Posts Tagged ‘Cults’


See the source imageJoe Exotic is a private zoo-internet-reality television personality and Tiger King is the story of what his world looks like. I bring this up as, with physical distancing having something that can provoke discussion with family, or friends online is never a bad thing. Also it shines a light on the private zoo and exotic animal rescue industry in the USA, as my wife would comment to our daughter, “we can buy a tiger for way cheaper than a Corgi for you.”, that and the fact that there is 4,000 tigers in the wild, and they estimate between 5,000 to 10,000 in captivity in the USA just sets the stage.

In the course of the documentary and following the winding road, you meet a drug cartel lord and his rationale for what he does based on his love of animals. An animal rescue couple, with hinky things in their past, and watch closely and ask yourself if what she is doing is any different than the private zoos? It is an intriguing conversation episode by episode as the story unfolds.

Within the private zoo movement those shared you meet hustlers, odd balls, ex-cons that can find a new life finally. But there is a darker stream, and yes this is darker than the big cat mill breeding for cubs as the major money maker is the photo ops with a cub and petting a cub that see the cats only making major money in their first 12 weeks of life. There is darker stories that happen as well, when you see the outcomes of the capitalism. The other thing, is seeing how the animals are used as leverage in building communes and cult like levels of obedience.

This is done, through constant work, sleep deprivation, shared purpose. In one private zoo it is polygamy, where the owner has multiple wives and if the thread is followed properly that he groomed through the previous means, through an intern project.

In the life of the Tiger King, what is seen is the grooming of multiple husbands in his fiefdom, flouting of laws, amassing of debt and the anxiety it creates, growing psychosis and what happens when there is not a healthy social support net around someone in the journey…

Each episode creates points of conversation, and moments of what the? But as one watches you can see real time mental illness and cult leader like behaviours within the community, and the question that needs to be asked though is what is the remedy for this, a healthy resolution for the animals, the staff, and those caught in the rising tide?

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It is intriguing for some who view what I share in regard to media. Once you remove the political and true crime geek side of me, what is usually shared is tied to the world of cults, and not the innocuous ones that in a 100 years society will just accept as standardized religion-spirituality, but rather the abusive-murderous ones.  The question arose this week as to why? And was there a central theme within.

I am a student of human behaviour. I believe it comes from being a fiction writer that enjoys science fiction and mysteries (which is an out growth of the world of literature the comic writers of my youth opened me up to). To truly write well, you have to understand the subject which is the world. But why the cults?

Let’s accept a few things first which may be hard to stomach (and no it is not repeating the academic definition of cult that it is a collective of like minded individuals):

  • All current religions at one point or time were viewed as a heresy/cult of the mainstream when they started.
  • As one comic book writer phrased it while they were putting together Lex Luthor’s run for president in 2000. A great villain like Lex Luthor does not make his decisions based on him knowing he is the villain of the story, no, Lex is great at being a villain because he truly believes he is the hero of the story and can do no wrong for in his world he is the pure of heart.

We enter stories such as the Oasis centre in Edmonton; the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saint’s in Bountiful, B.C.; Nvixm in British Columbia, and Raelism in Quebec to name but a few close to home.  This does not touch upon the more mainstream of hale bop, Japan’s suicide cult, Jamestown, or Waco, Texas. The weird side note aside of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. It does not touch upon the smaller movements that go unnoticed or unreported.

Yet it also does not touch upon those that may not end in sexual abuse or death, but those that leverage a person’s belief system for financial abuse. Whether it is driving a prosperity gospel, a “those who are deserving will get wealth” or the 20th century indulgence peddler that was the televangelist that fell from grace.

In the moment, they all shared their own theme, much like Lex Luthor they were out for power, prestige and yes, they believed and currently believe they are doing right.

In the moments, they become cautionary real-life parables for those that we in trust our intrinsic worth too. Yet, for the clear majority that enter helping professions or cleric roles this will never develop for there is something within the person that takes them down that path. It is a switch that may have switched before they started the journey or during the journey that allowed them to see the world through the lens that they are the supreme being and the only way.

It is patterns within cults you can see within mass murderers, spree killers and serial killers. To the lesser point, the break that causes the one that acts in isolation. To those that partner and you will see escalation (look to the case of Bernardo-Homolka, from serial rapist to serial killer once he partnered with her).

But even more than those that run these movements or partnerships, what is even more astounding one can say is how they attract followers?

That is not a hard question to answer. Anyone who has studied the hate movements or youth gang movements fully understand what drives these groups thriving even with all the reality shows, media coverage, documentaries, studies, criminal cases, and academic literature on the subject.  It is one simple desire for the human being that our world has slowly been pushing out since the mid-20th century with the drive to keep up the Jones’:

B-E-L-O-N-G-I-N-G.

Think about that. We have created such an isolating society that allows for isolation, segregation and loss of worth that these groups can proliferate. It is what happens when we shift from an understanding of a person as having intrinsic worth because they are a person, and want to treat them with dignity simply because they are our neighbour and not a number or a budget line.

Why my fascination with cults?

Simply put it shows when we fail as a society to compassionately respond with a Just Society to the question of who is my neighbour?

It shows when as a person we fail to be a compassionate neighbour to our neighbour. And yes it can be as simple just being friendly, a simple smile, a hello.

What is being a neighbour about?

Building a world, a country, a province, a city, a neighbourhood, a home that moves beyond labels to define and segregate. It is about creating space of belonging.

This week, what are you going to do to be a neighbour?