Wednesday, 30 March 2022

'Amway' : Was I a victim of an 'MLM' cult?

Yet again, I have been asked if I was a victim of an 'MLM' cult? 

The answer to this question is, 'yes I was.' That said, I was never an adherent of an 'MLM' cult. Unfortunately, I found myself shackled (financially) to a particularly zealous and self-righteous Ambot (my brother). However, initially, I had no idea what an Ambot is, or how dangerously-deluded and devious they can be. Like most people whom they approach, I did immediately realise that what 'MLM' adherents are all desperately trying to do is recruit you into a pyramid scheme, but which they insist is 'definitely not a pyramid scheme.' What took me much longer to understand, is that core-'MLM' adherents truly-believe that 'MLM' is a perfectly 'legal' and economically-viable form of 'business' and that, by recruiting you, they are helping both themselves and you to achieve a form of paradise on Earth; known in their jargon as, 'Total Financial Freedom' (where no one works, but everyone is an admired and respected multi-millionaire who drives an: Aston Martin, Porsche, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.). Thus, it should always be remembered that 'MLM' adherents' belief can be quite genuine, but what they believe in (and have bought into) is a bedazzling, reality-inverting fake.

Although they have no idea what they are really involved in, fanatical 'MLM' adherents are, in fact, proselytising-evangelists for a camouflaged form of ritual belief system (call it a 'perverted religion' if you like) which has been designed not only to exploit them, but also to load them with guilt and, thus, prevent them from facing reality. Consequently, the most-dangerous 'MLM' adherents see absolutely nothing wrong in lying to you, or in hiding the truth from you, in order to convert you. They also see anyone (like me) who challenges the authenticity of their controlled 'positive' model of reality, as being a 'negative' threat to their achieving their dream/goal of 'Total Financial Freedom.'

In other words, 'MLM' fanatics are financially-suicidal persons, but who have been deceived into seeing 'MLM' as, good and true, and anyone (or anything) casting doubt on, or criticising, 'MLM' as, evil and false. By the time I grasped all this, my brother's unswerving dedication to the pernicious 'MLM' fairy story, had already destroyed his family. The following is a brief account of how this tragi-comedy gradually unfolded. 




During the economic boom of the 1980s, my mother lived in the old family home in a pleasant, upscale district of the historic West Yorkshire town of Halifax. As joint-owner, my mother had automatically acquired this property in its entirety after the sudden death of my father in 1972. My mother was an only-child who came from a working-class family. As a teenager, she had been obliged to abandon her education to earn a living - working first in hotels and then as a secretary. My father was also an only child. He was an architect and part-time university lecturer who came from a middle-class family.

Influenced by my father's interest in art and antiques, my mother had once struggled to run a small business buying and selling antique paintings, books, maps and prints. After my father's sudden death, my mother had gradually dropped this to care for, and to manage the affairs of, a succession of childless, ailing friends and relatives. As her elderly charges inevitably died off, my mother inherited more money, valuables and property; whilst the market value of her real-estate increased substantially. For a while, my mother began selling off some of her gains. However, as she got older herself, she withdrew into a parallel world based on her deprived 1930s and 1940s childhood. In this way, my mother justified hoarding things. Her home was quite large, but virtually the entire building became crammed with books, furniture, pictures and objects. Cupboards bulged with bags of sugar and cans of food. My mother had some (declared) savings and investments, and she employed a lawyer and accountant, but they did not know the full-extent of what she’d also privately accumulated in (undeclared) cash and valuables. I had no contact with these professional advisers. Even though I was always close to my mother and knew more about her true financial situation than anyone, I had little, or no, real influence over her. When it came to money, you couldn't reason with her. All documents relating to her finances were kept from me, and my mother behaved towards me as though she was struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, she was paranoid about burglars and the tax authorities. As for her politics, my mother was an avid supporter of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative government. As for her religion, although brought up as a 'Methodist,' my mother had developed her own fatalistic belief system in which 'an invisible power rewards good honest people and punishes bad dishonest people, but whilst they are still alive.' My mother saw herself as a good and honest person, and in many respects she was, but when it came to property and money, she most-certainly was not.

During the same period, my slightly older brother was a short and scruffy, university-educated (twenty-something) high school teacher living within about 5 miles of my mother. He had an arts degree and a standard teaching-certificate, but no business qualifications or commercial experience. Even though he was my only brother, we were never close. In fact, most of my own friends had never met him, whilst I was ashamed and embarrassed to have such a disagreeable, aggressive and charmless sibling. He was a self-confessed cynic with a cruel sense of humour, fond of expressing outrageous, extreme right wing opinions.




