Thursday, 20 December 2007

Wiki JA article - a delicate balance

Here's the version of the article that John, Rumiton and I created and people have already started editing it. I'd hoped that once it was done I could be hands-off but the first edit was from an old friend, Tony, and having to "revert" it (in order to comply with the tag asking for new material to be discussed first) has already caused resentment. I hate being in this role.

From sitting exactly where Tony is now, I know how hurtful it is to be edited and how you can feel "censored" or ganged up on.

I'd like not to keep too tight and jealous a rein on the article, but having carefully negotiated its delicate balance, I am worried that a swing one way or the other (doesn't matter which) could totally destabilise it and leave us back where we were before. The article may be nobody's ideal, but as it stands, from my point of view, it acknowledges the JA's controversial past, and some present controversy and it leaves the reader to decide for themselves about what it may be like now.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Working WITH John Campbell

The long slog is nearly over and only today did I learn that once it is over the article will not be locked, as I presumed, but will continue to evolve....and John and I will be responsible for defending the "stabilised" article; protecting the integrity of this thing we have created.

Academically, that is a rather fine thing. If it wasn't so contentious and vulnerable an article, I'd celebrate the fact that others can edit it, but after all we have been through, it worries me. There are so many interested parties and all of them conflict.

There is however an aspect of this that may be a force for good: John and I will have to work together, rather than against each other. It would surprise him to read that the idea pleases me. His concession in accepting my proposed sentence: "Allegations that the JA had too authoritarian a style of leadership and that members were under pressure to commit to life-long celibacy, together with the fact that corporal punishment of children (rodding) was practised, and that community members were required to hand over their material possessions, left them vulnerable to the accusation that they were a cult" was such an act of good faith that I feel like, on the JA's behalf, he has accepted that legitimate concerns might have been expressed in the 1980s. In a way that's all it has ever been about for me.

I am not unduly concerned about the current JA. I don't know it well enough. I probably wouldn't recommend it, but it does seem that some of my greatest concerns are no longer current policy, and that being the case, I feel free now to let the whole thing go.

My only worry is whether I can happily allow the article to evolve now without trying to control it too tightly. For it not to conflict with the agreed re-write, I will have to trust John, and that in itself could be a very good thing. That is due in no small part to Rumiton, who got us here.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

To be a New Man you must repent the Old

John Campbell's main thrust seems to be that much of the criticism of the JA is out of date; it does not apply to the present-day JA.That is a thesis that I have been open to in the last couple of years of contact with them. And it was on that basis that I felt comfortable going to stay with them during a Men's Weekend last year. Recent events, with a member asking for help to leave and coming to stay with me have altered my perception, sadly, but all the same, the JA is in many respects different now to the JFC I knew.

What John is trying to do is present the current JA without alluding to its past, and really who can blame him. If they have changed and if the criticisms no longer apply, then they are no longer relevant.

But there is a biblical principle (if not a fundamental human one) here: You cannot be a "new man" (apologies to sisters, ahem) unless you have confessed your sins, repented of them and sought to be right with those you have harmed.The JA may be NEW, but we who were hurt by earlier policies have not been apologised to.

No substantial acknowledgement has been made that significant mistakes were made in the ways we were treated.

Why is this so?

Because the JA want to appear NEW without admitting their past sins. They continue to deny that they ever did any of the things we were/are angry about, while quietly stopping them. And what makes this worse, is that while they continue to deny their past policies ever existed, they continue to denigrate those of us who highlighted them.

A nominal, vague admission of mistakes having been made is trotted out ever so often only to placate present-day critics, but if you press them about them, they can't actually think of any, and wounds go unhealed.

Why I think I must soldier on with this infuriating wiki re-write process and risk looking like a proud whinger with a twenty year old chip on my shoulder is that the JA are attempting to re-write history and that history is OUR history. They want to deny our legitimate concerns by pretending that the things that hurt us never existed....that it was our failure to fit in, our lack of spirituality, our pride, etc which meant that we were never really part of them. The fact is that some of those they dismiss so easily now were there for many years and were very much part of them, very much dedicated, loving people who put their faith and trust in people who broke faith with them.


I think there is also a wiki principle to be challenged here, which is that because we were victims of the JA (and are "bitter") we cannot be rational, credible witnesses. The advantage of having a neutral person to write the article, Rumiton, who I am warming to now that I see him as a man rather than an "elder" (in effect), is that I can leave it to him to neutralise anything that is less than neutral in my own tone, when he has had the chance to read anything which is, frankly, my point of view. All evidence is socially constructed; of course it is! Any attempt to assert otherwise is disingenuous bull. But that does not make our POV a lie.