Subud Vision - Feedback
I have a number of comments I'd like to make on your article but first I have a question.
Suppose there was a Subud group, let's say in Britain, who decided to abolish the waiting period and open applicants immediately after their first meeting with the helpers. I'd imagine that Subud Britain would not be happy with the situation of one group having a radically different procedure from all the other groups in the country. However what would happen if in fact Subud Britain decided that all their groups should abolish the waiting period and open applicants immediately? Would this decision then have to get the agreement of their Zone? And let's say all countries in their Zone also voted to abolish the waiting period, would this decision then have to get the agreement of all the other Zones through WSA at World Congress?
In other words, what I am asking is, for any major change in procedure who has the ultimate authority to approve it? Can Subud countries act independently of each other or do all such major changes have to get the agreement of WSA?
Well that's quite a question and of course a very hypothetical question.
WSA has a very loose legal structure (some say too loose)and we only sign Memorandums of Understanding as opposed to any more binding legal agreements. If Subud Britain decided to abolish the waiting period they have legal independence and can do so.
The democratic process I talk about is because the member countries share a direction, it would mean that IF Subud Britain thinks that this would be a good idea, they would make this proposal to their zone and on to the council and World Congress to see whether this is something that everyone should adopt. That's what being a 'member' of an association means, it's not a question of 'permission' or authority, it's a question of shared vision. If at the end of the day, the majority voted NO, and Subud Britain decided to do so anyway, then there might simply be a division that would certainly not be very constructive.
Still something would never happen like that because in truth it is rare that countries have such fundamentally opposing views on issues related to the kejiwaan...there tends to be fore and against as well as people in the middle.
Sorry I cannot be more precise than what I have said which is the reality to the best of my knowledge.
I think you have answered my question precisely. You have said that a country can act independently on an issue if they internally decide to do so. That is what I was interested to ascertain. As I said, I will provide more detailed feedback on your article in due course.
What if a country decided to make a bigger change, e.g. to the helper system? Say, it decided to switch from the present system of appointments and testing to a system where each group, through voting, elected their own helpers for a limited term, as they do committees. Because these helpers would not be appointed in the normal way, they would not be recognized as being official by the WSA, and, therefore, the people they opened would not be members of Subud. So, I think the freedom of a country to be independent is limited, depending on the issue involved. Is that correct?
It seems to me that whether a country going its own way is constructive or not really depends on whether what it does is an improvement and whether it helps Subud to move forward in its development and growth, both inner and outer. Sometimes part of a whole organization must lead the way. A country can be the one to experiment with a new idea, and if it works out, then others will follow. Yes, it would be nice if everyone came to similar conclusions about change at the same time, but it rarely works out that way.
If a country felt that they have an idea of change of policy regarding spiritual matters, that is beneficial to the whole of Subud, then their moral responsibility would be to discuss this with the countries around the world, so that others might agree or not and give their opinions. If a country made a radical decision of this type which everyone else disagreed with, then no doubt the WSA (meaning all the countries) would wish to meet and decide on a policy regarding that country and if it were decided by the vast majority that this country was no longer following the aims of WSA and that it was in fact detrimental to the name and image of Subud as the 'majority' understand it, then the WSA would have the right to request that the country no longer call itself Subud and would ask them of their own choice to no longer be a member of the WSA.
From our mission statement and aims:
The WSA aim N° 2 is :
To preserve the practice of the Latihan Kejiwaan so that it will remain available to people everywhere in the form in which it was originally practiced under the guidance of Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo.
This is where the majority interpretation inevitably carries weight. I also believe that in the same way as Bapak's guideline's evolved, so does the general understanding.
Legally and authoritatively, WSA does have the registration/ownership of the name Subud and the seven circles symbol and this is the only thing that they can ultimately take away from a group or country, i.e. the right to use the name. Moral responsibility is another issue. How the WSA would react can only be imagined and I do not personally know what it would take for WSA to ask a country to not call themselves Subud and to no longer be a member of WSA.
What is more often the case is that groups who have decided to make radical changes to the general understanding and to Bapak's guidelines have of their own accord created a new group calling themselves something different.
