06 May 2014

Is it just a waste of time?

A narrative that you hear often in the stories of people who spent 30 years in some cult is "How terrible. They wasted X years of their life working to bring about this ridiculous or delusory goal, or fulfilling the schemes of Great Leader Y who was obviously a psychopath, a cynical money-grubber, a troll, or come combination of the three."

Wasted it doing that because... what else could they have done? Earned big money? Found something to do in life that was useful and fulfilling? Hate to break it to you, but it's a tiny tiny minority under global capitalism who get to do that. Note that this narrative is particularly marked when the ex-cultist is white and middle class. You were privileged, ya schmuck. Don't you wish you hadn't thrown that privilege away? Why, you're no better than a prole now!

This is of course one of the arguments that cults use to keep people in - you don't have any skills that the Real World of Horrible Jobs wants. You'll be a burger-flipper! The irony being that a burger-flipper has some democratic rights even under globalised capitalism, which a cult member doesn't have. But a cult member has a reason to exist, which is generally something a burger-flipper lacks, except in rare circumstances.

The point is that, in a cult or in the "real world", usually what you do has no meaning or value in real terms, and you only get material rewards if you're either very lucky or know how to brown-nose. Or, to put it another way - you can only sacrifice if you had something to start with; or, more cynically, you can only sell out if there's a willing buyer.

For most of us life is an endless, drastic, alienated failure. There's a reason why, on leftist blogs, most of the comments are indications of doom, despair, and the glories of recreational drugs to numb the terrible pain. So why not join a cult? Unless you can find something to do in the here-and-now that means something, not just makes you feel good or scratches an itch which was implanted by ideology?