Cults or mere Abusive groups?
Defining what a cult is, is difficult. Similarly, in science, there is no established definition for what a weed is; at least I have found none. There is no clear-cut way to separate and define a weed from other non-weed plant life by logical methods. The best definition I ever heard as to defining a weed, is simply a plant that you do not like. Likewise, a 'Cult'can just as easily be a religion or any group that we do not like. One person's cult is another person's most lofty and holy way to worship and serve God or society.
Cults, nevertheless, like weeds, are recognized instinctively by most of the people. They just know one when they see one. Weeds and cults grow where not cultivated by normal people. Weeds and cults kill off other plants we like. Weeds are usually ugly and Cults have unpleasant features. Weeds often have prickles that sting. Cults often have rules and behavior that is harmful. Farmers can tell you
all about broad leaf weeds that harm their crops that eventually become our food. Homeowners can tell you all about dandelions that ruin otherwise beautiful Kentucky Bluegrass lawns. Ex-cult members can often talk at length about ruined lives.
In America, a 'Cult' is usually understood to be an abusive environment where the leaders teach weird and often harmful doctrines; and where the minds of the believers are controlled. In some countries a 'Cult' is any group the government does not like, and the government may elect to take repressive measures.
My best definition of a cult is: "Any situation, be it government, religion, business, social clubs, organized crime, dictatorships, etc., where power and authority is concentrated and centralized in a few or maybe just one person. The power they wield is all-controlling, and often corrupts the leaders into believing that they have some claim, be it education, experience, superior mentality, or divine right to rule over those who follow them or those who are forced to live under their system. Cults lack the presence of an appropriate system of checka and balances to protect the many from corruption and abuse."
Cults can be large or small, somewhat benign, or dangerously harmful. BUT ... Whatever level of packaging or presentation, or aspect of society a cult operates in, one thing that seems common to all: They lean toward dilution and diminishment of the individual in favor of extolling and promoting the organization or leader(s). One who submits or succumbs to a cult often mortgages his/her conscience and individuality to a group or system in a way that goes beyond normal social behavior or reasonable societal cooperation.
In my way of thinking, the best safeguard against ever again being involved in anything that resembles a 'Cult' is to cherish and promote our own individuality and uniqueness. Never surrender one inch of my mental freedom, my self-identification, my personality, my control and power over my own life. Die for it, if necessary.
I cannot speak for anyone else, nor should I. Each person has their own way and individual method of dealing and coping with what life brings into their path. I have chosen with clear, willful and deliberate reasoning to value individuality and personal power, control, and responsibility over the 'It Takes a Village' mentality.
I believe in some level of social interaction and rules, but only as a modest vehicle and as an mutually agreed contract amongst people who have common interests, such as a city, a state, a nation, a business, and even a religion. The only way I see that this 'social contract' can be safely operated is through a system of checks and balances, of which, the Watch Tower Society has none. - AMAZING
Thanks Venice: I have read Hassan's works as well as Lifton's, and others on the topic of cults. While 'thought control' is a major feature, there are always exceptions or 'buts'. The military uses certain thought-control vis-a-vis 'discipline' ... hence, disciple. Of course, in the sciences, we often refer to a specific field, such as my career in engineering, the electrical discipline, or mechanical discipline, or chemical discipline, etc ... I think that the type of 'thought-control' its objectives, and whether checks and balances exist determine whether something is a 'Cult' or not. Just my opinion. - Amazing
The best modern example of thought control in everyday life is probably advertising; most particularly, television advertising.
Once you start looking for thought control techniques in advertising, you find them to be ubiquitous. Then if you have a brave heart, start looking at media programming content with that same critical eye. You may find the tv news a little less trustworthy if you try this though...
Now go check out a day of Disney/Nickelodeon propaganda. Look at their biggest competitor in the syndie market: Kids' WB. (I'm not saying this sort of 'mind control' is necessarily evil but it shouldn't be supplanting parental guidance.) Our kids are being programmed to be ravenous little consumers.
It's not really hard to manipulate and control people if you know the techniques. It's exactly like training animals with stimuli: ring the bell, the dog salivates. Ask any composer who makes a living writing film scores...human emotion can be easily manipulated on levels that barely impinge on an unsuspecting consciousness. It can be done with sound, with color, with light, and with suggestive language.
In some instances, suggestive propaganda can be useful: public service announcements, public information programs, educational and instructional programming, can all be used to instill citizenship and civic responsibility. (making recycling sound hip with celeb endorsements, anti-drug peer reinforcement commercials, safe sex adverts....).
Or it can be used to instill terrified obedience to a vengeful God into the hearts of children.
In this as in so many other areas, knowledge is power. Forewarned is forearmed. Cautious as serpents and all that...
Excellent comments! I completely agree that it's notoriously hard to define "cult", but it's equally true that you know one when you see one.
Until a year or two ago I objected to calling JWs a cult, since my notion of "cult" was that more extremism had to be displayed than the JWs do. However, I've learned enough new things and been exposed to enough examples of extremism by the JW controlling body and those who adhere to its teachings to presently say without reservation: <b>Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult!</b>
I think that you need to use these:  instead.
The no checks & balances connection sounds good. It may be what other defintions are lacking.
Good to see you back. Been away or just occupied??
Hi Mustang: I have been terribly occupied with work. I am taking today off so I can post several things that I have been thinking about and dealing with. Thanks again. - Amazing
Busy w/ work was what I suspected. Don't be a stranger. Things could get sizzling 'round here.
BTW, 'mere abusive groups?'. Given to understatement, are we?
Good post. To tell the truth, I've never bothered too much with the definition of 'cult', because I was more concerned with the controlling aspect of things rather than labels.
And it's just that, the control mechanisms that seem to permeate nearly every organization that mankind is involved with that triggers the question in my mind, "Why?" It takes a lot of time and effort to create and run a control system. Speaking for myself, I don't have that much interest in trying to control others.
I do understand fear and the desire to avoid harm and therefore trying to control those we think may have the power to do that harm, but that's what usually causes others to want to harm us in the first place. They suspicion that we will want to do them in, thanks to our strength and our endeavors to control them. Sounds to me like stupidity on all sides.
Then there's always greed and the desire to get something for nothing, and our desire to prevent that.
I suppose we could count in the desire for power too. However, all of those don't seem sufficient to justify the intense and millenium's long effort to control the human mind. It doesn't make sense to me.
Any additional ideas as to why people want to control others?