In his spare time, my brother improved his backstreet home, waxed his second-hand car, played competitive sports and drank beer with his pals. For his level of education, he wasn’t well-paid, but he lived cheaply and saved part of his salary. My brother made no secret of the fact that he loathed his job and despised his senior colleagues. He’d been passed-over for promotion, and almost fired, because of his reactionary views, provocative behaviour and violent lack of self-control. In my brother’s head he couldn't possibly be at fault. He was convinced that the public education system was ‘run by politically-correct socialist idiots and weaklings.’ My brother had no religious belief or political affiliation, but he exhibited classic narcissistic character traits, so he believed himself to be generally superior to everyone around him.
    Towards the end of this frustrating period, something happened which shook my brother to the core. In 1987, a group of relatively young men (all stalwarts of my brother’s former rugby club) were killed, or severely maimed, in an horrific accident involving a truck ploughing into the back of a mini-bus in which they were travelling. Several of the victims, and their bereaved wives and children, were also known to my mother. Furthermore, my brother could easily have been one of the victims had he not recently been involved in a violent argument with one of the club's senior members (which led him to resign before he could be expelled). My brother had always lived in denial, but at the age of 30, he finally began to take stock of his life. He realised that his youth was running out without him finding his true vocation. He was a powerless loser surrounded by powerless losers. He needed to escape before he was too old or he would be condemned to three more, miserable decades in the classroom. The only problem was that my brother could see no definite way of replacing his salary cheque. Privately, he was in despair and beginning to suffer from depression. In many respects, my brother was a perfect vulnerable target for recruitment into an 'MLM' cult.  

    By 1990, my mother was caring for just one remaining sick elderly friend  - an eccentric antiques dealer; a widower who had no children and from whom she had copied most of her political views as well as her obsessive miserly ways. Thus, my mother was sitting on all our family’s capital assets and she was in deep denial. I lived about 40 miles away and I visited her almost every week, but she never once came to visit me. Despite my best efforts, my mother never went anywhere, and never parted with a penny, unless she believed it to be absolutely necessary. Although it still remained beyond my understanding, my mother w
    as soon to become a perfect vulnerable target to be deceived by an 'MLM' cult, or rather by my brother's chronic adherence to one.

    At this time, my brother (who was still working as a teacher) had undergone a sudden radical personality transformation. Fired with wild optimism, he'd smartened himself up and he even began wearing a sober suit and tie. He excitedly claimed to have been introduced to a 'fantastic business opportunity.' My brother was obsessed with sharing this good news and he generally behaved like someone who had fallen head-over-heels in love. Later, I discovered the object of my brother's blind devotion, and the cause of his elation, was 'Multi-Level Marketing' in the form of 'Amway,' but at this stage, he tried to recruit me by deliberately avoiding these controversial terms.
      During the annual family Xmas meal (held at my mother's home), the mysterious phrase, 'we are now into Networking,' was casually dropped into the conversation by my brother and his latest girlfriend (another deeply-dissatisfied schoolteacher looking for a way out). I took the bait and naively-asked my brother what exactly did he mean? He stared at me intently. To my complete surprise, he asked me 'what do you dream of achieving in life?' I initially thought he was joking, so I responded with bemused laughter. However, my brother ignored my reaction and in all seriousness he went on to explain that working all your life just get the old-age pension was a 'waste of time'... he'd started his 'own Network Marketing Business for less than £100'... 'Networking' was 'a risk-free way to achieve your dreams'... although some money could 'be earned by selling some product for a 30% profit, unlimited residual income' could 'also be earned in Networking by duplicating a proven 2-5 year business-building plan - consuming a monthly quantity of product, and by sponsoring others who then could duplicate the same proven plan and consume the same monthly quantity of product, who then could sponsor others,' etc. ad infinitum. 

      To illustrate, my brother recounted a kitsch parable about a teacher who'd 'got into Network Marketing' and then, by 'following the plan,' was soon able to retire from his job (in front of astonished colleagues and pupils) and walk to freedom into the welcoming arms of his proud family and supportive  'business associates' who were all waiting for him at the school gates with a 'chauffeur-drive Limo.'
        By this stage, I couldn't believe what was happening, because my brother was behaving like a different person. Gone was his habitual vocabulary and his cynical, self-centred world-view. He now spouted a technical-sounding jargon - 'Upline', 'Downline''IBOs', 'Distributors,'  'Geometric Progression''Points Value' , Bonus Value' , 'The Compensation Plan.' He said that he'd been 'introduced to Network Marketing by an old school friend (a lawyer)' and that 'the Compensation Plan had been developed by Christians and is based on Christian ethics'...  'the more people you help to get into Networking: the more money you automatically earn'... 'Networking is not a selfish business, because you can't make money without helping others to make money.' 

