Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Tami Simon, Marc Gafni, et al. - Part I - "Short" Version

I've been pondering how to respond to this for a very long time. I've probably written this blog entry five times and trashed it. I've decided to take another go at it. I think I owe it to the small number of people in my community who might find themselves reading this blog in the future to be honest and clear about my take on these events. This is a subtle and difficult subject. You might disagree with me. I don't think you're a bad person if you do. I don't even necessarily think you're incorrect or misguided if you do. The answers here aren't clear. It’s hard to know the good and the true. The beautiful in this case, I'm not so concerned with. It might be the easier perspective to take - because regardless of where you stand I think most would agree that this was ugly.

This is a complex topic and it’s easy to make incorrect interpretations of what anyone might say. I'm going to post short versions and long versions - if you find that you disagree with me vehemently, you might want to read the long version to make sure you really understand my intent.

I want to be clear that I am a skeptic and critic of Gafni. I don't write as a supporter or defender. But it’s very important to be fair. My personal suspicions and opinions are obviously not the ultimate arbiter here.

My opinion on the ethics of what I understand Marc did and did not do.

Bottom line, I don't think that Marc did anything obviously wrong here. There is no widely agreed upon ethical standard for polyamorous relationships and there's also no widely agreed upon standard for the ethical behavior of post-traditional spiritual teachers. Marc has been public about his beliefs on these matters and he's acting in accordance with those beliefs. I don't know of any testimony or evidence that Marc was abusive in any of these relationships or that he was acting in bad faith with regard to any of his relationships. What we have is a woman, Tami's friend, who was uncomfortable or even deeply troubled by her secret, though apparently fully consensual, relationship with Marc - and that knowledge of her emotional discomfort undermined Tami Simon's provisional support for Marc Gafni - provisional in light of earlier allegations against him having nothing directly to do with these events.

Based on all of this, I really can't make a strong condemnation of Marc's behavior in good conscience. These were all consenting adults and the woman who seems hurt by her relationship with Marc is not one of his students that I can tell. At worst, what Marc has done is to make a bad choice for a relationship partner - someone who really wasn't up to the complexity of the kind of relationship Marc offered.

At the same time, I really can't fault Tami's behavior. Sounds True is her business. She can publish or not publish whoever she wants to. If Marc's behavior undermined her trust in him, then that is just what it did. Whether Marc was guilty of any ethical violation or not, Tami was no longer comfortable working with him.

In general, my personal opinion is that Marc's behavior is not giving due consideration to dual relationships. I think that there should be an ethical standard of behavior for spiritual teachers and I think Marc should be expected to sign up to it - but that's just my opinion.

I wish him and his students and associates peace. I applaud his relatively recent honesty and transparency about his intentions and his behavior. I hope he becomes more transparent and more honest. I hope his behavior and choices no longer invite drama into the integral community (as for my hopes about the rest of us in the integral community - I'll get to that later).

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Please keep it civil, folks.