Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Cult of MLM

MLM schemes are cult-like because they are cults.

I never have addressed the cult of MLMs directly in this blog - or dwelt on it much.  I guess I figured if you could read this far, you're smarter than to fall for such an obvious scheme.   And obvious it is, to anyone with half a brain.   You can't just keep adding layers of "distributors" indefinitely and still be able to sell product.  And selling products is a task that requires low overhead and great efficiency - as the margins are razor-thin.   Anytime someone tries to interest you in a business deal that just involves selling things that people can buy elsewhere, ask yourself what you are bringing to the table to make the experience different.  Chances are, you aren't.

But what interested me about this topic was something I read recently on an online forum of people who are against MLMs - which is about as astute as being against ISIS.  I mean, duh, being against bad things takes no special insight.   Down with bad!  Up with good!  We're freaking geniuses!  As you might expect, many of the members of this group were former MLM "distributors" themselves, who like former Scientologists, just can't let it go.

And they illustrated how the methods and techniques of these MLM cults were just like other cults - using love bombs, gaslighting, and other psychological techniques to confuse and convince people to hand over all their money - and their very lives - to the cult.   Same shit, different guru.

One of the writers was talking about how they were going to "talk their friend out of" joining an MLM cult.  I thought to myself, "what a waste of time!"

Why?  A number of reasons.

First, you are trying to convince someone of something using your amateur persuasion skills.  Good luck with that.   You see, your "friend" will go running back to the MLM people (or the cult guru, take your pick) saying, "my friend says all of this is a ripoff!"   And the MLM people, using their finely honed psychological and persuasion skills, will convince your friend that you are wrong (and just jealous, of course) and what's more, encourage her to sever the friendship (a blessing-in-disguise for you) which is something that cults typically do - get people to sever ties with family and friends and other "non-believers".

The cults are prepared for your amateur intervention. They've seen this all many times before and have well-packaged responses ready.

So, you are just wasting your time.   Your friend is a gullible type, easily taken in - a sheep about to be slaughtered by the wolves.  And just in case the wolves don't finish eating her still-breathing corpse, she will sign up for another MLM later on.   Even if you succeed in talking them out of joining the MLM cult, she will probably join another one.   People who are prone to joining cults and whatnot will always be vulnerable this way, and the moment you turn your back, they will join.  So you are playing whack-a-mole here, "saving" your friend from one peril, but they will shortly put themselves into another one - the friend with the perpetual problem strikes again.

(And I say "she" as women are more likely to be drawn in to MLM schemes than men.  Most of these MLM products, are aimed at women - cosmetics, fashions, jewelry, oils and incense, kitchenware, and so forth).

You need to find new friends, seriously.   As I noted before, if you have friends who do drugs, you will end up doing drugs.  If you have friends who are drunks, you will probably become a drunk.  If you have friends who are Republicans.... perish the thought! So the longer you hang out with people who believe in something-for-nothing, the more likely you are to drink the Kool-Aid and end up part of the pod people.

But then there is the really ugly part.  You have to look deep inside yourself and ask why you are trying to talk your friend out of this and where it will lead you.   Are you trying to play the hero here, hoping  your "friend" will be eternally grateful for your sage advice which saved them thousands (nay, tens of thousands) of dollars?   In your intervention fantasy, are you the hero like Indiana Jones, swinging in on a rope at the last minute to save the day?  In short, are you doing this to help your friend, or help yourself?

A dark question, to be sure.   Altruism is always suspect, and often people who claim to be altruistic are, in reality, evil people - sometimes just a little bit evil, but evil nevertheless.  You can't save people from themselves, and the very act of trying is somewhat narcissistic.  If you are carrying a balance on your credit card from month-to-month, you got no bidness telling others much about anything.  Spend that energy getting your own house in order, let your friend drive their car off a cliff, and find new friends.

Besides, your friend will probably argue that driving a car off a cliff is just a clever and smart shortcut to the bottom of the mountain (as opposed to all that pesky driving) and they are in to the secret tips 'n  tricks to driving off cliffs.   So just save your breath.

But, let's assume that your motivations are as pure as the driven snow and you can convince your friend that the MLM scheme is a con-job, and the MLM people are unable to persuade her otherwise.   Where do you go from there?

You see, the friendship is now dynamically altered forever.   It is no longer a peer-to-peer relationship where you two are equals.  No, no.  Now you are the sage adviser and in charge of looking out for your friend, who feels like a fool or idiot for even getting caught up in the MLM scheme.  Expect the friendship to peter out, over time, as a result.

No one wants to have a friend who can constantly lord over them as a superior.   People want to relate on a peer-to-peer level.  It gets awkward, to say the least, when you try to socialize with people above or below your social status (or people who merely believe themselves to be above or below your social status).  A poorer and less-educated person than yourself may feel intimidated by you and it makes it harder to relate with them.   People with greater education and wealth may think you are a yahoo and want nothing to do with you. I've been in both situations, and it is awkward to say the least.   Even though I do have a law degree and Engineering degree, there are some folks who look down at me as some "mere tradesman".

Similarly, I have had trouble interacting with people from lower social status groups, who don't think I am an aficiado of tractor pulls or demolition derbies - particularly the figure-8 kind.  OK, so maybe I am white trash.   But I think you can appreciate both Opera and the State Fair, without being an elitist or a bumpkin.   Others are less sure.

So, it is likely, that even if you succeed in talking your friend out of the MLM cult - or any other cult for that matter - the odds are, it will ruin the friendship down the road.

So, maybe a better idea is just to move on with life, realize you can't save people from themselves, and while there is a lot of injustice in the world, the MLM people are just the tip of the iceberg - and they do require the willing cooperation of their victims in their schemes, unlike, say, the guy who shoves a gun in your face and demands your money.