Monday, June 27, 2005

My Life With The Kill Pill Cult

The hue and cry about Tom Cruise’s recent Scientologically skewed remarks concerning psychiatry and antidepressants is something I can’t help but take personally.

It seems to me that Tom Cruise must never have suffered from clinical depression. Otherwise, there’s no way in the world he’d ever make such idiotic statements.

As someone who has been helped through some very dark times by both psychiatry and antidepressants, I can’t help but wish I could see Tom come down with a nasty case of depression and panic disorder, only to be told that his only cure is (as he’s suggested) vitamins and exercise. I’d like to hold that bottle of pharmaceutical magic in front of his face as he fell through an endless black hole into a neverending hell and tell him, “Not a problem, Tom. 20 push-ups should clear that right up.” How about that for an impossible mission?

It seems to me that only the very rich can afford this kind of stupidity. At some point, after too much money and adulation, a messianic impulse kicks in and you start to believe that you’re as special as everyone says. At which point you become fresh meat for the crackpots.

I only ever met one celebrity Scientologist and they seemed very agitated and frightened to me.

Cruise’s demeanor, his smug belief in his own correctness regardless of the facts, and the little I’ve read about Scientology all remind me of the only time I ever really came into contact with what I considered cult behavior. I once had a close friend who decided to check out Werner Ehrhard’s EST and was completely swallowed up by it. His entire life changed, as they promised. He could no longer relate to anyone who hadn’t done “the training,” EST’s weekend journey to the center of the mind, and if you wanted to remain friends with him, you had to come to terms with the fact that all you’d get out of him any more was a sales pitch for EST.

Among EST’s cuckoo pronouncements (all crackpot cults require at least a few) was the idea that we are all responsible for everything that happens to us. In other words, get hit by a car, you wanted to be hit by a car. Get cancer, you asked for the cancer. This seems to me to be on a par with Cruise’s “Take two multivitamins and call me after you’ve committed suicide.”

I remember that when I was at a particularly low ebb, I called this friend looking for help and advice. All he had was the same hard-sell sales pitch for You-Know-What. If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn that I’d called a recording.

So I actually did attend one introductory session, out of desperation. When it was over, all the doors were closed and the closest thing I’d ever seen to pod people started to spookily sidle up to each participant, asking them if they’d be interested in pursuing this further and if not, why not. Any negative response was met with an endless list of reasons why they should do “the training.” In fact, they continued to call me for weeks afterwards, badgering me as if “the training” had chased the meaning of the word “no” out of their empty little heads. The whole thing reminded me uncannily of the pressure tactics that are used on you when you visit a car dealership.

Hard to believe that EST was created by a guy who used to be a used car salesman, isn’t it?


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