        My brother's previously timid girlfriend had suddenly transformed as well. She sat beside him confidently smiling and nodding in agreement with every line he recited. The pair's new behaviour was both absurd and disturbing. They were like programmed robots. Much later I discovered that fanatical jaron-spouting 'Amway' evangelists are widely-referred to as 'Ambots.'

        I refused to hear any more scripted-drivel about my brother's 'fantastic business.' I continued to ridicule him - telling him that he had obviously fallen for a dumb pyramid scheme. My mother, who didn't want to look beyond my brother's new-found optimism, was the most-shocked and angered by my disparaging response. However, my brother and his girlfriend remained completely calm. They countered my pyramid accusation by play-acting another part of their 'we are in business' narrative. They smiled indulgently and spoke to me as wise parents might speak to a stupid child. My brother now insisted thaI didn't know what I was talking about... 'only fools turn down something without looking at it first.' He assured me that he personally knew 'people who had become multi-millionaires in Networking'... I would 'regret not joining' him, because 'soon it would be too late.' 

        No matter what common-sense challenge was put to them, my brother and his girlfriend seemed to have a scripted-reply to deflect it. In fact, I quickly realized that it was pointless trying to reason with them.

        Since I had little in common with my brother, and I rarely had cause to meet with him, I dismissed the Xmas incident as weird, but unimportant.
         
        Not long afterwards, I went to live in France. I kept in regular touch with my mother. For obvious reasons, neither my brother nor his 'fantastic business' were mentioned in our conversations.

        Months later, after my mother's remaining elderly charge had suddenly died and she was living by herself, she phoned me with a frail voice. My mother said she had slipped on some icy stone steps and fallen heavily. She had broken no bones, but she remained badly shaken and exhausted. My mother told me that she had been persuaded to consult a specialist and that she had been diagnosed as diabetic and that she also needed to have a heart pace-maker fitted. My brother and girlfriend had kindly volunteered to move into her home to take care of her. 

        My mother had become convinced that she didn't have long to live, but what terrified her more than dying, was the idea of breaking up her own home and being forced to spend her final years in a old folks home. For a while, my mother freely-admitted to me what I already knew. i.e. In the past, she had got her priorities all wrong - a substantial proportion of her inherited wealth was undeclared, it was stashed away in the form of cash, gold, jewellery, etc. My mother solemnly announced that she wanted to make amends whilst she still had the chance. She was also now obsessed with the idea of transferring ownership of her real estate to my brother and myself to avoid inheritance tax. This change of heart was because recently she had personally inherited even more wealth from the old man she had cared for, but because he had failed to transfer his property and investments whilst still living, more than £  100 000 had been lost in death duties. Thus, my mother confessed that a large house (comprising two apartments) which she had inherited from my father's childless aunt, should have been passed to my brother and myself when we had become adults more than 10 years previously. My mother insisted that everything she'd inherited would now be divided equally between her two sons.

        I travelled to see my mother whilst she was still living alone. When I arrived, I was shocked to find that she had lost a lot of weight and, although she was only in her late 60s, my mother now looked much older than her years. I must admit, I was very upset to find her in such a weakened state. I became even more upset when she again told me that she knew she would not live much longer. However, my mother then smiled serenely and declared how happy she was that my brother was 'a completely changed man who had finally found a real purpose in his life'... he would 'soon be giving up teaching' ... he had 'become a financial consultant helping people to start their own businesses'... he 'worked with lawyers and accountants.'.. he was 'following a plan for his financial future'...  he loved his family and 'wanted to help us.' 

        My mother claimed to have 'taken professional advice' and to have decided to transfer 50% of her property into my brother's name immediately. She insisted that my affairs were 'in a mess' and that I would be excluded from ownership of the family property until I also got myself 'organised with a plan.' She scoffed at the idea of me returning to the UK to look after her. Instead, she informed me that I was a 'tax exile' and that local tax-inspectors had been to her home searching for me... her will was consequently being altered so that my brother would appear to inherit everything, but we could trust him to divide everything equally in the future. 

        I tried to make light of the situation by explaining that there was only one member of our family hiding money from the taxman and it certainly wasn't me. When I then challenged the wisdom of her handing control of money to someone so foolish as to have fallen for an obvious scam, my mother began to laugh. However, she wasn't laughing with me, she was laughing at me. To my amazement, my mother then actually began spouting my brother's new jargon and she now introduced the terms, 'Amway'  and 'Multi-Level Marketing.'

