ON THE NEW YEAR'S DEPARTURE
1. ON THE NEW YEARS DEPARTURE
As Buddhists we well know the significance of starting the New Year fresh with brand new determinations. This exemplifies the spirit of Hon'in-myo, or starting from this moment. Every new year we also hear a speech from the general director of SGI-USA about a new departure or a great new beginning of our organizations growth. He typically conveys his personal determination to take total responsibility and to commence the new departure based on President Ikeda's guidance and his own determinations. Last year, Jan 1st, 2000, the general director delivered a new years message entitled
"Together Let's Build an Ideal SGI-USA" In it he said:
"In the early days of our young organization, we tended to be impatient. In our sometimes over zealous desire to expand, the organizations growth was at times emphasized over that of the individual. For those who feel they were hurt by that process I sincerely apologize. If you ever feel that there is authoritarian and abusive behavior in the organization, let's address the problem through dialogue with everyone involved. Lets have the courage to bring up our concerns immediately and in a respectful way."
At the time the general director was making his year end speech, I found it disheartening that he did not directly involve himself, when his closest comrades were put asunder. The inconsistencies in his statement reflects the fact that every year the same rhetoric is repeated, apologies are made and a call is issued for the leaders "to self reflect as we advance to ensure those mistakes of the past won't be repeated.". What inconsistencies are we talking about? Our dismissals and persecutions did not happen in the early days of our young organization as was stated, it happened in 1999. So when it was said that "the organizations growth was at times emphasized over that of the individual" in the "early days of our young organization", the organizations growth was still being emphasized over the individual as we previously discussed in the
section. Which confirms that the
organization's modus operandi exists even today. When we were met with unjust treatment as we described earlier in this remonstration, we went through all the proper channels all the way up the line to the general director in a respectful way, but we were treated with disrespect. At every level we encountered evasions and cover-ups, leaders protecting their fellow leaders in the name of "supporting the central figure" and even the previous general director coming to NY and denouncing us as devils in front of the members. How can any leader who shroud's himself behind cover-ups and character assassinations dictate to anyone what is respectful.
We must remind the general director that this is America, and to quote a contemporary social activist: "I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people.
You simply…disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave we don't. We disobey social
protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom. I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King… Who learned it from
Gandhi and Thoreau and every other great man who led those in the right against those in the might. Disobedience is in our DNA We feel innate kinship with that Disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that had a person refuse to sit at the back of a bus in the era of segregation."
So even though the before mentioned statement was born of seemingly high ideals, the reality unfortunately seems to support the opposite. The only recourse available to the members now is going up through the vertical line to the top leaders in the hierarchy. If they are still unjustly treated after going through this process there is no other recourse to be had, because the only option available is the power that's vested in the hands of the leaders. One's chance for just treatment, especially when he is questioning the behavior of some one high up in the leadership, is almost nil, because we are still embracing the same old process that we had in the earlier days, putting the organization first. Therefore the same agenda exists all the way up the line. Each leader covering for the next, believing that's the only way to work together and preserve unity among themselves. This is much like the famed "blue wall of silence".
Secondly, they hide any unethical behavior from the membership by their own leaders, in the name of protecting the organization. Only the leadership can make the final decisions and they can never be contested by individual members. Therefore if there is no such empowered body of the members to check the actions of the leaders such as is the intent of the PRC, this perpetual misconception that the organization always comes first, above the rights of the individual, will never cease to exist.
Thus in the present system even when an individual member thinks "I'm empowered, I don't need a body like the PRC to protect me, I have faith." Then goes up the line and finds unjust treatment, and returns to complain to the members about what happened, he will be condemned by the members for creating disunity because the membership believes the organization's body has become the body of it's faith. If he criticizes the organization or it's leaders he is thereby criticizing the faith as well. Thus the individual forfeits their right to oversee the actions of these leaders. So in this case if the individual stands his ground and persists, he will be denounced as a troublemaker and "breaking unity" by the members and leaders alike. This is what Makiguchi was talking about, this is what he foresaw when he gave his guidance. The organization is not absolute, the faith is, and true unity can only be attained by individuals who focus on the integrity of the member's fundamental right to achieve this goal.
The same scenario is happening to this day as we write this remonstration. That's why we need a safe haven of recourse for the members to go to. We were the victims of this process as we described above, and that's why we had to take this directly to the people, so our experiences would become the catalyst for change.
So that is why year after year, the same statements have been issued, and year after year many people sit in agony with their unjust condition still unresolved and their names ruined while the same injustices have prevailed, leading to the continuous exodus of many pure hearted members who are subsequently labeled as backsliders. The backslider designation can be nothing further from the truth. Yet, year after year those injustices to the members are never addressed and are soon forgotten and swept under the rug. But when the general director makes such a statement to start addressing these injustices, as many general directors have previously
promised, it becomes meaningless and useless unless appropriate actions
are taken to clear their names. In addition how can one general director oversee the actions of thousands of his leaders by himself, especially in such a system. Therefore if we don't immediately take action to empower the body of the membership, these injustices will continue unabated, the leaders will be given carte blanche to get away with any abuses and the members will never have the facilities to act as a body to prevent any individual leaders abuse of power and this cycle of suffering will never find it's resolution.
Therefore the need of grassroots committees such as the PRC to keep in check any authoritarian actions on the part of the leadership. Otherwise we have a Machiavellian system, which puts all the power in the hands of the leaders and everything is justified in the name of their authority. That is pure politics, not an organization that represents the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin. In America now, half of the country is fighting so that their one vote will count. In America, people value their right to vote and their voices are heard to select their leaders and to keep them in check. The PRC that we're proposing in Victorious America has nothing to do with political parties or voting for leaders. As we stated emphatically, we are not proposing a system of voting for the leaders. It is simply meant to give the membership the collective right and procedures to empower the members to inquire into the actions of the leaders when the leaders have stepped over ethical, moral and religious boundaries. Therefore the PRC proposal provides a safe haven for the members to practice without hindrance and fear from abuse of authority. If such situations occur, they can always come back to the PRC that would be empowered to make inquiries into the leaders actions, and issue definitive decisions based on their results.
So that is why we should not hesitate to make an immediate change, so that not one more person suffers under such a system or flees from the organization. This is perfectly in line with the True Buddha's dictum that the people are the sovereign.
Those leaders who wish to block this change for a grassroots system such as the PRC, from the people, will continue to suppress the fundamental rights of the members, dismiss and punish them for speaking out. These leaders are not true
disciples of President Ikeda and are more consumed with making a name for themselves in the annals of Kosen Rufu, gaining praise from President Ikeda and even going to the extent of covering up any injustices in the organization to make themselves look good in President
Ikeda's eyes. Naturally they would not want any criticism directed toward themselves or the organization which they run. It must stop. It may come to pass that one day President Ikeda might be put into an awkward position. Because the leaders in the SGI-USA organization did not institute his and
Makiguchi's guidelines for making this a more Democratic organization. America will gladly embrace the SGI if it is an open organization where the people could take action against unethical leaders and nothing is hidden from public scrutiny. Then people in America would trust our organization knowing that it's responsible and honest enough to be open to protect the peoples integrity and follows democratic ideals. Then any attacks by the Nikken sect or the press would be negated by the power of the people to keep our organization honest and forthright. We call for immediate change to this system in the name of Nichiren Daishonin and the three successive Presidents of the SGI.
December 22, 2000