Subud Vision - Feedback
I thought I'd take some time to comment on your recent article and feedback comments. Because I have a lot to say on separate topics, I am going to make several replies. Here is my comment on some of your feedback replies.
You suggested in a feedback reply “… 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”
Your idea is an excellent idea and I hope that the executive will act on it soon. However my guess is it will not be so easy to find a person who has both the time and enthusiasm to read through all the material, and the skill to produce a good summary of it. Also, you will probably need more than one such person, won’t you, if there are any non English-language forums or web sites that have worthwhile material?
Regarding your comment that replying to feedback can take up a lot of time, this is true and it is appreciated when authors take time to do so. The small amount of feedback received for your article so far should not be taken as any indication of lack of interest – it may be that people agree with what is being said or find the article to be sufficiently informative, and therefore have no comments to add. Sometimes articles get no feedback for months, then they get feedback. Other articles don't get feedback on Subud Vision but may get discussed on other forums that members prefer. We have published over 100 articles and the editors try to encourage in-depth writing, well supported with example and argument, so these are not light reading and people need time to think about them before commenting.
I have two things to say about your feedback response that “...Subud vision will never have participants who are non-anglophone if an effort isn't made in that sense.”.
Firstly, we would obviously like to publish in other languages, and did have one of the articles translated into Spanish by a Subud member from Cuba –- it subsequently appeared in a Spanish-speaking Latin American journal. But, as you will be aware, for a web site to support multiple languages it needs more than just translation, it needs an administrator and editors who can communicate in those language, to handle technical support and other communications from readers. There was an idea to get sponsorship for a Spanish language edition of Subud Vision, but this was abandoned due to the difficulty of obtaining funding in the current global financial situation.
Secondly, you were complaining that Michael was asking you to closely define the meanings of the words “moral” and “spiritual” in English, which I gather is not the language you are most comfortable with. However it was you, not Michael, who introduced these words. Michael's point was that these words represent concepts which in ANY language are too vague and subjective to be guidelines for action, and that it is solely the WSA constitution that should both guide and constrain the actions of the WSA members and officials. Which brings me to a question. -- do precise translations of the WSA constitution exist in languages other than English, e.g. French, Spanish, German, Japanese? If not, why not, since the constitution should be fundamental to the operation of Subud? We should never have a situation in which volunteers acting on our behalf are not properly cognisant of the guidelines under which the organisation operates.
re: "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”
But I was invited to play exactly that role by the previous WSA team (which included yourself). It was part of a broad international enquiry about Subud's organisation and culture, and my brief was to co-ordinate a fearless and honest look at our current ways, how we might improve as a learning organisation. Like yourself -and I really do empathise -to do this well involved me in many late nights and put considerable stress on my work, marriage and personal life. For this reason I very much appreciate you making the time to respond in depth to individual's questions and suggestions on this site.
But I did feel in the end that the project was to some degree a "token" exercise, just as congress discussions about - say - the applicant period happen time after time but tend to result in no change. This is intensely discouraging.
I don't blame WSA, who (at least during "my" term) were hungry for change. There is a vehement resistance by some vocal members to changing anything that involves the way Subud is presented, the "hiring and firing" of helpers or the applicant process. This tends to undo the careful research and devoted work that more progressive members do. I am not blaming individuals, and respect that everyone has a right to their viewpoint. But it does mean that MUCH time and work goes into reports, and discussions which eventually get squashed and lead us back to the stuck place that first inspired the reports.
I am frankly in awe of you, Maya, and those who are able to keep pouring your positive energies into Subud comittee work in such challenging conditions.