        Although I'd never heard of it, I quickly realized 
        'Amway' was the name of the organisation my brother had joined. Just like my brother and his girlfriend, my mother absolutely refused to believe that this was some sort of too-good-to-be true, American pyramid scheme - the equivalent of flushing money down the toiletShe even ridiculed the fact that I'd never heard of 'Amway.' She boasted that my brother was 'a University-educated man who had checked-out Amway with lawyers'... it was 'the world's largest private company' ... 'Amway' gave 'a lot of money to charity.' My mother said that I couldn't be 'more wrong about Amway being a pyramid scheme, because Multi-Level Marketing is approved by governments around the world, is Christian-inspired and is supported by celebrities and leading members of the UK Conservative party'.... She had met my brother's 'business associates,' they were 'all decent hard-working young couples trying to do something positive with their lives'... there were also 'several local police officers involved with Amway.'

        When pressed, my mother reluctantly admitted that initially she too had some doubts about 'Amway,' because it was American and she couldn't understand how it worked. She briefly started to listen to me, but then she suddenly became short of breath and panic-stricken; absolutely refusing any further discussion of my brother's 'Amway' involvement. She insisted that by arguing with her and being disloyal to my brother, I could kill her and that in all financial matters, to protect her health, I now must deal exclusively with my brother. 


         

        I was both horrified and bemused. I ultimately left my mother's home and returned to France not knowing what was going on, or what to do for the best. I discussed this situation with a couple of trusted older friends who had never met my mother or brother. They tried to warn me that 'Amway' is a cult like 'Scientology.' They told me a horror story about another teacher they knew of in their small town in the North of England, changing personality after falling for 'Amway', losing his home and marriage and then trying to kill himself. I still preferred to believe these friends must be exaggerating somewhat. At that time, I had no access to any accurate information regarding the wider picture. In fact, I was still asking how could a cult be based on selling household cleaning products?, not realising that these are not what the billionaire bosses of 'Amway' have really been peddling. That said, I considered contacting my mother's lawyer, and/or accountant, and/or doctor, but I decided not to. In truth, I was quite embarrassed. I didn't know any of these people or exactly what I would say to them. Yet I remained certain that my family was under the influence of something stupid, if not potentially disastrous.

        For a while, I had some limited contact with my brother, but he was insufferable and I started to avoid him. However, during a subsequent visit to see my mother, I was put under obligation to meet with my brother in private. My mother promised me that he would not speak about 'Amway,' ... he only wanted to help me' ...  I 'would be pleased.'

        During our meeting, my brother initially behaved like he was now the head of the family, and I quickly began to lose my cool. In no uncertain terms, I told him that, in my opinion, his involvement with a pyramid scheme revealed him to be the last person to be given control of money. I warned him that I was considering taking the matter of my summary exclusion to a lawyer. Again completely out of character, my brother remained absolutely calm; as though he had known exactly how I was going to behave and what I was going to say. He smiled benignly and told me that I would find that I had 'no legal right to challenge our mother's decision' ... she was 'not mentally-incapable' and she remained 'perfectly entitled' to do whatever she wanted to do with her property. He then invited me to agree that whatever he chose to do with his life was his own affair, not mine. 

        My brother now pretended affinity with me. He claimed to be on my side and that he did not agree with our mother's decision to exclude me, but we couldn't 'argue with her, because stress might kill her'... he felt 'guilty' about how he had 'bullied' me when we were younger.. he was 'ashamed to admit' that had 'never been a brother' to me... he now wanted to 'make ammends' by 'helping' me. In this way, my brother gradually persuaded me to drop my guard and to disclose confidential information about my own finances, but I also wanted him to know exactly why I was so annoyed. 




        I told my brother that I had made an agreement to buy my home in Northern France from an English friend who had fallen on hard times and who owed me money. My friend had  previously bought this extensive period property cheaply on a mortgage as an investment and holiday home. Now his mortgage was in arrears and he owed several years of local French property taxes. He was desperate to sell the property to me, and for only the value of his outstanding mortgage. This bargain price was in return for dropping my friend's debt to me. However, I'd subsequently discovered that I'd made a wrong assumption. Under French law, I couldn't transfer the existing-mortgage into my name and, for various reasons, I couldn't obtain a new mortgage loan on favourable terms. To keep the deal alive, I had negotiated a delay with the mortgage-holding French bank and local French tax office, and I was currently paying only the interest on my friend's mortgage. Legally, I was in an impossible position, because I was neither tenant nor owner of my home. I had a project to convert part of my home into rental apartments and to live in the rest, but this was now completely blocked due to a lack of finance. I was, therefore, on the point of abandoning the whole idea and returning to the UK.

