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Archive for May 1st, 2016

In a cult-like trance 2

Posted on May 01, 2016 by jimparedes

In a cult-like trance
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 1, 2016 – 12:00am

If you have wondered during this election season why certain friends and family members have startled you with their choice of candidate, you are not alone. Sometimes I wonder how once reasonable, decent women and men seem to suddenly defy reason and logic, and have even changed their demeanor from pleasant and mild-mannered to aggressive and hostile. Are they in some trance that makes them defy their previously held values in favor of the values of their chosen leader? How is it that they react violently to any kind of criticism of their candidate? Is there some kind of political infatuation playing out? Is there a “cult” culture developing here?

Some things I have noticed from my interactions with many of them:

They have a sudden strong, unquestioning commitment to their leader. The leader is defiant, strong-willed, domineering. He is practically adored as a deity. They imitate his traits. They, too, suddenly become aggressive. They will defend him to the death. They elevate him to mythical status.

Questioning or pointing out facts that go against their leader is discouraged within their ranks. When people outside the group make a questioning or critical statement, the members pounce on him, threaten and insult the dissenter, as if he was a dangerous man. How dare anyone question their dear leader?

Millennials are the most vulnerable and impressionable to this kind of candidate. They love his words, his bravado and braggadocio, and subconsciously reject any character issues their leader may have. Often, they become his apologists. When they cannot defend an outright wrong move or utterance, they accuse the other side of any issue, to try and turn the tables and put his opponents on the defensive. Often, they counter with the accusation by waving the flag, saying that unlike their candidate, his critics have not done anything for the country.

They set very high standards for his opponents, accusing them of tiny faults, making mountains out of molehills. But for their leader, they do not require such standards.

What I do not understand is how many of them have completely and conveniently turned their backs on beliefs and values they used to hold as ethical and moral to defend and justify their leader’s behavior and attitude. It is as though they have lost their moral compass. They rationalize this by saying their candidate is just being “real.”

In a cult, no one questions where the money comes from or how it is spent. No one demands an accounting lest he or she be accused of doubting the leader or subverting the group.

They have become fact-resistant. Real evidence is completely ignored or denied. Mistakes, blunders made by their leader are given a new spin to make them seem okay.

This type of leader likes to scare his followers with doomsday scenarios and proclaim himself as their savior, the answer to all their fears. He exaggerates the problem and spins a simplistic solution, claiming that he alone can provide it. He makes general statements with no details, but their belief in him is so total, no one questions him about specifics.

His strategy is polarization where he can exploit the tribal fear of “them versus us.” Thus, the constant need to create enemies.

His followers live and feed on memes and lies that they themselves create.

Such a leader is necessarily anti-authority (excepting his own). He does not believe in sharing power or being accountable to anyone. He threatens anyone who stands in his way in exercising complete and absolute power.

The followers of this type of leader are now unrecognizable to their friends and family because they seem to have suddenly changed personalities. They have become the mirror image of their leader. They have surrendered themselves totally to him. They have established an emotional, psychological bond. The leader now validates their new identity.

Writer M. Scott Peck defined evil as “the militant denial of the light.” I do not think all of the followers of such a leader are necessarily evil. And I’m not making any conclusions about anyone specific. But people I know and love seem to be in a trance. Like the followers of Jim Jones in Jonestown, they seem to have drunk the Kool-Aid, and the vitriol, threats and pure hate coming from them is not their real selves talking.

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