I personally believe the democratic process and consensus is more effective that one country believing that they should or would be an example, in my experience example may be good for practical things like a Subud group 'greening' their premises. Regarding intangible things, it would probably create division rather than harmony as already there can be many interpretations of 'growth', quantity versus quality for example, so the discussion would go on.
Thank you for your reply.
I am clear that WSA's 'Prime Objective' is to preserve the integrity of the latihan. I am unclear about what else it considers crucial to Subud.
So, to continue with our example, is preserving the helper system, as Bapak set it up, a part of preserving the integrity of the latihan? Or, is it considered so important that it cannot be changed? If a country changed the way helpers are chosen, would that mean that it was no longer following the aims of WSA and that that change was detrimental to the name and image of Subud? Do the WSC and ISC have clear opinions about this?
It is indeed difficult to imagine how the WSA as a whole would react to some country 'going rogue', as we say here in the USA. I, too, support discussion and the democratic process. Part of that process is to have a free press, where people with new ideas can present them, so that they can be discussed. Important changes in how Subud operates should be debated openly long before they ever reach the World Congress.
Maya wrote: “If a country felt that they have an idea of change of policy regarding spiritual matters, that is beneficial to the whole of Subud, then their moral responsibility would be to discuss this with the countries around the world, so that others might agree or not and give their opinions.”
This sentence contains two words that require clarification: 'spiritual' and 'moral'. The way this sentence is going to be read by any given person will depend upon how these two words are defined. I have to tell you I have no idea what ‘spiritual’ means when used to discuss the business of the WSA. The only use of the word in the Preamble to the Constitution is in the sentence “We have made this the name of the Association of our spiritual brotherhood”. Used in this location the word means to the reader what the reader chooses it to mean. It is not defined elsewhere and has no practical value as a word in the WSA. 'Moral' does not appear in the Constitution. Since the sentence address a potential ‘change of policy’ I fail to understand what these words are doing in this sentence. ‘Moral' can simply be omitted.
Maya wrote: “If a country made a radical decision of this type which everyone else disagreed with, then no doubt the WSA (meaning all the countries) would wish to meet and decide on a policy regarding that country and if it were decided by the vast majority that this country was no longer following the aims of WSA and that it was in fact detrimental to the name and image of Subud as the 'majority' understand it, then the WSA would have the right to request that the country no longer call itself Subud and would ask them of their own choice to no longer be a member of the WSA.”
I doubt if the WSA would call a special World Congress as indicated in the phrase ‘would wish to meet’. A regular Congress would be adequate. The policy would then be debated around a resolution presented to Congress by a country, zone, the WSC or the WSA Executive. If, as you infer, the resolution passed denying the right of a national organization to use the word ‘Subud’ in its name then the WSA would not ‘request that the country no longer call itself Subud’ but would inform the national organization that it was no longer a member of the WSA and instruct the national organization to no longer use the word Subud in its name upon penalty of legal action.
By the way you used the phrase ‘vast majority’ again.
I think you might agree that the Aims to which you refer would be one or more of the following:
”1. To facilitate the worship of Almighty God through the Latihan Kejiwaan of Subud and to provide for the other needs of the Subud membership.
2. To preserve the practice of the Latihan Kejiwaan so that it will remain available to people everywhere in the form in which it was originally practiced under the guidance of Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo.
3. To protect the good reputation of Subud.
10. To make available information concerning the Latihan Kejiwaan of Subud.”
Helissa wrote: “…is preserving the helper system, as Bapak set it up, a part of preserving the integrity of the latihan?”
I think that her central theme had to do with the ‘helper system’. If a country decided to select helpers by vote of the membership rather than by appointment made by the existing helpers, then the Congress would have to address that development and decide whether any of the Aims were being violated or not. I think Aims 1 and 2 might be relevant though that relevance would have to be thrashed out.
Maya wrote: “ …also believe that in the same way as Bapak's guideline's evolved, so does the general understanding.” ‘Bapak’s guidelines’ is a very general phrase. In the discussion of how helpers were to be chosen, the applicable guideline would have to be agreed upon both as to its content and whether it was a ‘guideline’ or not and if so whether that guideline was optional or to be treated as an instruction. If it were considered an instruction, then, probably, its application to Aim 2 would have to be considered. Only if the instruction was considered by the delegates necessary to “2. To preserve the practice of the Latihan Kejiwaan so that it will remain available to people everywhere in the form in which it was originally practiced under the guidance of Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo.” would the Congress consider Aim 2 to have been violated. Personally speaking, if a single method of choosing helpers were chosen to became a central tenant of the WSA I think any group who disagreed would be only to happy to flee the WSA and call itself something else.
