change.

*   *   *

Shoghi Effendi, in writing in April 1927 to the National Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States and Canada (as it was then), made clear that both a change of heart and a change of structure are necessary to dealing with the scourge of racism. He writes that “the adherents of the Bahá’í Faith [must] carry out, first among themselves and in their relations with their fellow-men, those high standards of inter-racial amity so widely proclaimed and so fearlessly exemplified to the American people by our Master ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” Here he calls on the Baha’is to carry out the standards of inter-racial amity exemplified by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but he goes further to explain what this means.

I direct my appeal with all the earnestness and urgency that this pressing problem calls for to every conscientious upholder of the universal principles of Bahá’u’lláh to face this extremely delicate situation with the boldness, the decisiveness and wisdom it demands. I cannot believe that those whose hearts have been touched by the regenerating influence of God’s creative Faith in His day will find it difficult to cleanse their souls from every lingering trace of racial animosity so subversive of the Faith they profess. How can hearts that throb with the love of God fail to respond to all the implications of this supreme injunction of Bahá’u’lláh, the unreserved acceptance of which, under the circumstances now prevailing in America, constitutes the hall-mark of a true Bahá’í character?

Here Shoghi Effendi focuses on hearts that have come under the “regenerating influence” of the Faith of Baha’u’llah and that “throb with the love of God” and emphasizes that having such hearts will allow people to “cleanse their souls from every lingering trace of racial animosity”. The Guardian’s emphasis on hearts and souls indicates that, at root, racism is a spiritual phenomenon and thus must be rooted out through spiritual means. Just in case Baha’is were content to focus on their own spiritual transformation, though, he makes clear that such transformation alone is not the end of their duty.

Let every believer, desirous to witness the swift and healthy progress of the Cause of God, realize the twofold nature of his task. Let him first turn his eyes inwardly and search his own heart and satisfy himself that in his relations with his fellow-believers, irrespective of color and class, he is proving himself increasingly loyal to the spirit of his beloved Faith. Assured and content that he is exerting his utmost in a conscious effort to approach nearer every day the lofty station to which his gracious Master summons him, let him turn to his second task, and, with befitting confidence and vigor, assail the devastating power of those forces which in his own heart he has already succeeded in subduing. Fully alive to the unfailing efficacy of the power of Bahá’u’lláh, and armed with the essential weapons of wise restraint and inflexible resolve, let him wage a constant fight against the inherited tendencies, the corruptive instincts, the fluctuating fashions, the false pretences of the society in which he lives and moves.

In laying out this two-fold task for every Baha’i in the arena of racial amity, Shoghi Effendi makes clear that not only must Baha’is make a daily “conscious effort” at self-transformation, they must also “wage a constant fight” against all those elements in society that lead to racism. It is instructive to note that in his list of social characteristics that must be fought against, he makes no distinction between formal and informal manifestations of those characteristics. The “tendencies,” “instincts,” “fashions,” and “pretences” of society have both formal expression in law and informal expression in social mores. Thus, Shoghi Effendi calls Baha’is to work at changing both the hearts of people and the law. Also, he says that Baha’is must use “wise restraint and inflexible resolve” in this fight.

To put it a slightly different way, we need to be a bit Jim Folsom and a bit Thurgood Marshall. To build a new society based on the strong foundation of racial harmony, nothing less will do.

UPDATE
In reading today, I ran across this quote by Shoghi Effendi, from The Advent of Divine Justice (p. 27). It is not exactly the same thing as Atticus Finch’s advice to Scout about walking around in another man’s skin, but it does indicate that Baha’is must be absolutely fair-minded in judgment of other people. Speaking of the rectitude of conduct he encourages in all the believers, he writes, “It must be demonstrated in the impartiality of every defender of the Faith against its enemies, in his fair-mindedness in recognizing any merits that enemy may possess, and in his honesty in discharging any obligations he may have towards him.”

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In the second half of the nineteenth century, Baha’u’llah, “wishing to reveal the prerequisites of the peace and tranquillity of the world and the advancement of its peoples” wrote these words:

The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves.

He further wrote:

We pray God—exalted be His glory—and cherish the hope that He may graciously assist the manifestations of affluence and power and the daysprings of sovereignty and glory, the kings of the earth—may God aid them through His strengthening grace—to establish the Lesser Peace. This, indeed, is the greatest means for insuring the tranquillity of the nations. It is incumbent upon the Sovereigns of the world—may God assist them—unitedly to hold fast unto this Peace, which is the chief instrument for the protection of all mankind. It is Our hope that they will arise to achieve what will be conducive to the well-being of man. It is their duty to convene an all-inclusive assembly, which either they themselves or their ministers will attend, and to enforce whatever measures are required to establish unity and concord amongst men.

Shoghi Effendi, Baha’u’llah’s great-grandson and Guardian of the Baha’i Faith from 1921-1957, gave further detail about what such an international system of governance would entail in a letter of 1929, known as The World Order of Baha’u’llah. Though it is a lengthy excerpt, it is so stirring as to be worth quoting in full:

The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive, backed by an international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth. A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system. A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity. A world metropolis will act as the nerve center of a world civilization, the focus towards which the unifying forces of life will converge and from which its energizing influences will radiate. A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue. A world script, a world literature, a uniform and universal system of currency, of weights and measures, will simplify and facilitate intercourse and understanding among the nations and races of mankind. In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will cöoperate, and will harmoniously develop. The press will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. The economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be cöordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated.
National rivalries, hatreds, and intrigues will cease, and racial animosity and prejudice will be replaced by racial amity, understanding and cöoperation. The causes of religious strife will be permanently removed, economic barriers and restrictions will be completely abolished, and the inordinate distinction between classes will be obliterated. Destitution on the one hand, and gross accumulation of ownership on the other, will disappear. The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.
(Emphasis added.)

In the context of this vision of Baha’u’llah, so movingly rendered in His own pen and that of Shoghi Effendi, it is heartening to see two of the “manifestations of affluence and power” turn their energies to accomplishing parts of it. Bill Gates and Gordon Brown talk at recent TED conferences.

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