The Steiner Waldorf School Federation in France is not backing down from its legal claims against Grégoire Perra, a former waldorf student, anthroposophist and Steiner school teacher. They are pursuing the proper course of action… proper, for a cult: they’re suing to protect themselves from a reputation as a cult. One could have hoped that, in order to spare themselves embarrassment, they would have realized that this is a genuinely bad idea, and that they would have backed off voluntarily, once they had given it some more thought. Even if they win, they lose. The desire to deprive people of their right to speak their minds — about their beliefs, their experiences or whatever they wish to — is unfortunately characteristic for a cultish mindset, and it is clear that anthroposophy in France is exactly the cult it claims not to be.
How the anthroposophical movement has come to believe they have something to gain from this, is beyond me. The actions of the French Steiner Waldorf Federation reflects badly on the entire movement. Other parts of the movement remain silent, and although this is hardly surprising, it is regrettable. It is unfortunate that the freedom this movement claims to espouse only applies to themselves, and rarely to detractors. It seems to me that even if there are people who agree that this behaviour — taking people to court instead of accepting free speech and engaging in debate — is wrong, they are too few, do not care enough or are not daring enough to protest.
One thing that could wake up the French Federation is that other anthroposophical organisations and individual anthroposophists object to their dragging the movement into the gutter. The might be the only thing — with one exception: huge amounts of bad press. In other words: public shaming. Hopefully, when the trial gets going, the French press will come to consciousness and sniff out the rotten anthroposophical carcass — and begin to unveil this movement. They might — if they do what they should, and I hope they will — not stop at the lawsuit and they may not be as balanced and knowledgeable in their criticism as Grégoire Perra is. They may cause a lot more PR damage than he could possibly do. I guess the French anthroposophical movement is too dumb — and too blind to the rest of the world — to realize this.
Grégoire Perra has written a new blog post. In it he reveals the name of the lawyer chosen by the French Waldorf Federation to represent them in this court case; this is, apparently, a lawyer with a previous reputation for representing large corporations wanting to quash criticism. As Grégoire notes, it is remarkable that the Waldorf Federation has the financial means to proceed with this — as it must be excessively expensive (unless, I suspect, the lawyer is himself an anthroposophist). What is even more telling — regarding the movements moral standing — is that they are prepared to spend so much time and resources to silence criticism, to stop someone from talking about his experiences. I agree with Grégoire’s interpretation that it might be a symbolic move for them — that they are not only trying to eliminate him and the danger they must be perceiving he poses to them, but they’re attempting to dissuade anyone from ever again doing what he did. I don’t have to point out the inherent dangers: when future wrongs take place, which they inevitably will, there’s a risk nobody will be prepared to come forward, nobody will call attention to these things and nobody will dare to report anything either to authorities or the media. The waldorf movement wants a bubble of silence and secrecy around themselves, and are trying to create it by force.
Hopefully the mask falls off, and they reveal themselves for who they are. They have already revealed that they are thugs who, in their supreme intolerance, want to stop others from voicing their opinions, expressing their concerns and speaking about their experiences. It is my conviction, though, that once the mask falls, a lot more than that will be revealed. And it won’t necessarily be pretty or fun. The lawsuit brought by the Waldorf Federation ought to prompt French media to launch thorough investigations into the anthroposophical movement. Any organisation that tries to suppress criticism and free speech deserves attention — and scrutiny. To quote Grégoire:
Quoiqu’il advienne, tout ceci permet d’ores et déjà de faire en sorte que les masques tombent. Par le choix qu’elle a fait, par les sommes qu’elle investit et la rage que cette entreprise manifeste, par les personnes qu’elle choisit pour la représenter publiquement, la Fédération des Écoles Steiner-Waldorf aujourd’hui se dévoile, qu’elle le veuille ou non. C’est pourquoi les anthroposophes devraient tout bonnement avoir honte d’eux-mêmes et de ce que certains dirigeants font en leur nom. Que ce dévoilement puisse devenir un signe, un appel à la lucidité, pour tous ceux à qui le courage manque encore de sortir de l’entre-deux, qui savent des choses mais préfèrent les oublier ou ne pas les dire, qui ont peur des conséquences d’une prise de parole libre, ou qui préfèrent se réfugier dans le confortable compromis consistant à ne pas y regarder de trop près dès lors qu’il s’agit de porter un jugement sur ces écoles et cette « pédagogie » !
I have previously blogged about the case, e g, here.