        In response, my brother ethusiastically asked me a rhetorical question: 'You' d like the finance for your project wouldn't you?'   When I replied, 'yes of course,' he said that by 'criticising' his 'business,' I hd been shooting myself in the foot... 'as the men of the family, we should now make all the decisions about money together... if I would support him: he would support me.'
          My brother offered a convincing psychological analysis of my mother and her irrational attitude towards me - she hadn't known her father whilst her own mother had died when she was still an immature teenager... all her life, she had been in search of parental figures... she had always been 'deeply-insecure' and was 'too emotional to have control over money'... she still needed to see me as her youngest child... no matter what I wanted to do commercially, she would imagine it to be too risky and would, therefore, never support me. 

          My brother then suggested that he now had the power to let me use our family capital as collateral to finance the purchase and conversion of my home. I immediately expressed serious doubts. My brother had no commercial experience and I would be completely in his hands. Yet, for obvious reasons, I wanted to believe him. I didn't want to abandon my home, but I didn't have an immediate alternative solution for keeping it. I agreed that we could go down this path, but only under certain conditionsWe shook hands and I must admit I was both relieved and quite elated. My brother countered my lingering doubts by insisting that, 'in families, there is no need for any written contract.' He assured me that I could 'trust' him and that it would be 'completely safe' for me to go ahead with my project, because we would 'work together as a team'...  he would simply follow my instructions. 

          At this moment, had someone tried to tell me that I was actually taking the first steps into a prepared-trap designed gradually to make me financially-dependent and, thus, force me into obeying my brother and his (unseen) 'Amway' handlers, I would have laughed. My brother seemed to be genuinely concerned about my personal situation. He immediately volunteered to fly to France at his own expense to visit me. He spent just 24 hours with me, taking dozens of photos of my home, as well as making piles of notes about my project. There were certain red flags, but I ignored them. e.g. My brother suddenly behaved in a very annoying way, childishly lying about the departure time of his return-flight and criticising my driving as being too slow. Thus, provoking me into breaking the speed limit and driving much faster than was necessary on our way to the Paris airport. I dismissed this incident (that I now understand to be a devious technique of mental manipulation) as weird, but unimportant.

          After returning to the UK and consulting with unamed persons whom he described as 'business associates' who could 'give us free advice,' my brother enthusiatically told me that I could 'forget all about banks and loans'... my project was such a 'good opportunity,' he could 'supply' me with 'all the money' to buy my home 'outright.' He appeared to be fully-aware of the need for prompt action. He asked me how much money I already had access to and how much extra I would need in total. He then quickly wired me enough money (around £10 000) to settle my friend's outstanding mortgage arrears and local property taxes. At the same time, I obtained a written guarantee from my friend that these funds would be repaid to me as soon as he was able. My brother asked for no receipt and did not explain exactly where this money had come from. I was too grateful to ask. I told my brother that once I had committed this money, there could be no turning back without a significant loss. With this payment, my brother completely convinced me that he would keep his word about the rest of our agreement. I clearly explained that the full-amount I required in sterling was not a fixed-sum, due to unknown transfer fees, varying exchange rates, etc. My brother still seemed to grasp the need for prompt action, but he kept insisting that, to protect my mother's health, I must not speak to her about any of this and he implied that he would not honour the rest of our agreement, if I did.

          Taking my brother at his word, I stopped everything (except the most-urgent restoration work on my home) to consolidate my own limited capital. I made all the arrangements with the interested third parties for the purchase and transfer of the property to go ahead ASAP. I planned the transaction to be completed within a matter of a few weeks, but my brother started to play a frustrating game and he kept me waiting for over a year. He was either 'unavailable' or he would flatly-refuse to explain exactly where my money would be coming from and when it would arrive. When cornered, he simply blamed my mother for the ongoing delay, again without any further explanation. During this period, as I had feared, the cost of my home began to rise in France whilst the exchange value of my promised sterling in the UK began to fall. I soon couldn't keep paying my friend's mortgage interest - I had not budgeted for this. I had to keep stalling the mortgage-holding bank by explaining that I was waiting for additional finance from my family in the UK. When I couldn't give the bank a guarantee as to exactly when my money would be available and the purchase completed, recovery action was threatened and eventually launched. Penalty-interest was also automatically imposed and this began to accumulate. Although I tried my best to reason with him, my brother excluded all this vital commercial information as 'negative' and he boasted that he no longer watched television or read newspapers ... he was too busy 'building his business.' 

          The longer the delay continued: the more my personal situation became desperate; whilst the more worried, angry and upset I became: the more calm and robotic my brother became. There was nothing I could do except try to appease him. I convinced myself that he must soon honour our agreement, the alternative was unthinkable.

