Sunday, April 8, 2018

Cults and the sole supplier syndrome

This article contains a few thoughts about a feature of many cults and cult-like organisations, a feature that I think of as the sole supplier syndrome.

Cult members may push the message that they and their organisation are the sole source of something - for example, information, hope for the future, democracy for an oppressed nation or even salvation. You will never get what you want without their help; only they can inform you about and explain something; only they have the answers; they are the elite and nothing and no one else is any good to you.

It is best to beware of anyone who tries to attract your interest and recruit you by playing the sole supplier game. You can expect to hear a lot of this sort of thing:

“We are your only hope.”  “We are the only ones who can tell you what is really going on.” “Without us, the evil regime will never be overthrown.” “When civilisation collapses, you will die unless you join us now and learn survival skills.”

It is important to understand that this is what they all say. It is a case of same game, different players.

If you buy their messages, they may try to get you to support or even commit everything that you have to their cause or movement.

Cults and their representatives want your money; they want to fool, manipulate and intimidate you. If you seem suitable for membership, they will want to draw you in and control you, your life and your thoughts. They will want you to reply on them for everything and depend on them alone.

In order to avoid being taken advantage of, it is essential to research everything and to expose the implied messages, subject them to reality testing and determine what the ulterior motives and hidden agenda are.

A good example from the commercial world
It is not just cults that play the sole supplier game.

I read about a man who very stupidly paid a £5,000 joining fee to learn about and be put forward for high-level executive positions that a company said they were the sole contact and only source of information for. They told him that without their help, he would not get the high-powered job he was looking for.

It was all lies; they took advantage of his ignorance and gullibility; they just wanted his money.  A little research would have prevented his being exploited, and he could have tried LinkedIn, company websites and other sources of executive jobs.

Most people know that reputable agencies charge the employer only, never the job hunter. While it may be true that many top jobs are not advertised, suitable people will know about them from informal networks and moving in the right circles.

Of course he did not get the job of his dreams from these crooks. Ironically, falling for this con shows that he is not very suitable for a senior position!

Religion and politics
Being swindled out of large sums of money and getting nothing in return is bad enough; being tricked or intimidated into handing over your autonomy or even your soul is worse.

There are people who say that you will go to hell if you don’t believe, say and do what their religious organisation says you should. Theirs is the only path, the one true God, the only hope for the salvation of mankind...

Then we have the cult leader who tells political refugees that they will never be able to return home unless they dedicate themselves to serving him and his organisation.  He promises to overthrow the oppressive government; he says he is their only hope.

It is all about manipulation and emotional blackmail.

Playing the As If game
The As If game is often part of the sole source syndrome.

“We are your only hope” is very clear, but there are often more subtle suggestions behind this and similar messages.

You may get this if you are unwise enough to show any interest in what these people have to say:

“We want to come and tell you about x.” “We want to explain x to you.”

The implications are that you won’t get to hear about x unless they tell you, and that you won’t understand x unless they explain it to you. This is ridiculous, but people fall for it.   

The people who promote themselves as sole suppliers of information often behave as if there were no alternative options such as research and the Internet.

I have never been involved with multi-level marketing in any way, but I have read a lot about it and seen some very familiar elements, including the as if game.

Someone will inform their contacts that they want to tell them about an exciting and unique opportunity to make money; they want to explain it in person.

Their agenda is to put pressure on you to buy products directly from them and/or sign up as a distributor. They hope that you will be dazzled by the hype and spin. They just want your money.

Using aloe vera juice as an example, why would I need anyone to tell me that it exists and about the benefits of using it? If I wanted some, I could get it much cheaper from many other sources. I could even get some plants and make my own.

I have experienced something similar recently, when someone pressed hard for one-to-one meetings to tell me about my options and explain them all to me, as if I wouldn’t know or understand anything without their help. 

I am quite capable of doing my own research, and there are many sources of the relevant information available. I know exactly what my options are and understand their implications only too well, thank you very much!

Their real motive is to get personal information that can be used to manipulate me. They also hope that I will be easier to intimidate if they see me alone. Many others are also being pushed to attend these meetings; we have let the bad guys know that we don’t need their input and we can see through all their little games.

These messages are a dead giveaway
Anyone who tells you that they are your only source of something without providing any evidence is best avoided.

If someone wants to get you alone to tell you about something but won’t say exactly what it is, they too are probably up to no good.

I quoted some wise words from Vernon Howard earlier. Some are very relevant and worth repeating here:

When meeting anyone you should ask yourself: ‘what does he want that I must not give?’”

Anyone who sees why he has been a victim in a dangerous world will cease to be one.”

That last one could be enhanced to include seeing why other people have been victims: painful personal experience is not the only way to learn. Once again, it is all about research.