Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Brainwashing is bunk!

An issue which got me into hot water with the anti-cult movement was that of brainwashing and its equally dodgy counter, deprogramming. It is common for ex-cultists to blame their having been caught up in what they dismiss as a cult on something done to them, something which made them believe or commit against their will. Whatever the subtleties of manipulation employed by any group, the idea that anyone can be forced to do anything against their will in this way is complete nonsense.

I have always held that I am personally responsible for joining the JA and equally responsible for having left. Nobody forced me to join the JA; I was eager to join. Nobody stopped me leaving, though I had to summon up lots of courage and conviction to challenge the assertion of the elders that I would backslide into apostasy and that without God's covering, I might more easily get cancer etc. Yes, there was a hell of a lot of pressure and mental coercion, but at the end of the day, my leaving was still a personal decision.

In the early days of campaigning, I was invited, with another ex-JA, to join a Cult-awareness group; we were among their few token ex-"cultists". Many in this group were very much in favour of deprogramming, a concept premised on the notion that "brainwashing" is real. Since brainwashing was held to be an involuntary mind-altering process, deprogramming sought to reverse the process using similar methods - breaking down brainwashing's structure by imprisonment, sleep and food deprivation, intellectual haranguing and challenging etc.

I felt that my ex-JA friend was being dishonest in claiming that we had been brainwashed, and said so. I told the gathered meeting that what they had to come to terms with was that, yes, their kids HAD chosen to join their respective groups, however inconceivable it might be to them as parents to believe that their kids had rejected their parents' morals etc. I expressed the opinion that deprogramming, because it was based on a false premise, would be counter-productive and might be damaging to its victims. I was no more popular with ex-cultists than I was with the JFC, and in fact it does have to be said that I had some of my most cultic experiences amongst those who supposedly opposed cultism.

I chose to join the JA and so did everyone else. I was not brainwashed. Or, if I was, I did it to myself. I remember long walks where I argued, almost schizophrenically, with myself, trying to reason myself around from my own way of seeing things to the way that fellow JFC people saw things. Why? Because thinking differently from the group was torture. When I joined them I desperately wanted to believe what they believed, so began the tortuous process of converting myself. I am responsible for that; nobody made me.