          Again as I’d feared, I had no written contract and, therefore, no external avenue of complaint. When inevitably I approached my mother, believing my brother's vague claim that she was responsible for the delay, I couldn't hide my frustration. I couldn't tell her just how desperate the situation was becoming. Instead, I only tried to explain to her the mathematics of what was happening, but her mind was conditioned not to follow what I was saying. She began to cry like a child, convinced that I must be trying to confuse her with complicated lies in order to get more money. My mother said I’d got it wrong… she wasn't involved… my brother was ‘arranging everything’… he was acting in my ‘long-term interests,’ but I didn’t understand this… I needed to ‘have more faith’… everything I ‘dreamt of’ would come to me ‘eventually.’ 

          My mother went to my brother to report. When I tried to talk to her again, my frustration was reinterpreted - I was ‘too selfish and impetuous’… I’d broken my word… this proved I didn’t care about her health… I was ‘only interested in money,’ etc. In this way, my brother controlled all information entering my mother’s head. She was convinced that there was no need for her to listen to me or to consult her lawyer… I had got myself ‘into a mess’ and my brother would calmly save me, but I was ‘panicking.’ 

          My brother still couldn't tell me when my cash would be available or exactly how he was going to raise it. He told me that there would now ‘have to be further conditions attached.’

          In the meantime, my brother and girlfriend had moved into my mother's home. They started to tidy it up, making expensive improvements and redecorating, but always using my mother's cash. Almost every room was now stuffed with banal, but grossly-over-priced, 'Amway' products (pots, pans, coffee, soap, household and car cleaning materials, toothpaste, makeup, shampoo, fuel additives, etc.). The robotic couple began systematically dividing everyone and everything into 'negative' (to be excluded) vs 'positive' (to be included). e.g. Traditional store-bought products were banned from my mother's home and condemned as 'negative.' 

          When visiting my mother, I discovered that my brother and his girlfriend had a list of dozens of people whom they knew, or whom they have met during their lives. My brother had been systematically contacting all these 'prospects' one by one to try to recruit them. My mother had evidently also supplied names for this list. My brother now said that people who criticise 'Amway' are 'life's losers' whom he wouldn't waste his time on. Thus, when I actually encountered one or two of these 'prospects' visiting my mother's home, I was not at liberty to tell them what I really thought for fear of upsetting my brother. 

          My brother and girlfriend bought quantities of American-published 'motivational/self-betterment'  books, magazines and recordings - some of which contained directly religious terms - and which constantly taught them the 'negative vs positive'  'winners vs losers' mindset on the pretext that this was part of the 'proven plan to achieve Total Financial Freedom in Amway'. They spoke about 'only listening to winners' and about attending 'Amway meetings and seminars' to learn the 'secrets of success.' They boasted about how 'rich and successful' their 'Amway Diamond Leaders' were - particularly, the legendary American leader of their own 'Network,' Dexter Yager.

          'Positive' images of my brother's 'Dreams and Goals' appeared at strategic points in my mother's home. e.g. A large picture of macho black 4X4 vehicle in a mountain landscape, was fixed to the fridge.

          My brother's scripted-claims were becoming increasingly grandiose and absurd, but again I couldn't openly-challenge, or ridicule, them for fear of upsetting him. e;g. In all seriousness, my brother insisted that, within 10 years, all supermarkets would be closed in the UK, because the 'Amway Business Model' was taking over. He told me about billions of £ being at stake ... I would 'miss-out' on my share if I didn't 'get on board quickly.'

          Meanwhile, back in the adult world of quantifiable reality, my personal situation was becoming even more desperate. I cut my living expenses and began selling my personal possessions to hang on. At this time, sterling dropped out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and its international exchange-value collapsed. I soon required my brother to supply more than twice the amount of sterling that we had previously discussed to complete my purchase, but his brain now quite literally could not receive any 'negative' information. My purchase remained entirely in my name, but my brother and his mysterious 'advisers' controlled the final means of payment. Thus, I was made to look like a foolish, commercially-incompetent dreamer in front of all the interested third parties. 

          My closest friends couldn’t understand what was happening - why hadn't I completed my purchase? - why all the delay? why had I gone cold on such a great project? The better people knew me: the more unbelievable it all seemed. I felt depressed and humiliated. For a while, I tried not to let the situation affect my private life, but as my own resources dwindled to zero, I started losing sleep. I then found it impossible to control my anger. I became the voice of reason, but with the apparent face of insanity. 