Maya wrote: “Legally and authoritatively, WSA does have the registration/ownership of the name Subud and the seven circles symbol and this is the only thing that they can ultimately take away from a group or country, i.e. the right to use the name.” The WSA could not easily remove the right from a group as a group is not a member of the WSA and would probably not choose that route. Congress would probably choose to require that the national organization insist that its group change its behaviour. The WSA could remove the right from a national organization that persisted in allowing the offending group to exist as one of its members. If the national organization succeeded in removing the group from its membership and that group persisted in using the name or symbol, then, as a separate entity, the group could be forced to desist through legal action.
Helissa wrote: "So, to continue with our example, is preserving the helper system, as Bapak set it up, a part of preserving the integrity of the latihan? Or, is it considered so important that it cannot be changed? If a country changed the way helpers are chosen, would that mean that it was no longer following the aims of WSA and that that change was detrimental to the name and image of Subud? Do the WSC and ISC have clear opinions about this?"
I would suggest that, unless the Congress has addressed and decided upon this question, that the WSC and ISC [WSA Executive] better not have an opinion about this.
Dear Helissa and Michael,
First I must say Michael that you beat me to it, ISC/WSA Executive do not have an opinion on this, my only opinion and suggestion to be constructive, would be:
Why not put this or another proposal through the national committee etc....to be proposed to the WSC for debate within the WSA...proposal could read something along the lines, of suggesting that members could propose a new helper that they feel happy with....that members can formally ask for a helper to step down if they are not happy and anything else along these lines that the members may feel important regarding the role and election of helpers, or...let's try and find a way of being more flexible regarding the probationer period, guidelines as to how to do this could be.....
If this is presented in a clear open way, with an intention and view to the positive effect for subud that may be felt, then it should come to the WSC...of course if an extreme proposal comes like let's abolish the whole concept of 'probationer time' and open people with no second thought, it is likely not going be be seen by many as a good thing to do...couldn't there be a middle ground type of proposal
I can not give opinions in the name of ISC/WSA executive, I can only invite and encourage to present a proposal through the normal channels, if this is done and to no avail, then please come back to me with the outcome.
Now I shall write on a personal note, soecifically for Michael, so please do not interpret this as any official WSA comment or position:
Concerning the understanding of my language and the meaning of moral or spiritual....I am sorry I left the UK when I was 10, I speak 4 languages so probably none very well.
What I was trying to say without going into the Buddhist concept of discussing the meaning and power of a word for days or years, and what I hoped most people would understand is:
Spiritual matters to me are those not considered purely organizational...If Hadrian Michell considers WSA should not exist and we should be 'leaderless' or deciding to have World Congresses every two years that is an organization issue (in my understanding) changing processes regarding helpers or probationer time period etc... which are directly related to the maintaining of the latihan kejiwaan as Bapak first brought it to us, is what I mean by spiritual.
When I speak about moral obligation, my meaning is that they do not have a legal obligation but rather what I would understand as it being right or correct to share this and discuss it and not simply make a one sided decision, it would in MY opinion be their moral not legal responsibility.
Don't ask me to define correct or right....
I am afraid that I seriously do not have the time to argue and play word games, I have tried to be open and candid and respond as best I can, to questions put to me, I have loads of work, not just for WSA but for my living and I cannot begin to argue the meaning of words if this is sent in a way which is not a simply friendly "I haven't understood what you meant by....". Every letter I write takes me two hours because I have to try and make sure that what I am saying is clear and open and to avoid misinterpretation, obviously I have not succeeded.
Again vast majority is simply to try and remind everyone that in my experience, WSA has always functioned at a level of majority much higher than the normal 51% which no one in Subud considers enough...not only do we go up to around 90, but we also try to reach consensus (and please don't ask me what I understand by consensus, there's an easy definition in the Oxford dictionary.In the WSC our understanding of consensus has become trying to make sure everyone is heard and that a discussion is thorough enough that a member country who might disagree, will finally say, OK guys, I still don't agree, I understand the majority's opinion though and so I accept the majority opinion....This is how it usually how it works.
