Moderate extremism

Truth be told, things had gotten a little out of hand. He was definitely willing to admit that. However, there was really nobody around at the time willing to do anything to stop him. It was not his fault he was surrounded by sycophantic yes-men and yea-sayers. The fact that his version of progress did not agree with firefighters and the police, among many others, could hardly be blamed on him. Maybe a little bit, but not the whole thing.

Before I begin explaining, I would very much like to make one thing clear to all of you. Nobody actually plans to be a cult leader. I doubt anyone wakes up one day with the ingenious plan to gain some followers, start a cult and become its leader. Most of the time it is just an escalation of what started as good intentions. Or it’s about money. Or pussy. Or power. I guess there are many reasons, that’s not the point. The point is that hurting people was never a part of my philosophy. It all just got away from me. Others got involved. While I was busy keeping everybody nice and docile, some had more radical plans. Okay, maybe I encouraged them at first. Maybe I gave some terribly convincing speeches about Russia’s scorched earth tactic for example, or the under appreciated genius of Ted Kaczynski. All that fire and violence, it felt justified at first. But soon transformed into the one thing I did not want this group to become. I really tried to avoid becoming just another extremist cult. My followers coined the term: ‘moderate extremism’ which I thought suited us well. Regardless of the oxymoron it actually is.

Right, so it all started as a weekly yoga group basically. Just a really diverse group of people looking for a temporary escape from the shit-show you call society. There were some economic students, a postpartum depressed mom, a postman, a couple of (failed) artists, an ex-prostitute, a nurse, a former convict. We even had a police officer among us. You could say we were a perfect representation of cultural diversity. The one thing we all had in common was that we were generally unhappy. Unhappy with the choices we made, the squandered opportunities or lack thereof, the frustration of failing where others succeeded. Oh, and the yoga thing I guess.

Although quite early in the process, the yoga part of our meetings was put on a back burner. We became more of a therapist group, but without the therapist. And as anybody who has ever done group therapy knows, the therapist is quite essential. You run the risk of it turning into a screaming contest without one. So without it really having been officially established, I sort of took on that role. And I was good at it. Really good.

I don’t want to say it felt like my life was leading up to this point. But maybe I should. Because it was. For the first time ever I knew what my purpose was. It was not cleaning windows, or being a garbage man or working in some factory. It was showing those bunch of losers their potential in this world. A lot of them were under the impression they were put on this earth, so the winners of this world had someone to triumph over. I tried to show them there are no winners at all. We are all losers.

Of course convincing these people of that fact sounds easier than it actually was. Their unhappiness was rooted so deep in their cores you could not just take one part away, I had to replace it with something else. Some other, hopefully less harmful idea. The inspiration for that idea was my father. How ironic now, my always critical, never content dad, was in some way the instigator of my greatest accomplishment. His favorite life lesson to teach turned upside down and appropriated by me to start a cult; he would have been so pissed.

The idea was simple and elegant. My father was always under the impression that what you cannot change in life, you have to accept. In my youth I came to accept that as a universal truth. And it was a hard realization to come to terms with, even as a young kid. Maybe because his idea of rules in life were outdated and did no longer apply. So I just flipped his rule around and placed it in the unconsciousness of our minds, instead of the ‘loser principle’ as I started naming it. Instead of them having to accept what they could never change, I gave them the concept that they could change whatever they would not accept. At the time however, I did not realize there is a huge danger buried within that concept, because it is a concept that stands opposite to our current society’s values. The world how we, as people made it, clashed directly with this idea. We all are taught to accept, not change.

The problem is, ‘change’ is a vague concept at best. In its worstcasescenario it is an excuse to allow for terrorism and fanaticism. And funny enough that is pretty much exactly what happened to us. Well, it’s funny to me -I don’t think the rest would have thought the same, were they able to.

The tendency we had towards ‘evil’ (violence, destruction) did not happen over night. There were a lot of things happening in between. Some because of my instigation, others I had nothing to do with. I just tried to stick to the message we were sharing with others outside of our rapidly growing cult; I call it a cult because it very much was at this point. I don’t know when we started all this crazy shit. Suddenly, we had all these rituals, we drank horse milk exclusively, people started wearing stickers on their foreheads and someone (I suspect the police officer) suggested we all start wearing the same outfit. In the beginning I did try to stop some of the craziness, but if you understand momentum, there is no stopping a train when it has left the station.

And left the station we did. At this time our group consisted of about 150 people. I don’t know where they all came from and honestly, I did not care. I was just excited about the idea of giving these lost people some help. Even though some clearly did not need help but were attracted to the collectivity. Or the expectation of future violence.

By the way, as cult leaders go, you could say I was one of the more friendly and appropriate. I did not take anyone’s money, I did not rape any kids (eat that, catholic church)

and I did not condone an internal hierarchy. Notice I did not say anything about mass suicide, but more on that later. Looking back on it now, I think the lack of a hierarchy was my undoing. When we were just 15 people I was the most charismatic and perhaps most sensitive to others needs. That still applied with 50 people. But when we got as large as 150 people and above, I lost all authority. They started adding their own rules and regulations. Like doors were no longer aloud, just open spaces, every fourth teeth needed to be pulled and possessions were limited to just five items of ones choosing. During this time, I could have simply walked away at any point, I doubt anyone would have noticed. But I did not. In some messed up way I was still proving my father wrong. And I wanted desperately to finish what I started. Little did I know, the finish was in fact closer than I or anyone else could have foreseen.

Things continued in this fashion for some time. But the shift to a darker, more aggressive approach, was noticeable in some people. The idea that destruction was the only wake up call others, outside of our group would hear, did not came from me. Even though, I did not dismiss it right away either. The father that taught me I could change nothing, also planted the idea in my head, every creation brings with it it’s own destruction. And that sometimes bad men are needed to facilitate an ending. Slowly I started to realize more of our people were not afraid to take that role upon themselves. And that scared me. Mainly because as I saw it, this planet was already headed toward its own destruction, even without our help. But for some it clearly did not go fast enough. With pain in my heart, I felt I was the only one able to stop it at this point. My conviction of letting things take its natural course was apparently stronger than my love for these people and the confidence they could still turn it around. As my father did to me, I planted the idea in their heads that a cleansing of all of us would be the most effective way to make the end happen. And what better way to cleanse than with flames. Pure energy that makes something into nothing. No better way to make a statement, I told them. And that was basically it. The more aggressive members of our group quickly appropriated the idea and intensified it even more. Everything would have to burn to set the path for a new form of creation, one not able to contradict itself from the very first moment of existence.

Before I knew it, people were dousing themselves in gasoline. As if it was the most logical and only choice available. I was sad to see my good intentions turned to shit. But also accepted the inevitable. The last thing I remember is looking at the postman, one of the original members, and seeing something that was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. He was crying, but with the biggest smile on his face. He looked back at me and as the smell of gasoline became too overwhelming, he nodded, as if to say, thank you.

Then there was nothing, flames I guess. Hopefully the beginning of something new and exciting. But maybe just an end. Because sometimes, without any lessons learned and no change facilitated, stuff just sort of ends.