          In desperation, I went to see my brother I angrily told him that we had long-since passed the point of no return… if he didn't come to his senses and take immediate action, I must quit my home, lose all my previous work and investment and return to England destitute… he had led me into a hole and I’d already stopped digging. Even if he immediately supplied twice the amount that we have previously discussed, I could no longer guarantee to complete the transaction and regularise my situation. The delay meant that he needed to supply me with a lot more sterling and the sum was increasing all the time that the delay continued. I made a final attempt to give my brother a break-down of the figures, but, predictably, he wasn't in the slightest bit interested.

          Without a flicker of emotion, my brother attacked me on a vicious personal level designed to reduce me to the position of a guilty child. He stared intently at me and, in a mocking voice, accused me of being ‘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 wastherefore, 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 my mother’s diary 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 feel physically sick in the pit of my stomach. 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.

          Suddenly, my brother switched-off the vicious ego-destroying drill-sergeant, and switched-on the kindly ego-building big-brother/father-figure. He offered me immediate deliverance, but only if he could ‘present the Amway business opportunity’ to me. I was dumbstruck. For an instant, I couldn’t think straight. He shepherded me into the room where he did all his recruiting and closed the door. What followed was truly weird - like having a witch-doctor perform a voodoo incantation whilst you bleed to death. My brother stared at me again, but this time he was smiling in triumph. He was almost drooling with excitement. He then launched into a relentless barrage of hypnotic Amway/MLM’ jargon. Simultaneously, he started to draw a mystifying pattern (a pyramid of circles, containing numbers and percentages, connected by lines) on a large, blank sheet of paper - he was ‘about to go Direct in the UK’s biggest Amway Network, International Business Systems or IBS for short’, he’d always ‘visualised us building the business together’…‘MLM’ was a ‘duplication business’ - this was the ‘IBS Plan’ … he ‘exactly duplicated’ his ‘Uplines’s example’ and bought at least ‘200 ‘PV’ of positive product every month’ if he ‘sponsored’ me, I would become his ‘Downline’… if I then ‘exactly duplicated’ the ‘Upline example’ and bought at least ‘200 PV of positive product per month’ and then ‘sponsored 6 Downlines,’ who each ‘exactly duplicated’ the ‘Upline example’ and bought at least ‘200 PV of positive product per month’ who then each ‘sponsored 6 more Downlines,’ who each then ‘sponsored 6 more Downlines,’ etc… ‘within 2-5 years we could both be Diamond Distributors earning a minimum of £ 37 000 ($ 50 000) a year in commission from all the thousands of Distributors automatically multiplying in our Downline groups.’

          After 5 minutes, that felt like a lifetime, I angrily walked out. The atmosphere was indescribable. I had seen, and heard, more than enough to realise that, from the start, my brother (undoubtedly advised by his invisible 'Amway business associates') must have been lying to me and deliberately sabotaging my life. He was now trying to exploit my vulnerability to force me to join his crack-pot pyramid schemebut he seemed genuinely convinced that by doing this, he was acting in my long term interests. I returned to my home in France exhausted and depressed. Two weeks later, my brother lured me back to England with a promise of the cash we’d discussed more than a year before. When all the additional costs were taken into consideration, this amount now represented an enormous net-loss for me. However, my brother’s poisoned mind was incapable of receiving what it systematically reinterpreted as ‘negative’ information. I realised that it was completely pointless trying to explain to him the actual sum now required to complete my purchase. My brother solemnly proclaimed that he had tried his best to ‘help’ me by bringing me into his ‘business,’ but my refusal had finally proved to him that I was ‘just a selfish loser’… he couldn’t be held responsible for my ‘failure’… even if I ‘begged to join Amway,’ it was ‘now too late.’ Under normal circumstances I would have laughed, but it had become impossible to see any comedy in this tragic situation.

          My brother then supplied approximately 80 % of the sterling he’d previously agreed. At the last moment, he obliged me to sign a blank receipt and to promise that I would only use the payment for my project. By this stage, I would have accepted almost anything to save my home, but, soon afterwards, I discovered that my brother hadn’t been using family money at all. He had emptied his own, and his partner’s, savings accounts - this explained the odd amount. At the same time, he had convinced my mother that I had freely signed an agreement to accept his generous payment as my entire inheritance… I had been given exactly what I’d requested to complete my transaction. My brother had made sure there were no witnesses to what has really occurred. He had arbitrarily decided that, for the purpose of their division, our family’s properties were worth a tiny fraction of their market-value. He had reams of his own contemporaneous notes to prove his case, but these took no account of the subsequent delay.

