The answer to the above frequently-asked question, is 'no,' but this article explains why I began to research, and to write about, blame-the-victim cultic racketeering in general, and so-called 'Multi-Level Marketing,' in particular.
- In pernicious cults, a core-group of adherents can be gradually dissociated from external reality and reformed into deployable agents, and/or de facto slaves, and/or expendable combatants, etc., furthering the hidden criminal objectives of their leaders, completely dependent on a collective paranoid delusion of absolute moral and intellectual supremacy fundamental to the maintenance of their individual self-esteem/identity and related psychological function. It becomes impossible for such fanatics to see humour in their situation or to feel pity for, or to empathise with, non-adherents. Their minds are programmed to interpret the manipulation, and/or cheating, and/or dispossession, and/or destruction, of inferior outsiders (particularly, those who challenge their group’s Utopian controlling scenario) as perfectly justifiable.
About 10 years ago (by chance), I ran into the Mayor of Beaumont Le Roger (the fashionable small Normandy town where I used to live). At this time, France was experiencing a dramatic rise in the value of residential property, and the Mayor (who was also a local business owner) informed me that my former home had just been divided and sold for more than Euros 600 thousands. He asked me why I'd previously abandoned the restoration of this historic property, and then dumped it (at just the wrong moment) for a fraction of this price? I replied that, although (on paper) I had temporarily appeared to be the owner, in reality, the disastrous transaction had been handled by my brother - a deluded cult adherent. However, as soon as the word, 'cult,' was mentioned, the Mayor looked at me blankly and had another pressing engagement to attend.
For a long while, my brother had not been at ease with himself. After graduating from university (as a Bachelor of Arts) in 1978, he had failed to find his vocation in life. At that time, he was one of a typical bunch of students who’d all roomed together. Before going their separate ways, they’d taken a summer trip to the
My brother had been to a cosmetic dentist and he had started wearing a suit and tie. His previously-timid girlfriend had transformed as well. They formed a well-rehearsed double-act. Whatever scripted-nonsense my brother spouted, she gazed at him, smiling and nodding on cue. They had become relentlessly-enthusiastic witnesses to the infinite financial, and personal, benefits of something which they first described as ‘Networking,’ then ‘Multi- Level Marketing.’ They insisted that ‘for less than £100 initial investment,’ they had become ‘independent business owners,’ who, by ‘working only 15 hours per week,’ were ‘building a leg in a rapidly-growing international network of distributorships’… their ‘network’s step-by-step training system combined with their sponsor’s business model, compensation plan and high quality, good-value, environmentally-friendly products’ would ‘guarantee a secure residual income’… ‘MLM could enable anyone to achieve financial freedom in 2-5 years, retire early and have a great new lifestyle.’
According to my brother: you could settle for buying products from the company at a ‘wholesale price’ and then ‘retailing’ them to your social contacts at ‘30% profit.’ This ‘short-term strategy’ was fine for some, but, in the end, it was a ‘waste of time.’ If you were really serious about making big money, then there was ‘no need to sell anything.’ You could ‘follow a proven, business-building plan’ and consume a regular quantity of ‘money-saving products’ yourself whilst offering your friends and relations a ‘helping hand’ by bringing them onboard. In turn, your recruits could ‘duplicate exactly the same plan’ and consume a regular quantity of ‘money-saving products’ themselves whilst ‘helping’ their own social contacts to do the same, etc… the company undertook to pay its ‘Distributors’ a escalating percentage commission on the totality of their monthly ‘Business Volume’ (including their own purchases) and on that of their recruits, and on that of the recruits of their recruits, etc. ad infinitum… if the ‘plan’ was ‘duplicated’ correctly, payments automatically multiplied in an infinitely-expanding geometric progression. The more people you ‘helped:’ the more money you earned!
|UK Finance Minister, Norman Lamont, was paid to speak at 'Amway' mass rallies in the UK during the 1990s. Norman Lamont was a close political ally of Conservative Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.|
My mother (who was a passionate supporter of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative party) had met my brother’s ‘new business associates.' She described them as ‘all decent, honest and hard-working young couples trying to do something positive with their lives.’ My mother was sure that many ‘professionals, businessmen, police officers, Conservative politicians, journalists and celebrities endorsed Amway,’ and that the ‘company’ was ‘Christian-inspired’ and had ‘given generous donations to innumerable good causes, including a minibus to a local Methodist chapel. Even though (previously) she'd never heard of 'Amway,' my mother insisted that it was the ‘world’s largest private business, founded in the
Just like my brother, at a vulnerable moment in his life, this man had been contacted (out of the blue) by a former class-mate whose relentlessly-enthusiastic personal testimony had triggered a revelatory experience. Almost overnight, he too was in the same delirious state of self-righteous euphoria - totally convinced that he could ‘help’ all his friends and relations achieve ‘total financial freedom.’ A local wit had given him an appropriate nickname, the ‘Jackpot Witness.’ It was even rumoured that he was on drugs, because he’d changed so abruptly.
Even if all this lurid anecdotal story was true, from what I’d actually observed ‘Amway’ still appeared to be more like a pyramid scam than what (at the time) I understood to be a cult. My mother and brother were certainly very difficult people with fragile egos (who wouldn’t be proved wrong), but they weren’t homicidal maniacs dressed in robes. I preferred to believe that there was no way that anyone in my family could be so stupid as to join a cult, and, in truth, I was too proud to seek more-informed advice. This turned-out to be a big mistake.
The day my brother and his partner arrived in my mother’s home, a ‘cultural revolution’ began. They brought stacks of bizarre American-published paperback books on ‘Personal Development’, ‘Self-Betterment’, ‘Self-Motivation’, ‘Leadership Training’, ‘Positive Thinking’, etc. (‘The Magic of Thinking Big’, ‘The Miracle of Motivation’, ‘The Greatest Secret’, 'Don't Let Anybody Steal Your Dream,' etc.). Although my brother had always poured scorn on religion, many of these tomes were written in directly religious terms.
My brother fixed a 'dream' image of a macho 4X4 vehicle in a mountain landscape on the door of my mother's refrigerator.
|Former 'Amway UK Diamonds,' Jerry and Mandy Scriven.|
My brother insisted that the leader of his 'Network' in the UK was Jerry Scriven - 'a former teacher who now drove a £150 thousands Aston Martin.
My brother began to talk of his admiration for Dexter Yager - the American leader of his 'Network.'
My brother's claims became increasingly grandiose and absurd. He insisted that 'literally billions of dollars' were 'at stake'... within 10 years 'all supermarkets' were 'going to close everywhere in the world' because the 'Amway Business' was 'taking over' and that anyone who 'failed to get on board would kick themselves in the future.'
Without a flicker of emotion, my brother started to attack me on a vicious personal level designed to reduce me to the position of a guilty child. He stared at me and, in a mocking voice, accused me of being a ‘whining little loser’… a ‘lazy little parasite’… a ‘pathetic little wimp’ who couldn’t stand on my own feet and accept responsibility for my own actions… I was ‘obsessed with money’… it had been my own ‘free-choice’ to buy such a large property and to accept his ‘help’… I’d said ‘yes,’ no one had forced me… any extra cost was, therefore, the result of my own ‘selfishness and greed’… I was now ‘searching for a scapegoat.’ When I still tried to stand up to him, my brother countered by producing one of my mother’s diaries and reading aloud from it. I was portrayed as a childish liar and bloodsucker who didn’t care whether she lived or died. At that moment, I felt physically sick. I put my hands on my head. My instincts told me to pin my brother to the wall and tell him to stick the money, but I managed to reason that this must be exactly what he wanted.
David Brear (copyright 2014)