Amway business opportunity, an invitation to commit financial suicide
Despite their deceptive external presentation as innocent 'Direct Selling Companies,' we have seen the frightening evidence that organizations like 'Amway' are not just hiding fraud, but also cultism. I know that you have close contact with various individuals in India who, like myself, have witnessed their family members undergo a sudden nightmarish personality transformation as a result of becoming involved with 'Amway'. Yet, to the average person (including many journalists and judges), it can seem impossible that adults can be persuaded to harm themelves and their friends and relatives (sometimes for decades) in the deluded belief that, in 'Amway,' they have found a proven path to prosperity, happiness and freedom; or that adult minds can be programmed systematically to exclude any quantifiable evidence and all free-thinking individuals telling them that the so-called 'Amway Business Opportunity' is nothing more than a dangerous fairytale - an invitation to commit financial suicide, written in a hypnotic, thought-stopping jargon which completely inverts reality.
I don't know about India, but in Britain there is nothing to prevent wealthy cult bosses from creating, and/or subverting, their own 'cult advice associations' in order to obstruct investigation of their crimes. In the mid-1990s, I contacted (separately) two (apparently independent) cult advice associations registered as ‘charities’ in the UK, ‘Catalyst’ and the ‘Cult Information Centre,’ with urgent concerns about my elderly, widowed mother’s safety after my only brother (a previously-dissatisfied schoolteacher from the North of England) had fallen head over heels in love with ‘Amway.’ At the time, my brother had moved into my mother’s home. He was in a state of self-righteous euphoria - filling the house with bizarre, quasi-religious books, magazines and tapes. Soon, he had quit his job after giving my mother the illusion that she’d made a free choice to sign-over half of everything she owned into his name. It was impossible to reason with my brother. He was regularly reciting scripted statements to the effect that:
‘In the future, all supermarkets’ would ‘be finished in the UK,’ because the ‘Amway Business Model’ was ‘taking over’… ‘whining critics and losers’ who hadn’t the ‘guts to try to achieve their Dreams’ would soon ‘kick themselves’, because there were ‘billions of pounds at stake.’
In ignorance, I had assumed that Graham Baldwin (director of ‘Catalyst’) and Ian Howarth (director of ‘CIC’) were free-thinking individuals who specialized in the study of cults, and who provided independent advice, and accurate information, to enquirers. However, I soon discovered that they were, in fact, unqualified persons under contract as paid ‘consultants on cultism’ to ‘Amway UK Ltd.’ Consequently, both systematically excluded all quantifiable evidence to the contrary, and steadfastly pretended that ‘Amway’ is a multi-national corporation offering individuals a ‘Business Opportunity’ and that my concerns about ‘Amway’ being a cult were ridiculous, unfounded rumours spread by the organization’s commercial competitors and repeated by ill-informed journalists. Amazingly, this was in reference to ‘Amway’ having been profiled in the UK (in 1994) in a major ‘Time Out’ magazine article entitled ‘Hidden Persuaders’ (published despite typical, empty threats from the legal representatives of ‘Amway UK’). This ‘special investigation’ by News Editor, Tony Thompson, was headed:
‘Amway says it can make you rich beyond your dreams with its multi-level marketing system; critics say it only makes money for a very few at the top, and its techniques are worryingly cult-like.’
Far from being ill-informed, Tony Thompson (who, subsequently, became Crime Correspondent for Britain’s prestigious ‘Guardian’ newspaper) had cited the work of professor Robert Jay Lifton (one of America’s foremost psychiatric authors) who, in 1961 (after 10 years research, interviewing US servicemen held prisoner during the Korean War), published, ‘Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.’ In this standard, medical text-book, professor Lifton identified 8 ‘themes’ which, if present in any group, indicate that its members are being subjected to a mixture of social, psychological and physical pressures, designed to produce radical changes in their individual beliefs, attitudes and behaviour:
1). ‘Milieu control’ — the attempted control of everything an individual experiences (i.e. sees, hears, reads, writes and expresses). This includes discouraging subjects from contacting friends and relatives outside the group and undermining trust in exterior sources of information; particularly, the independent media.
2). ‘Personal or mystical manipulation’--charismatic (psychologically dominant) leaders create a separate environment where specific behaviour is required; leading to group members believing that they have been chosen and that they have a special purpose. Normally group members will insist that they have not been coerced into group membership, and that their new way of life and beliefs are the result of a completely free-choice.
3). ‘Demand for purity’ —-everything in life becomes either pure or impure, negative or positive, etc. This builds up a sense of shame and guilt. The idea is promoted that there is no alternative method of thinking or middle way, to that promoted by the group or by those outside it. Everything in life is either good or bad and anything is justified provided the group sanctions it as good.
4). ‘Confession’ —-personal weaknesses are admitted to, to demonstrate how group membership can transform an individual. Group members often have to rewrite their personal histories and those of their friends and relatives, denigrating their previous lives and relationships. Other techniques include group members writing personal reports on themselves and others. Outsiders are presented as a threat who will only try to return group members to their former incorrect thinking.
5). ‘Sacred science’ —-the belief in an inexplicable power system or secret knowledge, derived from a hierarchy who must be copied and who cannot be challenged. Often the group's leaders claim to be followers of traditional historical figures (particularly, established political, scientific and religious thinkers). Leaders promote the idea that their own teaching will also benefit the entire world, and it should be spread.
6). ‘Loading the language’ —-a separate vocabulary used to bond the group together and short-circuit critical thought processes. This can become second nature within the group, and talking to outsiders can become difficult and embarrassing. Derogatory names, or directly racist terms, are often given to outsiders.
7). ‘Doctrine over persons’ —-individual members are taught to alter their own view of themselves before they entered the group. Former attitudes and behaviour must then be re-interpreted as worthless, and/or dangerous, using the new values of the group.
8). ‘Dispensing of existence’ —-promotion of the belief that outsiders — particularly, those who disagree with the teaching of the group — are inferior and are doomed. Therefore, they can be manipulated, and/or cheated, and/or dispossessed, and/or destroyed. This is justifiable, because outsiders only represent a danger to salvation.
To give your readers some idea of how outrageous ‘Amway’ apologists’ denial of reality can be: In his capacity of spokesman for the ‘Cult Information Centre’ (which, despite its impressive-sounding handle, is a one man band) Ian Howarth has published an elementary explanation of cults in which he mentions professor Robert Jay Lifton. Given the fact that he must, therefore, have read ‘Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism,’ how then is it possible that Mr. Howarth could have:-
- accepted to act as a paid ‘consultant on cultism’ for an organization where the presence of all Lifton’s 8 ‘themes’ is so blindingly obvious?
- sought to undermine my trust in external sources of information?
There can be no doubt that not only Messrs. Howarth’s and Baldwin's moral cowardice, but also their employment contracts with ‘Amway UK Ltd.,’ will continue to preclude them from facing the truth.