Alright – that title is a bit over the top. The thing is, I’ve been pondering the difficulty of managing groups filled with people who all mean well (you’ll read why later on). Or rather – the majority means well, wants to be kind and all that. The disadvantage is… that unkind people can create havoc in such groups.
It’s a classic philosophical problem. I think Pascal formalized it first (please correct me if I’m wrong): In the realm of the ideal Christian (meek, kind, turning the other cheek), the one selfish person is king. So how does one have an organisation, or a community, of people who try to live as ‘a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity‘?
The easiest solution is to scorn all organizations. To keep on migrating online to whatever spiritual forum or ning has not been spoiled yet. The second obvious solution is for the leaders to just get rid of those that they don’t like. This is the solution that has given the Catholic Church such a bad name in certain quarters.
But let’s focus on the reason I’m asking these questions. An online theosophical community has recently faced first the expulsion of a trouble maker – then the expulsion of the moderator who expelled her – then the reintroduction of the trouble maker – then the moderator leaving the community. Yes, I’m taking the side of the moderator on this one. The lady who was expelled had been rubbing me the wrong way for a while.
 I’m not talking about myself. I’m still a member of that community and will remain active there depending on the quality of the conversation. I have NOT been expelled or banned. [/edit]
What happens in such a community full of decent people – is that the person who was expelled gets defended. I think it’s a reflexive defense of the underdog. But if one doesn’t protect the lambs from the wolf, how can the lambs be expected to live? The troublemaker has been making trouble on that forum, and while it’s still active, I expect the atmosphere to deteriorate further.
As an ethical and spiritual question it’s a hard one: when is it kindness to give Love for Anger? And when is it best to be firm and strict? When to ignore misbehavior – knowing that ignoring it may well bore the person who is being a nuisance – and when to step in and say something?
I was terrible at this balance when I was teaching middle school math. I have a tendency to respond to everybody & everything. Online this usually works alright – keeps the conversation going – but I do have to reign myself in when I have nothing kind to say. Recently I’ve been deleting my own comments from this blog for instance.
Getting back to the other reason why this is relevant: the moderator who was expelled and a few others, including yours truly, have started a new theosophical forum. If you want to be invited (it’s invitation only for the moment, though we’ll be going public in a few days), say so in the comments.
In forums the issue is simple: how to have a lively forum where people feel free to express themselves, yet avoid flame wars?