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Maya Korzybska - What We Do and How We Do It!

What does consensus mean?. From Michael Irwin, November 30, 2010. Time 18:54

You wrote:

"...most members do not realize that the WSA is set up as the ultimate democratic organization, where we aim for consensus (100% acceptance) as opposed to the simple 51% majority vote that might happen in other set-ups." "Of course, there are occasions when a proposal is the idea of only one country or a handful of members, and doesn’t get majority support. Consequently it is put aside. This is, however, how the democratic process works, and it needs to be respected by all."

In the above quotes you use the word 'democratic'. In one case you say 'ultimate democratic' and in the second you say 'democratic process'. I think we would agree that that moving a resolution up the chain of layers from group through to Congress is following a form of representative democracy where members lose their individual voice in favour of representatives for the collective that the individual belongs to. Hence there are 'group delegates' at a national congress. Similarly national organizations as members of the WSA are represented by delegations at world congresses and between congresses by an additional representative step through zone reps at the WSC.

Given our agreement that we are talking about a representative form of democracy, I have to ask you what the characteristics are of 'ultimate democracy' and 'democratic process' when those delegates actually make decisions.

You mention 'consensus' as a characteristic of 'ultimate' democratic decision making. What does consensus mean and how is it achieved? What are the other mechanics of decision making and what are the processes in those mechanisms?

From maya Korzybska, December 4, 2010. Time 7:40

Dear Michael,

As far as I understand it for example, democracy is based on people voting for a president or prime minister and then ultimately supposedly trusting that that person is leading the country in accordance with the vision that the people who voted for them have. Democracy in the big wide world is usually based on a majority vote of 51 against when I say ultimate democracy, it is my way of differentiating us from this normal format. We do not function as above, i.e. we do continue to consult the member countries in all decision making and our majority vote is much higher than 51%. I am not sure what we have had to put on our bylaws as we are required by law to actually put a figure, but we function not only by vaste majority but also by consensus, which is generally understood as listening to and discussing opposing opinions until the 'minority' accept the majority vote....or else coming up with a middle ground. This is what I mean by the democratic process that needs to be respected, i.e. that if a small minority of 10 % are for some change or against some change, at some point they have to accept what the majority want. That is democracy as I understand it.
As far as representative democracy, well having worked with many council members I have often heard them defend members positions that they personally have not necessarily agreed with, in the same way I have heard some national chairs defend individual members opinions which they don't necessarily agree to.... to assume that the individuals voice is 'lost' in the process is I believe inaccurate, what is more if a member has a real concern there is nothing stopping them writing to us, which in fact does occur sometimes, if they prefer to discuss issues and concerns among themselves rather than writing to the council that is also their choice.
The other thing not to forget is that most individual subud members are not particularly concerned with how the organization functions, mostly they see results and are happy with them or not some have written to express their support, others their concerns. We have launched various initiatives over the past term and for example the one that was coordinated by Stefan Freedman regarding "looking at our subud " which was quite well followed, but if you really look at the 13.000 members, we are talking about a very small percentage of feedback.
So having said all this, all we can do is our best and try and stay open and listen, it's actually very easy to hear when there is a real concern of more than the odd individual about any given topic, because it tends to pop up all over the world.....thus for example we were hearing from all over the place different concerns and opinions regarding the 3 month probationer period, so we proposed a workshop around that theme at World Congress. All we as council and executive can do, is create the space and give the opportunity for discussion, we cannot decide by ourselves based on a group of peoples view, if and what comes out of a congress where hopefully many members are present and can speak, is what will be carried forward.

Hope this has answered your comments
Best Maya

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