Cult of personality

What we learn from cults is that they emerge from the most unexpected of places and situations


Zorain Nizamani April 06, 2022
The writer is a lawyer based in Karachi

Certain individuals, ever since their birth, are kept in a protected environment; they are brought up under controlled conditions where all their wishes and demands are immediately fulfilled. Such kids grow up to be vindictive, self-centred, attention thirsty conquerors who never take no for an answer. Their brains are wired to always get what they want.

Delinquents like these also pose an immense threat to society due to their nature towards being ‘people-pleasers’. They say all the things people want to hear and they exploit people’s insecurities to get what they want. Affirmation and validation invigorate them, they like to be the centre of attention at all times. Every now and then, narcissists like these might even pull off stunts which may be frowned upon.

But they are smart and studious. These rebels thrive on interfering with the public sentiment. Using the rhetoric of religion is what they are good at. Once they know what moves people, they keep touching on those notions repeatedly. They gain popularity amongst the masses by addressing their claims, albeit erroneous. Once they gain enough following, they bring on board hordes of like-minded people in order to form their own cult. Followers of this cult then go to alarming lengths to protect the views and actions of their esteemed leader. Their leader may even go as far as killing and breaking laws and his followers will blindly justify all his actions. If push comes to shove, his followers will offer their lives to protect him.

We see individuals like these everywhere, they are in parliament, they run businesses, they own factories and if you’re lucky, they might even run to become president or prime minister.

Charles Manson, a notorious cult leader, committed a series of nine murders through the aid of his followers, who believed he was Jesus Christ. Manson advocated the idea that all politicians were sham and the government didn’t care about its people. Ironically, he was also a vocal environmentalist and encouraged mass tree plantations. Ring any bells?

Manson was eventually convicted of murder of the actor Sharon Tate and California residents Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. His followers carried out most of the gruesome killings but they believed Manson was Jesus Christ and whatever he said was true and had to be done. His followers carried out all his orders upon the promise that Manson would lead them to a ‘promised land’. Sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?

Eventually, Manson and his followers were put behind bars. Although one of his followers, Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme went as far as attempting to assassinate the then president of the United States Gerald Ford in 1975. Such is the impact these cult leaders have on their followers that they would even kill if their leader asked them to. Manson was a different breed though, so was Reverend Jim Jones. The charismatic cult leader who instructed his followers to commit mass suicide by drinking poison. No less than 913 people committed suicide at his directions. He later committed suicide by shooting himself.

What we learn from cults is that they emerge from the most unexpected of places and situations. They may form through political parties or your national cricket team, who knows. All you need is one charismatic, self-centred figurehead who makes people feel loved. Once you achieve that, you need a couple of bad sheep who have smudged reputations and have had a history with the state institutions. Once all this is done, you have the perfect recipe for disaster. Oh, did I mention hordes of uneducated masses who easily get agitated upon the rhetoric of religion? That’s where our cult leader thrives. He knows these zealots love him.

Look around you and make sure you aren’t a part of a cult because most of the times, sane, lucid people are unaware that they’re following a leader who is bent upon having his wishes fulfilled. Be vigilant, question and don’t blindly follow what everyone’s doing. Introspect before the country implodes.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2022.

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