Re: Former SGI members
Date: January 08, 2009 01:05PM
SGI targets and recruits really nice people? I don't know about that. A large number of members and leaders in SGI-USA are Japanese. In the Japanese culture, there is enormous pressure to avoid confrontation. Yet, under this "nice" surface, there can be a lot of anger and contempt for people who can't or won't fit the mold. Not aggressive aggression like Landmark, but a lot of passive aggression. The Japanese leaders in the United States then seem to expect and pressure the American members to fit this pattern -- women members must defer to the males, younger members defer to older members, don't question leaders, don't disagree, don't ever argue or get angry -- we must have consensus, we must have harmony.
This is the Japanese culture, and when I lived in Japan, I tried to be a bit less outspoken than I might've been in the States. My point is, these Japanese SGI leaders who are living in the United States should do the same -- try to understand and respect western culture.
American members who will not act like Japanese can find themselves ostracized or gossiped about behind their backs. And we couldn't discuss this openly. You just meet with silence and denial if you try. "The Jello Wall," people have called it.
I think that it may be worse in Japan. I have a Japanese friend who is a member; she and her husband went to an SGI meeting. While there, her husband had a heart attack and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. She was dismayed to find that her fellow members were angry with her and her husband, blaming them for disrupting the meeting!
It is very true that if you want to be an SGI leader you have to eat, sleep, crap, and breath SGI 100% of the time...but it seems if you are white, African-American, Hispanic, or an Asian American who is not Japanese, you will encounter a glass ceiling. You are welcome to stay at the lower and middle levels of the organization and work. There are a few token white or African-American leaders on the National level, but not many. Positions of real power? Headquarters in Tokyo usually sends a Japanese -- and usually a Japanese man, to fill them.
In my city, we had three individuals who were the mainstay of SGI for years -- an African-American man, a white woman and an African-American woman. These three were incredibly dedicated, working hard for over fifteen years to establish SGI in our area. And yet who got picked to lead our area? This very young Japanese man, an immigrant who just arrived, didn't know our area, didn't know us, and didn't even speak English all that well. We were appalled, but we had no say -- members have no choice, you just have to take the leaders that Japan sends. Sure, he was a nice guy, but what qualified him to be over others who had built the organization in our area? It seemed to us, only that he was Japanese and male.
But, white, black, green or Japanese, every high-level leader totally accepts the party line and worships President Ikeda, at least in public. I have heard that SGI-USA is losing members and really isn't gaining many new ones -- and I think that this control by Japan is a huge part of the reason why.
I think as time goes on, eventually just a small, fanatical core group of older members will be left...and I think that the SGI will further splinter and break down when President Ikeda, who is in his eighties, dies. In my opinion, the senior leadership of SGI does NOT know what it's doing. SGI-USA would have a greater chance of survival if the American members could run the organization in a way that is more compatible with American culture. I'm not talking about changing the teachings of Buddhism. It's about giving members more of a voice in how SGI-USA is run, rather than having everything imposed top-down by Japan -- which isn't Buddhism. Far as I can tell, the Buddha never said you had to belong to a particular organization to find greater wisdom, happiness and peace.