The Yah-Boo-Dankerties

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

You got an ...ology? You're a scientist!

" was 1969 when the Scientologists appealed to be considered a religion and it was decided at that time that their chapels did not constitute a church and were not a religion."

Oral Questions to the Minister of State for the Home Office, House of Lords, 17 December 1996, Hansard, vol. 760, cols. 1392-1394

So says the UK government, whatever that's worth. But the visit I made this week to the Church of Scientology on Tottenham Court Road - and the Abu Ghraib style electromachine ordeal that they put Jake the Peg through - got me thinking about religious recruiting tactics.

[DISCLAIMER: These are my personal opinions and observations. They're based on my own experience, and I'm the first to admit I know nothing about the insides of Scientology. Hopefully that's how it'll stay.]

So the woman offers me a stress test. Having previously decided that I'll be the uncooperative 'bad cop', I start firing the questions.

- What happens in this test?

- I take this machine, she replied, and hit you over the head with it.

This might have been meant as an icebreaker - a familiar "relax, silly!" - but to me it sure seemed defensive... Passive-aggressive, even. Jake sat down and clutched the electrodes: he was so nervous, she had to turn the dial up to 11 to get a zero control reading.

The eye-contact from the woman, Jake told me, was peircing and constant. She visibly angered when two passers-by scoffed "Church of Tom Cruise" in her direction.

Jake asked her what changes Scientology had made to her life and she told him it had made her more confident in social situations, and it'd given her life purpose.

This was what I used to say when someone asked me that on an Alpha course.

Now I'm not saying that the Alpha and the Scientology are at all the same: for one I believe the content of one is true and the other is balls. But I did notice the similarities in style re: the recruitment tactics, and wondered about the sense of using laypeople as the first point of reference for curious investigators. When I led Alpha groups I certainly spoke past the level of my understanding, and was encouraged to do so by the powers that H.T.B. Now I found myself on the receiving end, I noticed the creepiness and the unconvincing tidiness of that approach.

Then again, maybe this unconvincing persuasion is the best way of saving more people from getting infected by too-shallow worldviews.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Just for your reference...

Info from Cult Information Centre

Definition: CULT.


It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members


It forms an elitist totalitarian society.


Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma.


It believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds recruit people.


Its wealth does not benefit its members or society.

Are Cults Harmful?

To remain within the strict mental and social confines of a cult for even a short time can have the following disastrous effects:

  • Loss of choice and free will.
  • Diminished intellectual ability, vocabulary and sense of humour.
  • Reduced use of irony, abstractions and metaphors.
  • Reduced capacity to form flexible and intimate relationships.
  • Poor judgement.
  • Physical deterioration.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Hallucinations, panic, dissociation, guilt, identity diffusion and paranoia.
  • Neurotic, psychotic or suicidal tendencies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Carrying a head around.

The head I carried around with me today was former presidential nominee John Kerry's.

Purchased at a hipster boutique in Little Five Points, Georgia, the T-shirt simply says "Vote Kerry". At its centre is a faded stencil image of the Democrat's bean-shaped head, parenthesized by enthusiastic, glorious stars.

Today, I got measured for a suit, renewed some library books and drank at a floating pub with Jake (pictured above). And I did all these things with the face of a loser on my body.

Because, now and always, Kerry's face will unavoidably be an emblem of loss. I liked the guy and wanted him to win, but I'm also now reminding everyone I pass of who he is, and - oh - that he lost.

Should I be doing this? Should I allow history to just forget him? Am I strengthening the Bush administration?

I've never carried a man's face around on my body before, and it made me feel like I was an ambassador for him. I didn't want to do anything which would have shown Mr. Kerry in a bad light. If the logo had only featured words, I fear I wouldn't have felt so constrained, but the man's eyes were beaming from my torso, and anyone wronged by me would - quite rationally - have felt wronged by Kerry too.

I cannot erase the stain of his loss. But I can carry part of the burden. I am happy to let some of the ridicule that the world owes John Kerry fall on my shoulders.

And if I can do good works in Mr. Kerry's name, perhaps then, to one or two people, John Kerry's face will stand not for failure, but for hope.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Summer Review - Part 1: Cultural.

Firstly, buddies, some listening matter.

1. Recreate my 2k5 summer by listening to the following trax as you read:

2. What are the best movies of the summer? They are these:
I've still yet to see Charlie Wonka and the Factory. My trepidation, as many of you'll have heard, is based on the fact that Burton has used the same fantasy aesthetic since Scissorhands, but I'll keep the ultimate jury out for now...

To be continued...