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.
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 was soon to become a perfect vulnerable target to be deceived by an 'MLM' cult, or rather by my brother's chronic adherence to one.
'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 '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'...
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 -, 'Points Value' , Bonus Value' , He said that he'd been 'introduced to Network Marketing by an old school friend (a lawyer)' and that 'the Compensation Plan had been
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.'
he personally knew '
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
My mother. She insisted that my affairs were 'in a mess' andShe scoffed at the idea of me returning to the UK to look after her. Instead, she informed me thatand that
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 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.
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.
about my own finances, but I also wanted him to know exactly why I was so annoyed.
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 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 conditions. We 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.
After returning to the UK and consulting with unamed persons whom he described as 'business associates' 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,
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 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 and he boasted that
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
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 (to be excluded) (to be included). e.g. Traditional store-bought products were banned from my mother's home and condemned as
y 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 books, magazines and recordings - some of which contained directly religious terms - and which constantly taught them the mindset on the pretext that They spoke about 'only listening to winners' and about They boasted about -
images of my brother's 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.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 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 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 o
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
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.