I can only write in a way that I hope most people will understand and people may even try to understand between the lines and feel the intention of what I am trying to convey....Subud vision will never have participants who are non anglophone if an effort isn't made in that sense.
Again, if you wish to discuss the interpretation of the understanding of Bapak's guidelines, this is a debate I have no desire to get into, why, because at this point this is becoming a debate , and concerning Bapak and the latihan, I do not want to do this, I rarely 'quote' Bapak and only in a hopefully helpful way, (helpful as I understand it of course), I try to work with my feelings and from the inner (again I can only have my own understanding of feelings and inner)
I put on-line a presentation of how the WSC functions to the best of our capacities, I have been asked to respond to questions concerning that document, I have tried to input froma WSA point of view, by presenting the aims and guidelines which the WSA is based on....the WSA's general understanding that is, vast majority, or even only 51% if you prefer.... not every individual's potential understanding and interpretation which is as large and diverse as the number of members we have.
The WSA was set up for the membership, if there are precise ideas which someone might feel can help in that role, then they need to be submitted through the democratic process, if the majority of Subud members agrees with the proposal then no doubt it will come about, if they don't well WSA will continue being the organization of a majority of members who like the way it works and support it. That is all I can say....you can either agree and believe I try my best with the best intentions and that that has some value, or you can not, that is totally up to you. But I cannot spend time discussing words and meanings.
I wish to apologize, I am obviously not up to the task expected of me from SubudVision (or maybe I should rephrase that and say Michael Irwin, generalizing is never good).
I have only had three feedback on my paper, Michael, Sachlan and Helissa, as I said I have tried to respond openly and candidly, either no one else on subudvision is interested, or else they have read it and not felt the need to comment (positively or negatively)and in fact Michael's is not feedback on the paper it is an detailed analysis of Helissa and my exchange, I am really sorry to me it's just too exhausting.
All the best Maya
Once again I wish to give you my sincerest thanks for both your article and your willingness to answer some questions. I confess that for most of my Subud life I have been one of those members you talk about who was happy to just do her latihan and socialize. I really did not know how the WSA works and didn't much care. I feel that your explanations have helped me to understand a little bit more, particularly about just how difficult it would be to try and change some controversial aspect of Subud, e.g. the helper system. (Just to be clear, I was only using that as an example, not a realistic proposal!)
I am very pleased that there will be a workshop on the applicant period at the next Congress, and I am happy that members around the world are discussing making some changes in it. I've long felt that this issue is the one most vulnerable to change out of the many issues we face. I wrote an article about it for Subud Vision, but I'll leave it to others to take it further.
I sense that you do appreciate what a long and difficult process it would be for a group to push forward any Big Changes on controversial issues in the WSA. I think you are correct that most people would find it easier to just leave Subud and start their own group. I think a number of people have done that already. They haven't necessarily tried to start a new organization, but they are happy doing latihan with their own family and friends and don't mind being separated from Subud, and perhaps from hovering helpers. The latest article Sahlan and I wrote addresses this issue, but that's another topic altogether. (Feel free to leave us some feedback about it, Maya--haha!)
I've enjoyed our discussion. Thanks again.
Thank you for your letter, and thank you for understanding the spirit of my document,I am glad if it has in anyway served a positive purpose.
As far as I can see, some people (as in human beings) like and need an organization to support them as best it can, this putting aside any interpretations of how and with which intention we try also to protect our gift of the latihan, which is in my understanding the precious gift at the heart of all this. I of course feel sorry if people leave the Subud organization because they disagree or have been disappointed by it....for me the whole thing is an evolving process which I am happy to go along with, but I also have total respect for people who only wish to do the latihan at home or with friends, and as you say there are many....As I always try to say, we have no patent or copyright on the latihan, we have no control over it, as Bapak said (wow am I quoting!)once opened we're opened.....whether we practice or not, or whether we do so within the structure of the subud organization or not is irrelevant, it's between us and the latihan whatever our personal understanding of that is. Still those of us who choose to belong to the WSA or more those who take on a role, I do feel have an obligation to try to our best capacity to follow the WSA aims and hope that we are not going astray and that what ever may need correcting will gradually do so of its own course.
