Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Code of Conduct

Several weeks ago Sermo, the physicians' posting site established posting requirements for its participants, as did Medscape Connect, another physicians' web site before that.  Medscape's has been around long enough to see the individual I regard as the most in need of having to go through a moderator posting much less frequently and others who had been routinely verbally abused by wingnut ideologues returned, some of them in need of a little restriction as well.  The Islamists who used to post stuff that I do not think their patients would want them seeing have not returned but neither have the very delightful Muslims who tried very hard to teach the rest of us the principles of their faith.  

Sermo's Code of Conduct reads as far more stringent and far more enforceable than Medscape's.  There have been individual physicians suspended for infractions well under what Medscape tolerates and the flagrant violators of civility have been few.  What the managers noticed, quite correctly, is that people who were personally attacked, myself among them from time to time, give themselves a holiday from posting.  I did that for two weeks not long ago and many more times deleted notifications from my discussion list.  In tracking their data, they concluded that certain individuals deterred discussion to an extent that they had to be shelved to maximize engagement of the physician community.  

While there was some negative reaction as a form of censorship, I think of this more as going through an editor, which is true of most publication.  It is not the ideas that are being scrutinized but the effects of how they are expressed.

Derech Eretz Kadmah L'Torah.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Dinner Dance

The clock ran out on my term on the AKSE board last July.  I deleted myself from the automated emails a couple of years ago.  As a consequence, I derive very little personally from exorbitant annual dues which could purchase a good deal of upper tier Jewish advancement for myself with plenty left over to donate on behalf of others.  About half the time I make an appearance shabbos morning, increasingly out of a sense of obligation to set time aside for worship and Torah more than a destination in its own right.  I strongly suspect I am not alone in this view, with many fragments of evidence to support this, though without the smoking gun to wave in front of the Rabbi and President, both of whom have valid agendas and work diligently to bring those plans about.  But if you follow the wrong map, you can never get to the desired place, irrespective of good intentions and yeoman's effort.

An email came my way announcing a Board intent to have a fundraising Dinner Dance next spring, soliciting suggestions for who would make the kind of honoree that the well-heeled of our congregation and elsewhere would come out in droves to offer a handshake and hear a speech of wisdom.  Ads would be sold to local businesses and other well-wishers, the way these events become financially profitable.  Despite my current affluence and willingness to share some of it for communal advancement, including my synagogue's, plunking down a large sum when much of it goes to underwrite my own transient entertainment runs against some very ingrained values ingrained from a time when that affluence was not there.  While I occasionally seek a measure of personal pleasure or respite, opulence has never been an attractive pursuit for me personally.  But lest I diverge too much, the purpose of the event is to raise needed funds and the mechanism has a prospect for doing that.

What is missing, though, is a destination for the funds that enable implementation of the newly minted Embracing/Engaging/Enriching logo.  That's the core business.  I've not found the experience of sitting there on shabbos morning any of those things.  I did not find my time as a Board Member any of those things.  Not only that, but there was virtually no discussion of implementation to bring those things about.

Success literature over centuries has taken two genres that have very little overlap.  One is an ethical one in which principles are established, goals are set based on the principles and a diligent effort is made to meet them.  That presupposes that the path being pursued is the correct one.  Much Biblical and Rabbinical literature approaches success that way as do many thinkers of more modern times from the Founding Fathers to Horatio Alger to the late Stephen Covey.  The other genre has to do with technique as dominant.  We can derive wealth or power or whatever else we might desire if we implement a technique that brings it about.  There are plenty of historical examples of this as well, from Machiavelli to Dale Carnegie and to certain forms of Islam.  Judaism never really takes a view that the ends justify the means.

What I saw as a Board member which sensitizes me to the little that comes my way now is an emphasis on those techniques.  It may be Bingo, Dinner Dance, A-lists, corruption of the intent of Nominating Committees, all of which have a legitimate defense were they purposeful in bringing about a more laudable Embracing/Engaging/Enriching ethos.  Unfortunately these techniques acquire a life of their own to the neglect of core business of bringing all participants from the level of Judaism they have on arrival to a loftier one from one Rosh Hashana to the next.  Discussions of that element never seem to happen.  People get left behind when these things are not addressed.  We see those people then assigning a financial value to the dues request and finding that their investment may be better realized in a different community.