I spent (and am still spending) the week at a giant national training mandated, organized, and run by my job. As I sat in theback of the auditorium and listened to people chant and cheer and say motivational things to one another and generally embrace the corporate culture, my mind began to wander.
What if motivational culture, structure, schedules, and tradition we all that some people brought with them through to the post-apocalyptic world. These things are what make many difficult situations tolerable. There is a shared language and bonding in the quirkiness and need for these tools.
However, if the situation did not call for these tools and the person on stage was not a motivational speaker but a tyrannical misanthrope, we’d have ourselves a cult [1. I have a very active imagination…].
I wondered what this would look like if that hypothetical tyrant on stage was speaking, not to employees, but to survivors. What would it look like, or even feel like if this was how every morning started before your rations were handed over. Many of your needs would be covered, from food to socialization and your survival would be based on community membership. The leader doesn’t even need to be a tyrant [2. but it’s more fun to think he is], Your leaders could simply be false prophets, motivational speakers, sales folk, a resourceful marketing team, a boy band, a cheer squad, or some other individual or small group with both charisma and a respect-demanding demeanor.
Because you’re being stripped of your general freedom of choice, you’ll need to be granted other things like security and sustenance for it to be a worthwhile sacrifice– they’ve got to sell something to get you to buy in.
Feel good cults can feel good. Sure it’s creepy at first, but once you let go of your futile resistance you might find the barefoot dancing and arm flailing to be a freeing experience.
Inside the super-max prison your cult calls home you’ve got some semblance of social-emotional structure and support. It might be fucked up on its good days and epically damaging on its bad days, but it’s structure nonetheless.
There is power in numbers. While you might all be a bunch of bald-headed, robe-wearing, chanting freaks, you’re a large number of them. So many that it would give others pause when considering you as a target. It’s the difference between fighting one snake or a colony of siafu [3. siafu are the scariest army ants on the face of the earth. “The ants march through the forests in groups of millions, eating anything that moves and severely impacting the local environment (even elephants run from them). The term “killer ant” usually applies to this species simply because of the magnitude of the colony sizes (over 20 million individuals).(source)”].
Fact is, cults don’t work if some members are allowed to slack off on cultly duties. Actually, the strict enforcement of rules and acceptable behaviors is what makes it a cult and not just a crazy people club. If you wish to remain in the cult you must participate in cult activities.
Unfortunately, this required participation brings me to my next cult drawback: sever punishment is very likely. With so many people to care for, a cult has the responsibility and ability to enforce all rules with any penalty of its choosing, up to and including death. You or your loved one might be put down for not standing at the morning meeting.
You might not be standing at the morning meeting because cults are exhausting. These organizations require near constant mental and physical energy.
It all depends on what you value, what you can tolerate and what you believe your limits are. If you’re lazy, stubborn or even just strong willed, you’ll likely be a nail waiting to be hammered. If you’ve got energy, idealism and don’t really care too much about ideas and their logic, join on up.