          My brother then gave-up his job and began pretending that he’d ‘retired thanks to the Amway business opportunity. In reality, he was using his stolen prosperity (and his partner’s salary) to bedazzle his prospective recruits and finance his allied ‘Amway’ activities. I was now more than ready to tell him exactly what I thought, but when I try to confront him by telephone, he laughed at me and hung up. I could not control my anger - I did not recognise myself.

          As a result of the intervention of a close friend, who tearfully-persuaded my mother to consult her lawyer, I was again offered deliverance, but only if I now ‘agreed’ to sign a legally-binding (take-it-or-leave-it) contract. I was not allowed to communicate directly with the lawyer and I couldn't afford legal representation. I had to attempt to negotiate the contract through my friend, but she was being overwhelmed by familiar claims that my mother would die if there was any argument. To my friend, it was unthinkable that anyone could be so devious and manipulative. In the end, my friend was begging me to remain silent. Consequently, the contract reflected my brother’s twisted model of reality. In short, I was falsely-blamed for everything. Ironically, when my mother’s lawyer discovered the rising market-value of my home (approximately 3X the outstanding mortgage-debt), he advised her to raise a loan in England (using family property as collateral) and complete its purchase using French lawyers to instruct the interested third-parties. I was completely excluded as though I was an commercially-incompetent fool. The one time I met with my mother and brother was when the contract had to be signed. My mother and brother travelled to France and stayed at my home for 24 hours. To show his disdain for any non-'Amway' related transaction, my brother attended the Notaire's office wearing a sort of tracksuit. My mother appeared to be frail and confused. She behaved as though she was doing me an enormous favour for which I should be grateful. My sophisticated local Notaire, who had witnessed my project turn sour due to months of inexplicable delay, looked at me in bemused shock. He now saw for himself that it was this odd couple (here shepherded by an expensive French lawyer) who were my embarrassing relatives, and who inexplicably had control of substantial capital assets. My Notaire assumed that, since this was my own mother and only brother, I would never have to honour whatever contract I now signed with them. 
          However, only at this point, was I allowed to read the contract. When I tried to challenge it even slightly, my mother began clutching at her chest and gasping for breath. In the end, I felt obliged to comply. The atmosphere was again indescribable. On the contract, the previous (net-loss) payment was now falsely-recorded as a ‘personal loan’ from my brother. My friend had been verbally-assured that ‘this was for reasons of tax’… he would ‘never demand repayment.’ Although the contract gave me 6 months before any interest was due, I was made responsible for an additional sterling-loan (recorded as being from my mother) and for two sets of lawyers’ fees (more 10 % of the total debt). Interestingly, my brother declared his occupation to be a ‘qualified schoolteacher’ - there was no mention of his ‘Amway Distributorship' or his recent 'retirement.' 

          In total, it took over two years to conclude a relatively-simple house purchase that I had planned to take no more than 2 months, and it could not have been finalised at a worse time. My urgent instructions to my brother (which were quasi-identical to the long-winded, and expensive, advice of my mother’s lawyers) were completely ignored. With all the unnecessary delay, the cost of the transaction in sterling had doubled. Instead of having a home and 100 % equity, producing a secure rental-income and financing another business (which had been my overall strategy), I was saddled with a major debt and no lawful means of servicing it. I had already lost an incalculable amount of time and income, whilst a self-defeating clause in the contract now prevented me from legally-renting out any part of my home. However, the money had long-since become secondary. My peace of mind and state of physical health were disintegrating along with my way of life. Several close relationships had already become strained to breaking-point. For this reason, I could not bring myself to speak with my family.

          I heard nothing for almost 6 months and I was gradually starting to recover. Without warning, my mother (at the instigation of my brother) sent me a leaflet from another American-registered company, ‘Marketing Group International.’ Its ‘British office’ wanted an up-front payment of approximately $300 ‘to offer European houses for sale in Hong Kong’  -  it was an obvious ‘advance-fee fraud,’ but my name was already filled-in on a form in my mother’s distinctive handwriting. When I contacted her lawyer in England to express my concern, he claimed that she had no knowledge of this, and he demanded a crippling interest payment (around £8 thousands) not only on behalf of my mother, but also on behalf of my brother (contrary to the verbal assurance given to my friend). The lawyer insisted that if I refused to comply, I would be risking my mother’s life. Thanks to my brother, I had neither equity nor income. Subsequently, a lawsuit was filed against me in France to take possession, and force the sale, of my home. My only possible defence witness was my friend who negotiated the contract. However, she now refused to become involved. She was terrified that she might be blamed if my mother dropped dead. Although my mother’s name was on the documentation, in reality, all the proceeds of any sale of my home would only have gone to the benefit of my brother and his invisible ‘Amway associates.’

          David Brear (copyright 2022)