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Culture

Power, Authority and Systems –Balancing “the Man”

Rodney Richards | Oct 22, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Oct 22, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

The Man. Oh, you don’t know the Man. He’s everywhere. In the White House, down the hall… Ms. Mullins [the school principal], she’s the Man. And the Man ruined the ozone, and he’s burning down the Amazon, and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! Okay? And there used to be a way to stick it to the Man, it was called rock ‘n roll. But guess what? Oh no. The Man ruined that, too, with a little thing called MTV! So don’t waste your time trying to make anything cool, or pure, or awesome, ’cause the Man is just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul. – Dewey Finn (played by Jack Black), the lead character in the film School of Rock.

You know who “the Man” is, right? In street slang, the Man refers to anyone in a position of power, authority or oppression. The Man could be an elected official, a police officer, a corporate CEO, a tax collector or your boss at work. The Man means domination, control and supremacy. The Man controls our lives, because the Man runs everything.

Today “the Man” continues in his wayward thinking and acting. For all of us, the Man’s “subjects,” whether king, dictator or democratic assembly, life is either grand and comfortable or pure hell. We usually submit, willingly or unwillingly, to the human authority the Man symbolizes—but we all know that human authority has not succeeded in creating fair and just systems that lead everyone to prosperity, happiness and freedom.

In fact, the systems people create—and yes, they’ve usually been created by men—have proven themselves lamentably defective. Actually, the Baha’i teachings use those exact words to describe “the prevailing order:”

How long will humanity persist in its waywardness? How long will injustice continue? How long is chaos and confusion to reign amongst men? How long will discord agitate the face of society?… The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective. I beseech God, exalted be His glory, that He may graciously awaken the peoples of the earth, may grant that the end of their conduct may be profitable unto them, and aid them to accomplish that which beseemeth their station. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 216-217.

We live today in a veritable Garden of Eden, made even better with ordered life and civilization in many places. But we have woefully forgotten that we are all stewards of this great planet we share, and the chief-stewards are woefully inadequate because of man-made politics and ill-adapted political systems. Those systems have failed to bring peace, security and prosperity to all the world’s peoples and cultures. Those systems have built and sustained a severe disparity between extremes of wealth and poverty around the world. We have inherited a beautiful Earth, but the great natural diversity we cherish, instead of being treasured, is being torn apart, disrupted by internecine strife, self-aggrandizement and visions of personal wealth and power out of touch with modicums of fairness and justice at too many levels of society.

The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations. – Pope John Paul II

Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose? – John Wesley

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. – Colossians 1:16-17

So how can we fight “the Man?” How, given the lamentably defective prevailing order, can we change it? A major part of the solution, according to the Baha’i teachings, is women. When women gain full equality, the Baha’i teachings promise, the world will change.

Today, we’re on the way to that lofty goal. The world is witnessing a remarkable period in human history. We might call it the Era of the Ascendancy of Women, as clearly evidenced by more and more women in positions of leadership, in obtaining college diplomas, in becoming scientists, doctors and lawyers, and above all in becoming statespersons.

Perhaps now the influence of the Man will finally be toned down, male aggressiveness and warlike behavior ameliorated, and manly self-centeredness and selfishness decreased by the moderating effects of intelligent, bright, caring and productive women seeking unity, peace and harmony:

In this Revelation of Baha’u’llah, the women go neck and neck with the men. In no movement will they be left behind. Their rights with men are equal in degree. They will enter all the administrative branches of politics. They will attain in all such a degree as will be considered the very highest station of the world of humanity and will take part in all affairs. Rest ye assured. Do ye not look upon the present conditions; in the not far distant future the world of women will become all-refulgent and all-glorious, For His Holiness Baha’u’llah Hath Willed It so! At the time of elections the right to vote is the inalienable right of women, and the entrance of women into all human departments is an irrefutable and incontrovertible question. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 182-183.

The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 301.

Therefore, strive to show in the human world that women are most capable and efficient, that their hearts are more tender and susceptible than the hearts of men, that they are more philanthropic and responsive toward the needy and suffering, that they are inflexibly opposed to war and are lovers of peace. Strive that the ideal of international peace may become realized through the efforts of womankind, for man is more inclined to war than woman, and a real evidence of woman’s superiority will be her service and efficiency in the establishment of universal peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 283.

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Comments

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  • Steve Eaton
    Oct 23, 2016
    -
    Thanks for your article, Rodney, with
    its wisely varied selection of strong
    quotations!! I love it.
    • Rodney Richards
      Oct 24, 2016
      -
      Then you must know the stronger women of whom I speak...
  • Oct 22, 2016
    -
    Thank you Rodney for this article and explaining to many what term "The Man" represent. I have not heard the phrase since I left Bed Sty in 1968, Your description and explanation are right on the mark. Perceived and in some cases actual injustices by police and society, ongoing discrimination, prejudice, mistrust and disgust among many -- these suggest there is a long way to go. But we must keep on keeping on to raise a generation who live, work and serve higher interests.
    • Rodney Richards
      Oct 24, 2016
      -
      "The Man," particularly "The white man of old," of arrogance et al, is on the descendant, and women are beating him on many fronts...
      Thanks for your comments
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