I just wanted to say that I agree with much of what Stefan says, for example I was very surprised though we (as in the then WSA Executive) put it out there as a suggestion, that there never was any follow up for an in depth discussion about the applicant period at the World Congress... basically no one pushed it, those for or those against the discussion, it just didn't happen....as an executive team we can only create the space and the possibility for discussion, we cannot force anything, this has to be requested and established by those concerned.....still the truth is I think change does come about and that for example the work done and coordinated by Stefan, was not entirely in vain....I am sure that many things shifted in individuals and maybe even in groups....though seeing as we are a democratic type organization I have noticed now (after 6 years) that whatever arguments and positions are taken by individuals on the council or elsewhere....there seems to be a point of some sort of critical mass that brings about a very obvious change, otherwise it is gradual... and in the meantime I have come to believe in a strong sense of timing, which has nothing to do with what is right or wrong, but rather as I say simply to do with timing and whether we are ready or not, i.e when the time is right change comes about....of course we often waste a lot of time...some arguments go full circle and a year later everyone realizes that oopppsss maybe we made a mistake, maybe we should have done this or that or not done this or that....the thing is I simply believe that we cannot push it in Subud and that we can only continue to follow our feelings and have the courage to follow what we as individuals believe is right and trust that others may see and follow if that is, in fact the right way....To me it seems there is a bigger picture that none (or few) of us can grasp as yet and often I question myself, even when something seems very very obvious and clear to me, whether in fact I am right or whether there might be something else in the big equation that I cannot see yet !!!
Anyway, this of course is a personal reflection
All the best Maya
Maya: "...as an executive team we can only create the space and the possibility for discussion, we cannot force anything,..."
-- Sorry Maya but, apart from the word 'force' that is not true. In any democratic governance there is a responsibility on the leadership to create ideas for decisions and to take positions on some of those ideas as well as gather ideas coming from those served. The democratic part comes when those ideas are put to open discussion and a vote.
Your message to Stefan inadvertently explains why, despite the sincere attitude and hard work of our officials, past and present, Subud makes very little actual progress in the world -- the underlying philosophy is completely wrong. Members may say that Subud has no underlying philosophy or belief system, but it seems that, in the absence of an officially declared philosophy or any focussed operational strategy, what we are left with is a hashup of the personal philosophies of our acting officers. Significantly, for example, in attempting to explain the situation arising after Stefan's report, you made no reference to any official strategy, only to your personal point of view.
Rather than Subud's strategy being a random mix, I would suggest that the situation is best described by the English saying: "birds of a feather flock together". The people most enthusiastic at dedicating their energies to working for Subud tend to be those with the most enthusiasm for the de-facto ideas associated with Subud. By contrast, the ones who just want to do latihan, not surprisingly "just want to do latihan". So we get a preponderance of the "it's all up to God" people, reinforced by the way we choose our officials -- the chairs are always forced on us by testing, with the implication that the testing guarantees "they are the ones who will know/receive best what to do".
It's amazing how quickly the "the time isn't yet right" explanation is wheeled out for any situation where things get a little bit difficult. I can think of any number of alternative explanations why Stefan's report got little response at Congress. Here's one:- New Zealand was a very expensive location for Congress; after spending so much money to get to such a beautiful, sunny country, members are going to at least want to use some of the time there to enjoy it; then there's all the distraction of meeting old friends, getting involved in the kind of testing sessions you can't do in your local group, joining in with entertainment, assisting with the camps or admin etc etc. Put all that together and you can easily see how there is neither time nor focus to do justice to everything.
So, how would a different type of committee tackle this situation, a committee that, as Michael Irwin suggests, was determined to carry through ideas a practical, useful conclusion? They would first recognise that Stefan's report is only in the nature of a brainstorming report, one that can kick-start a more in-depth discussion by showing a willingness for inclusive dialogue. Such a committee might devise an in-depth questionnaire to ascertain what members think about various issues and to see which proposals for change they might be willing to support. For example, on the applicant question, a questionnaire could give multiple choices :(a)leave applicant period at three months (b) reduce to one month (c) reduce to a fixed number of meetings (d) abolish altogether (this is just an example, I am not suggesting that is the best way to phrase the question). After collating the answers to a comprehensive questionnaire that covered all aspects of the Subud experience, the committee and the membership as a whole would be very much better informed as to what the membership both thinks and wants, and a future strategy could be planned on that basis,
P.S. On the subject of the right time, if you want to quote Bapak, there is a quote from him, where he says (paraphrasing) "stop saying 'when it's the right time we will act', you have to make your own right time"
P.P.S. You talk about a critical mass that can bring about very obvious change. Can you give a concrete example of such a "very obvious change", or is it in fact the case that there are no significant concrete changes that can be cited?
