From the Week of October 26, 2000

Deliver Us

Brain drain: Bravo. It's disheartening, although not surprising, that this stuff still works on people ("Drive-thru Deliverance," Amanda Scioscia, October 19). Yes, I agree that most of us are living repressed lives, aren't able to be open with each other, don't know ourselves, don't feel loved, etc. And these feelings are what provides the fertile feeding ground for these kinds of thinly disguised mind-control seminars.

But why are we surprised? After all, our Cult-ure is a cult! The American culture has increasingly become a giant brainwashing system, with mindless fanatics chanting "U.S.A. is No. 1," or for their team, or lying to protect their leaders and getting their nightly "programming" from the TV that tells them how to act, what inane products to buy, etc. Lawyers get paid in our society to twist facts and withhold truth, to win by any means possible.

In a society devoid of healthy role models, should we hold up Joe Arpaio as a role model for young men? Is it any surprise that grown adults find themselves empty and looking for someone to tell them how to think, how to dress, how to be successful? Beatings (in this case psychological beatings) are better than being ignored. It's no different from children acting up wanting attention. It is interesting that in a country like America, founded on the ideal of individual expression and tolerance, the innate insecurity inside us makes us want to huddle together and have strong leaders "beat" us and tell us what to do.

You will find that many U.S. corporations qualify as cults; so do the Army, the Congress, churches and schools. And although universities (used to, at least) claim freedom of thought, if you actually watch classroom dynamics, students are afraid of offering original thought or dissenting opinions for fear of being ridiculed. And professors offer static authoritarian "truths."

But as long as we have burgers, six-packs, football, SEGA and TV, the masses will remain for the most part sedated and will vigorously defend the fact that they are "free" and live in the best country in the world, and will "turn and render" you if you offer them anything else.

Name withheld by request

Show me the money: What a great read this article was. The spirit of George Orwell must have had a hand in this. Landmark reminds me of my short time with Scientology. Luckily, I had the brains to get out of there. Groups like Landmark and Scientology work exactly the same. Here's how it works: They start by making you believe that you are a pathetic excuse for a human being, then they make you believe that only with their help and after purchasing various publications and "technology" will you improve. Just when you think you've improved, they tell you you're still not good enough so you have to buy more stuff. Finally, you are once and for all the human being you've always dreamed of being (actually the human being they want you to be). But still you're wrong. You're not the human being you want to be until you recruit your friends (if you still have them) into this wonderful new religion of yours. The point being that with organizations such as these, you'll never reach the ideal that they preach. They'll beat you mentally into spending money. The description of Landmark and Scientology can easily describe the book 1984!

Name withheld by request

Cult fiction: After reading this article, I question whether you did, in fact, go through the training. Very obviously you went in to the Forum determined to interpret it with a filter of skepticism. Probably the biggest departure from the truth is your statement that promises were made of "quick salvation from whatever ails you." No such statement is ever made or implied. The only promise that is made is that if you follow the rules, which from your article it's clear you didn't, and stay in the room, you will "get it." What you choose to do with "it" is entirely up to you; just like the rest of your life. Yes, the Forum is tough; yes, it's an emotional roller-coaster ride. So is life -- deal with it.

I would suggest that, in your job, the role of skeptic stirs up controversy with your readers. But does it serve them? Personally, since the training, I've found that knowing, very clearly, that I have the power to choose at each moment what I allow to affect me is very freeing. It has allowed me to pursue the choices that bring satisfaction and joy into my life and contribute the same to others. Can you say the same for you and your life?

Glenn Mire

Diverse Court

Latino royale: Edward Lebow's article on the lack of Latino representation in so-called neighborhood activist groups should be required reading ("Silent Majority," October 12).

One of Lebow's notable observations is that many of the activists apparently do make an attempt to get Latino residents to join, but without success. In some cases, Latinos attend a few meetings, then quit.

I would offer the following as an explanation: Many Latino residents evidently understand that the values espoused by these activist groups are those of intolerance, exclusion and elitism. If a Latino resident doesn't understand at first, he apparently learns after attending just one or two meetings.

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