I am fundamentally a person who believes that if we deeply want change of any sort we can only achieve it by working together at a level were we allow our receiving and inner feelings to be our guide....of course this is difficult, we are all human and as yet not above our shortcomings, but still ultimately for me that would be the goal. I do also believe in a power out there, in prayer and in miracles !
I will try and read your article, I am really sorry that I don't have the time to read everything, maybe it is a job for a volunteer within the executive team, to read all these exchanges, subudvision, sububforum etc....and extract things that can be seen as membership concerns which we may not be hearing through our other channels and pass it on to the council. Hey! that's an idea, I shall make the proposal...
All the best Maya
You wrote: “Every letter I write takes me two hours because I have to try and make sure that what I am saying is clear and open and to avoid misinterpretation, obviously I have not succeeded.” “I wish to apologize, I am obviously not up to the task expected of me from SubudVision”
May I say that I have been most appreciative of your contributions. You are being too hard on yourself by saying that you have not succeeded. You are talking as if you had failed an exam. The only failure would be if you did not participate and you have participated wonderfully. I think I can speak for other editors in saying that the time it takes to respond clearly is a measure of your commitment. For that reason I was glad to be informed that you have a heavy work load – something we all understand - and still took the time to respond. The feedback process is not intended to be a time burden. It does not matter how long it takes to write a contribution to the discussion. What matters is care and clarity. You have certainly contributed to our understanding of how you see things. That is what matters.
You wrote: “Again, if you wish to discuss the interpretation of the understanding of Bapak's guidelines, this is a debate I have no desire to get into, why, because at this point this is becoming a debate , and concerning Bapak and the latihan, I do not want to do this,” “Michael's is not feedback on the paper it is an detailed analysis of Helissa and my exchange”
My understanding of the feedback facility is that it is an opportunity for readers not only to comment on the articles but also to discuss related topics for the better understanding of all those participating in the discussion. Of course, you have no obligation to discuss anything, including Bapak’s guidelines. By referring to our discussion becoming a debate as though that were less than acceptable, I can only conclude that your expectations of the feedback process was that it did not include discussion whereas mine is that it is expected to result in discussion. Debate is probably too strong a word. Just as a matter of clarification, I was not introducing a conversation about the interpretation of Bapak’s guidelines, but rather a discussion about the process that would be constitutionally required for the WSA to establish a policy pertaining to any interpretation of those guidelines.
You wrote: “…I cannot spend time discussing words and meanings.”
Are you saying that the discussion takes too much time or that you don’t want to discuss words and meanings? If the latter, I am disappointed because no shared understandings can result if words and meanings are fuzzy. In that case each person goes away with an assumption, usually false, about how the other person understands a problem. No communication really takes place unless meaning is precise.
I believe that postings to the feedback facility become part of the life of the article and for that reason everything that I post is intended not only for the author but also for any readers interested whether they add posts or not. So what follows continues that purpose.
You wrote: “Why not put this or another proposal through the national committee etc....to be proposed to the WSC for debate within the WSA...”
Your comments about the process of getting a topic into discussion within the WSA were directed to the specific issue, introduced by Helissa, of possible changes to the methods of selecting helpers. I would like to relate a personal story about the process itself. In the mid 90’s as a delegate to a national congress, I introduced about a dozen resolutions concerning some national and some international topics. About half of these were accepted by congress and one, aimed at being on a World Congress agenda, was intended for discussion on the upcoming zone agenda officially submitted, of course, by the national organization. The resolution never made it to zonal discussion because, an international helper, who had objected to it at the national congress played politics and had it removed. It is that kind of high-handed behaviour which completely discourages trust and participation in the bottom up process of moving ideas up the representative layers to the international stage. My question to you is why is helper interference in committee matters tolerated, as it is, by committees at all levels?
You wrote: “Spiritual matters to me are those not considered purely organizational...”