As a follow up on my previous post - an example:
If the SBIF Board (The precursor to the current WSC) hadn't spent a great deal of effort to create a draft constitution, there would never have been a draft constitution for the Sydney Congress to review, improve and pass. Who knows if there ever would have been a Constitution.
My question to you would be "how much do you feel the various WSA's over the years have properly understood or followed the implications of the constitution?"
Hi Sahlan. Apart from learning the names of the various organs of the organization along with a hazy idea of their function and relationships, those selected to run the show have either not read the Consitution or if they have, they have not studied it. I have offered my services continually and written protesting emails to help various administrations to adhere to it and have never once had an inquiry. Here and there I have had inquiries from individuals not in office. I did insist that our national chairman of the day pay attention to issues raised by the SBIF board affecting how his role at the WSC was supposed to operate but I could do that only because I knew him as a friend.
I very much like and agree with Sahlan and Michael are saying above. It is not only the WSC or ISC committees who do not pay attention to the constitution, but every time there is a new board (Zone reps, etc.) there is no effort whatsoever to instruct them in their responsibilities. The idea that "they are the right Person and they will do the right thing" is laughable.
Quite often, at least in Zone7, the person "chosen" is the only one willing to stand for testing. Often that person does not have the time or interest to seek historical education, read past minutes, etc. Quite often they have to begin understanding the different bodies and wings and committees, and by the time they finally get an idea of what is going on, the end of their term comes. Occasionally the WSC will have someone who is a bit of historian but more often the new WSC does the opposite of what had been decided in the past. The Subud International governing body is as inefficient if not more so than most National Bodies. There needs to have a workshop to resolve or at least help some of these issues... so that we don't keep on reinventing the wheel if we want the energy available be used for something more positive, such as the growth of Subud (if that is a desired goal) or charitable enterprises (schools, hospital, old folk homes). All these issues get discussed over and over and nothing comes out of it. IMO, with the internet, skype etc. there is no reason why there could not be a number of ad hoc standing workshops which the WSC would pledge to pay attention to and bring forth their decissions. As it is now, if you mention a discussion from Subud Vision, it gets dismissed as if the S.V. subud members are not to be paid attention to. I feel this is most unfortunate. (Of course I am talking about the U.S., I do not know if it the same in other countries).
In 1988 the SBIF board decided that the board needed staggered terms for continuity (zones 1,4,7 would change reps one year after the World Congress;zones 2,5,8 would change reps two years after the World Congress;zones 3,6,9 would change reps one year after the World Congress). Because the Sydney Congress was full to the brim with establishing the WSA and its Consitution, this agreed upon motion never got passed on to the new WSC. Since then I have lobbied and lobbied. I finally got it on the agenda of the zone council. Then I discovered what 'stuck' means. Why? Because there was no leadership, no arguing of sides. So the can got kicked down the road. It is still on the road.
You won't be surprised to hear that the system institutionalises an arrogance that spreads beyond national borders. Two example: I once heard a chairperson say that they felt as if during their term of office Almighty God had been in the chair. And in another country, I heard of an initiative for change which had the support of many people and a lot of careful work done on it, then a new national chairperson came in and when asked why they weren't continuing with the intitiative brushed it all aside with a comment like "that's no longer relevant".
Of course not all chairs will be like those two examples. We'll also sometimes get good people. But, I suggest the emphasis on the influence of the spiritual in our decision making, of "feeling to do the right thing at the right time", leads to a collective arrogance that is more insidious. If someone stands up in a Subud meeting and comes out with a really bad idea, but nevertheless justifies it with some spiritual sounding explanation, they are likely to get a polite hearing. On the other hand the person who opposes the idea on the grounds that is a bad idea - who argues against it with their mind, in other words, will find it much harder to get acceptance, by virtue of having disturbed the supposed spirituality, good feeling and harmony of the meeting. You talk about people dismissing what is said on the Subud Vision site as if it is not to be paid attention to. Comes from the same arrogant attitude that they have somehow attained a higher understanding that is beyond the mind. Sad that after all those years of latihan the result seems to be a spiritual fantasy world where people are accorded a status according to how good they are at spiritual pretence.
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