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FYI - Re: Difficult ethical issue regarding our group

From: Bill Van F.
Sent on: Sunday, September 25, 2011 11:41 PM

Being the leader of a group of humans is often extremely difficult. The leader is often presented with complex ethical issues, with no clear reasons to make specific choices. As the leader of this group, I feel that it is important to do what is best for the group, and I also feel that it is important for me to live by what I believe to be ethically right, even if others do not agree. (And I also believe that I should listen respectfully and openly to feedback from others who might disagree.)

I have been presented with a recent situation that has required much thought as to how to deal with it. The basic problem is that I have been presented with what I believe is somewhat of a mistake in decision-making by a member of the group that has caused substantial suffering on the part of another member. We humans have the natural tendency to engage in revenge and to enlist the aid of others to attack and render submissive those who have caused suffering. And we therefore find ourselves in never-ending cycles of attack and revenge, with PSDED spiraling upward and outward to more and more people.

My goal for our group is to be able to share and compare our ideas without attacking each other, and I hope that we gradually develop a group the members of which feel good toward each other and have understanding of each other, including the “failings” of each other.

So I have had the following situation develop.

During the course of our discussion on the Message Board of different possibilities as to places to meet, Derik posted the following two statements:

Derik: You all are welcome to it, but I'm afraid I won't be joining you at Cathey's again. She seems like a nice lady, but her house gives me the creeps. Smells like my grandma's (not a good thing...).

Bill (in a later post): [So are we in agreement that when we meet, we should all be able to hear each other and feel a part of the group?]

Derik (responding): And not sit on smelly couches covered in pet hair...

As you may know, a poll was taken as to where we should meet this evening (9/24/11), and two chose Big Ben’s and one (myself) chose Cathey’s. I assume one responder was Derik and the other was Terry W, who I know was in favor of meeting at Big Ben’s and tried to get people to respond to the poll. Due to a number of factors that I spelled out, I chose to meet at Cathey’s, depite the 2:1 poll results. The meeting turned out to consist only of myself, Steve, and Cathey. (And BTW, Steve had not seen the poll, but said he would have voted to meet at Cathey’s, making it 2:2.)

We discussed what had happened and what should be done. I am giving a report of this meeting.

It should be noted that Cathey revealed how extremely painful those comments were. Her initial response was to tell me that our group could no longer meet in her house unless Derik offered a public apology. I was told that I should ban Derik from the group.

My own way of viewing the situation was to assume that Derik simply made a mistake, not realizing the amount of suffering he was causing.

There was speculation as to whether Derik was actually trying to produce disruption of the group, because of his substantially different belief system from that of the majority of the group. We wondered about his comments about an odor in the house that no one else has commented on. It has been months since there was a dog in the house, and we could see no hairs on the couch. It was, in my opinion, a very surprising couple of comments, that seemed to have no connection to reality. Nevertheless, I certainly know that people can see things differently. I wish to give Derik the benefit of the doubt, and to try to understand why he said what he said. But I was presented with strong opinions that I should take some sort of action.

What is apparent to me is that our group is more than a Message Board. What has happened has spread beyond Cathey and me, involving, for instance, Helen, victimizing her also. So I see all of us, including Derik, as victims of our imperfections and tendencies to make mistakes. Derik has been a valuable member of our group, contributing quite a bit to our discussions in meetings and on the Message Board. I am assuming he is basically a good person, who can make mistakes.

So what should I do?

Cathey’s final position at this point is to say that he will not be welcome in her house until he talks with her and the two of them come to understand each other as fellow humans. Also, I don’t want to leave Derik in what he might consider a bad light. Nor do I want to be some powerful leader who bans or executes some at the request of others.

So my conclusion is that I should do the following things as leader of this group.

This message is the first thing.

Secondly, I will delete this message from the Message Board if Derik goes back and deletes the statements that have caused the suffering (and I will delete the statement of his that I quoted in another of my posts).

Thirdly, I will ask Derik to refrain from coming to Cathey’s house until he has talked with her personally and made things right between them (Cathey is accepting of this).

My goal is to provide every opportunity I can for our members to relate to each other the way ideally everyone should relate to each other. This is consistent with my ideas about what our species needs to learn to do, so that we stop causing ourselves and each other so much PSDED.

I hope that I am handling this in the best way for our group. If you believe I am not doing so, I will appreciate your letting me know by email. (It would be best not to do it on the Message Board, I believe.)

This message is going out to everyone via email, as well as being posted in the topic about “Meeting place ideas.”

Bill Van Fleet

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