I agree. I would like to quote another WSA bylaw “1.4 Temporality: Organizations as such are a temporal matter.” Everything the WSA does is temporal because it is an organization. The spiritual cannot be organized. So it is incorrect to use the phrase ‘spiritual organization’ when referring to the WSA or any other Subud organization. That the helpers will discussion ‘spiritual matters’ makes sense to me. Organizational committees, however, should not discuss those matters any more than the helpers should discuss organizational (temporal) matters. This is what I think Bapak meant by the separation of helper and committee work. While I understand that the delegates and others at World Congress as individual latihan practitioners could discuss various practices that might affect the work of helpers, I would consider any resolution of Congress to be improper if it directed helper work unless it was just a recommendation expressing the opinions of delegates as individuals. A recommendation would simply be an expression of opinion by the presence of an internationally representative group of individuals. Similarly, I would be opposed to the helpers directing Congress to pass a resolution concerning its temporal work, though I would see no reason why the international helpers, being present at Congress, shouldn’t express their views on any resolution before Congress.
You wrote: “When I speak about moral obligation, my meaning is that they do not have a legal obligation but rather what I would understand as it being right”
You wrote: “In the WSC our understanding of consensus has become trying to make sure everyone is heard and that a discussion is thorough enough that a member country who might disagree, will finally say, OK guys, I still don't agree, I understand the majority's opinion though and so I accept the majority opinion....This is how it usually how it works.”
That meaning of consensus certainly fits within the variety of definitions of consensus supplied by Wikipedia. Mine is admittedly a definition of a formal voting method rather than a description of a social process. However, I would like to copy here a caution in the Wikipedia description.
Wikipedia: “Preservation of the Status quo: In decision-making bodies that use formal consensus, the ability of individuals or small minorities to block agreement gives an enormous advantage to anyone who supports the existing state of affairs. This can mean that a specific state of affairs can continue to exist in an organization long after a majority of members would like it to change. The incentive to block can however be removed by using a special kind of voting process.”
The last sentence is exactly what the aforementioned reference to Bylaw 3.19 is about.
Thank you for your response, I apologize if my previous message seemed harsh....it might have been due to having got up at 4:30 for a one and a half hour budget conference call at 5:00 (I am not joking, nor asking for pity ! ha!) it's just that when we have conference calls involving, Canada East coast, Europe, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, someone ends up with the short straw ! The call went well though !
I understand what you are saying, but I just don't have the time to really discuss meanings of words at any length that can really be considered a valid discussion (in my opinion) so, I can only invite those people who may have a question about the 'understanding' of a word in question, to just ask me what I meant...maybe it was the length of your e-mail and the quotes of what Helissa asked and what I responded, which made your e-mail rather 'daunting' at 6:30 in the morning.
Concerning your personal experience with an international helper...I can only deplore the use of 'political' connections in any instance....but...having said that, that was the 9O's and we are now nearly into the 21's (wow unbelievable eh!)and I trust that things are actually changing gradually, gradually we are dealing with concerns and proposal better and that hopefully not only as individuals we are getting better at our jobs, but also as a whole...people still think that Council meetings are horrible heavy events which was maybe the case last century, but in fact now when people sit in, we very often have comments on how amazingly well the meetings go ! Of course we can always have some point were discussions can get more tedious, for example last term the discussion on majority and consensus, the English language and definitions is one thing and your extract from Wikipedia is very relevant and useful, but the truth is that when you are looking at worldwide cultures which are so different to the anglo saxon one, it is most certainly a challenge and all one can do is remember that everyone of the people involved is sincerely defending what they believe is right...Still at this point we endeavor to not allow a minority to block a process of change which the majority feel is necessary, and you may well be surprised at the issues that 'our' minorities may try to block at the council level, they are probably not what you imagine.
I would say personally that at that point, we as Subud members really need to be able to let go (I mean really let go)in a discussion and if necessary test and try to feel where the reality is....at this given time.... At the end of the day for me it is always a question of balance, in the same way that generally I don't agree with the concept 'either/or' I tend to be a plus, plus person.
So again FOR ME defining precisely how helpers should be involved in organizational aspects, or how the committees should bring the 'spiritual' as in higher feeling, into their discussions is something difficult to generalize, because we do do things differently in Subud we don't run it like an army, everyone is right to a certain extent from 'their perspective' and we do try to allow for this....so again it is difficult for me to answer this question in the name of the WSA, or the WSC because I am just one voice and for me to answer I could only really give my personal opinion or feeling. So again really any debate like the discussion of a bylaw for example does need to go through the process, and this can easily be done, and in fact our bylaws are under constant review as we discover points that need clarification.
Must go now !
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