Subud Propaganda

by Marcus Bolt

(Note: The opinions expressed in any Subud Vision editorial are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other Subud Vision editors)

Apart from London's rather elegant, non-partisan Cenotaph, England is riddled with jingoistic First World War memorials. In my hometown, for example, there’s a sculpture representing the English lion crushing the German eagle, and because it is a paean of praise to a fallacy, I find it quite tasteless. In truth, the so-called ‘Great War’ was a trumped up affair played out to protect the vested interests of the European aristocracy, but presented to a naïve populace as a patriotic, ‘for King and Country’ struggle against the might and injustices of the heathen ‘Hun’ – portrayed in the media as a ‘clear and present danger’ to our way of life and all that we held dear.

All of which was a package of self-serving lies that eventually cost twenty million lives – and sowed the seeds of the next world war.

Of course, we all know the truth now: and, because we are more sophisticated and have a free press and the vote, we could never be duped in that way again, could we? Well, except that exactly the same patriotically poisoned arguments and ‘sexing up’ techniques were employed to justify the recent war in Iraq and are rolled out daily in support of the current conflict in Afghanistan.

And no one in the media dares mention the 250,000 Iraqi men women and children murdered by Coalition bombing (except as ‘collateral damage’), or suggests that, while we naturally sympathise with the families of our servicemen killed in Afghanistan, shouldn’t we also spare a thought for the wives and mothers of the Taliban dead, too? Anyone who did would, if influential, be branded a traitor by the establishment, and completely ignored if a ‘nobody’. Why? How does this come about?



The following quote helps me towards an understanding: ‘[T]he true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance.’ (Alan Bullock, ‘Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives')

As told in the fable of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, one non-mainstream question can instantly unravel a cunningly woven gossamer of lies – something our rulers cannot afford, or abide.

But when I read the Bullock quote again, I am starkly reminded of something rather closer to home, and have to ask the following question.

Could anyone in Subud today stand up in their group, or at any National or World Congress and ask, ‘Why has there never been an official enquiry into the fraud, corruption and incompetence that destroyed Anugraha, Bank Susila Bakti, PTS Widjojo and Premier Hotels?’ without causing anything from mass outrage, the whole company traipsing off to do a clearing latihan, through to a ‘dripping tap’ ostracism? I don’t think so.

Neither could one discuss openly at an official gathering such issues as ‘Is there too much religious language in our official literature?’ ‘Have we allowed Bapak’s talks to become a teaching?’ ‘Do we need helpers any more?’ etc., and expect to start a debate, or even get a considered response instead of a reaction. Again, why? Why are such questions a ‘jarring dissonance’ in a ‘uniform pattern of public utterance’?

It would seem, therefore, that our organisation operates like an oligarchy – a form of governance in which power effectively rests with an elite, supported by (and totally reliant on) public complicity. In turn, this requires a collective collusion, or a common motivator.

Our common motivator, I believe, is based on an interlacing of two Subud tenets of faith – (1) the ‘jiwa’ cannot be critical, therefore criticism stems from the ‘lower forces’ and (2) people will be attracted to the latihan through our exemplary behaviour in the world. As a result, when difficult questions are asked, we either close ranks, point a corporate finger and cry, ‘Heresy!’ or become zombie-like cult members, vehemently denying any systemic failure or malfeasance in case any such admission might bring the whole façade tumbling down. Or we simply do what totalitarian state citizens do – keep our mouths shut.

Meanwhile, our ‘leaders’ talk of ‘preserving Bapak’s legacy at all costs’ and brook no contravention, or even debate. This is politicking of the worst kind, employed by right/left governments and multi-nationals alike.

Thus, essentially, as an association we operate no differently from any self-serving, top-down organisation, which indicates that, in over sixty years, there has been no sea change as prophesied, and we are not the shining example of good governance we once aspired to.

All this implies that Subud, as it stands, has failed, so what are we protecting? Surely, wouldn’t becoming a more open, more honest, less hierarchic organisation, shouldering our failures as part of our process, not only be more healthy, but also make us more attractive, as well? Particularly to those in the ‘outside world’ who also seek personal and societal reformation?

But this is why I welcomed and joined Subud Vision. To my mind, it’s the only democratic forum within Subud today where troubling issues can be expressed logically, considered thoughtfully and responded to with clear counter-arguments, and where well-conceived solutions can be proposed, discussed and fine-tuned.

Two years on, and it seems there’s a groundswell of opinion that favours a Subud that’s neutral; a Subud free of jargon, religious teaching, politics, financial wrangling, rules and hierarchies. A Subud not unlike the London Cenotaph in essence – an elegant, monolithic structure with only one meaning and purpose. And in our case, that purpose would be simply the enabling of the individual to experience the process of the latihan in his or her own way.

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