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

Subud's obstacle course. From Sahlan Diver, January 16, 2011. Time 21:53

Dear Maya,

Here is further comment. I should stress, in view of the volume of my comments, that my comments are not primarily intended to be aimed at you personally, nor at your article, but at the way the Subud organisation functions, as described in your article and subsequent comments.

In this post I am looking at the process that needs to be gone through to get a resolution voted through Subud at the international level. You take a decidedly positive view of that efficacy of the process.

I will take my example again of a proposal that individual groups should be allowed to experiment with their own applicant period whether this be two months, a month, a week or even just a single meeting with the helpers. You might say that this is not practical, because it would confuse new members, who might find a long waiting period at one group and no waiting period at all at a neighbouring group. I agree, but notice that I am using the word “experiment”. This is the first stage of change, experimenting with new ideas and assessing the results. In the end, at least at the national level, there would have to be consistency, with all groups having, say, a month applicant period, or a week, depending on what was ultimately agreed. So my example proposal to WSA is that groups and countries should be allowed to temporarily experiment with the applicant period length, without censure.

First of all a brief digression on the nature of democracy. As Michael Irwin pointed out in a reply to you, there is not one form of democracy – there are many forms. Contrast for example the American presidential system with the British parliamentarian system. Here in Ireland we have proportional representation, which functions differently again from both the American and British systems. However, what is in common between all those three systems and with political democracies in general and which distinguishes them from Subud's democracy is that they are representative democracies where representatives are elected to champion what the people want. In Subud we do have representatives, but we don't elect them, neither is it necessary for our representatives to campaign on platforms and policies for our approval or disapproval. No, our representatives are appointed for us. We don't worry too much whether they have any good ideas or plans to do anything -- as long as they are tested in as being “right”, that is enough. Maybe that might go a long way to explaining why, to quote you “The other thing not to forget is that most individual subud members are not particularly concerned with how the organization functions”. If members feel that what they want is bypassed, that they just have to “get what they are given”, and perhaps feel also that what they get is almost always “vanilla-flavoured”, then there's no surprise in their lack of enthusiasm to engage with the system.

Back to my proposal. Depending on internal procedures within my country I may need to get the proposal discussed and approved by a majority or consensus at group level and then at regional level before it will be accepted for discussion at national congress. Let's assume it's not that complicated and that anyone in my country can make a proposal which will be discussed and voted on by the group representatives at Congress. If the country is well-organised it would have distributed my proposal to the membership well in advance of its Congress and encouraged discussion in each group so that the group representatives will arrive at Congress well briefed with the opinions of their members. A really advanced group or country might have a listserver set up specifically to facilitate in-depth to-and-fro discussion of proposals. I don't know countries that function like this, do you? At best there might be a cursory agenda with just a bare statement of proposals but no attempt to encourage advance discussion. In the main I have noticed representatives turn up without much preparation, launching themselves into the discussion with ad-hoc feelings, “receivings” and opinions that may or may not reflect what their members think.

A situation of inadequate preparation is in danger of trivialising an issue, or causing misunderstanding or uncertainty about what is being proposed.

However let us suppose by some miracle that my proposal is approved. What then? We have the equivalent of the British “House of Lords”, the Helpers. Bapak set up the helper system to serve the needs of the individual members in relation to their latihan and testing. Unfortunately the ease with which we liked to say that everything in Subud was spiritual led to the helpers wanting to test and approve any small decision that could be deemed to have a spiritual side to it.

You may say the applicant period is a spiritual matter, because it's a question of when it is right to open somebody. I wonder. Firstly, and I admit I may be misinformed here, my impression is that whenever Bapak talked about the applicant period he justfied it with the argument that otherwise people would accuse us of being like a cult, rushing people into Subud without giving them a chance to consider. I am not aware that Bapak's primary concern was for the spiritual rightness of the opening date for that individual. I think that connotation was put on the applicant period by the helpers. Secondly, if they really believed there was a spiritual “right time”, wouldn't they be testing every week whether it was now right to open someone – why do they wait three months (special circumstances excepted) before either opening or testing the rightness of that opening? If there is no spiritual “right time” for opening, then we come back to Bapak's original argument of expediency, it is a pure committee matter, and you could equally argue nowadays, by comparison with some cults, that the applicant period could be seen as a bad thing, an opportunity to gradually indoctrinate the persion, clouding their judgment for when they are opened.

Well, whatever I think will make no difference because it is almost certain that the helpers will voice “concerns” and want to meddle in the vote with their receiving, which they have persuaded themselves will be totally free from the influence of prejudice, worry or fear.

However let us suppose by some miracle that my proposal is again approved. Now the whole scenario starts over. How good are the zones going to be at promoting advance discussion of a country's proposal between representatives, particularly with the additional obstacle of language barriers and no substantial budget for translation? If they do get a translated proposal, how good will the zonal representatives for each country be at initiating a discussion of the issues within their own country to get their members' input? Will the inevitably insufficiently prepared discussion at the zonal meeting do justice to the proposal? Will the zonal helpers act as censors?

By a third miracle my proposal is again approved. But we have just had a world congress, so I must wait three to four years for my representative to take the proposal to Congress. At Congress, consensus is not reached, so back the proposal goes for further discussion. By the time it comes back again to the next Congress, a total eight years will have elapsed since I first proposed it. I might have died, or left Subud. In that time the U.S.A. could have had a Republican and then a Democrat president with all the many laws and decisions that you would expect to have been enacted.

Miracle number 4. My proposal is finally approved. Now we get to the final hurdle, the six horse-persons of the apocalype, the international helpers. What are the chances that they will “receive” yes to any change that steps outside of Bapak's guidelines? With Ibu Rahaju still amongst us, no chance. After that, maybe even less chance, as they would probably then feel even more strongly their reponsibility to act as the “guardians” of Bapak's advice.

One final comment and a suggestion as to how Subud could start to act like a modern, efficient organisation. Back to your “Anglo-Saxons” again. According to you the Ango Saxon way does not necessarily work in non Anglo-Saxon countries. If this is a general point you are making, i,e, that, for example, an Asian way of doing things might not work in Africa, and so on, then why are we even trying to arrive at international consensus? Even between Ireland and Britain, who are neighbours, there are noticeable differences of how their organisations work best. So let's give autonomy to the national Subud bodies, with WSA having only an informational and general co-ordinating role, and no authority to approve or disapprove national procedure.

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