This is Stefan Molyneux. He runs Freedomain Radio, which is the (internet) domain with the single largest internet traffic for a site about philosophy. It is his full time job – he makes videos and podcasts all day, and lives entirely on the donations of those who support him.

Many call him a cult leader. In this video, it is not hard to determine the plaintiffs’ reasoning. He advises others to use social relationships as a tool to get others to do what you want. If the “manipulation” fails, then his course of action is to shame them and punish them, or even cut them off completely. If the average person executes this,  he will simply make himself grow old righteous and angry, yet without any friends and often without being at all productive – identical to any religious zealot, conspiracy theorist, or a cult follower.

There’s a lot of literature on how cult leaders work, even a list of some number of criteria that one must fit. Something about being the sole source of comfort, or so on and so on. I will not get into that here. It is not particularly relevant to me whether or not on the largest scale of things if Molyneux is a cult leader or not. Even if he is, I believe his course of action as stated in the above video is correct. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a murderer or a thief, you can still tell a truth.

If you honestly believe in something with your whole being, what he advises is indeed the ultimate course of action.

The purpose of relationship IS to get people to do what you want. You don’t make friends with just anyone. They must be people who are useful to you in some way. Whether they buy you things, give you company, help you do work, or keep you up when you are down – these are all SERVICES they are providing you. They don’t have to do things for you. Why would a person otherwise identical to any stranger off the street do things for you? There is absolutely nothing “cold” or “unfeeling” about this analysis. All interaction is manipulation by definition. This issue only arises on the interpreters end (read: your fault if you see it that way), when one thinks that only oneself is the actor, doing “cheap” and “disgraceful” things to “the world” to get a selfish desire fulfilled.

The issue does not come into existence if the perspective was maintained consistently. For if you are my friend solely because you provide me benefit, why would I be your friend? Of course, because I also provide you benefit. Regardless of if it is less, in which case I would be accumulating debt to you I must later repay, or if it is more, in which case I can call upon my extra investment at any time, or if it is equal, it is always an exchange between two parties. Indeed, it is by definition the best of interactions – both you and your friend have temporarily agreed, from the “peace and calamity” of the rest of the world, to have regular and predictable relations.

“Would you eat dirt if I asked you to do that?”

“If you would ask it I would… but you would not ask that, would you?”

“Of course not.”

– Amir and Hassan, The Kite Runner

Continuing our economic analogy, if I can show you that my history is full of successful entrepreneurship, that I have significant income, and my net worth is nothing to be trifled with, you will have no qualms about selling me whatever or doing for me whatever I paid the money for.

If I am a good enough friend to you, you will do whatever I want, whenever I want it.

In an unprefaced situation, people would normally read only the: “you will do whatever I want, whenever I want it.” As usual, half the point and completely incorrect.

This is because while it is very easy for people of today to think of what they want to do, they don’t really think about what they have to do to get there. As a result and because relationships are always two party exchanges, people end up failing at both getting others to do what they want and acknowledging that they must do what another wants at the most crucial of times.  Molyneux’s advice is akin to a lesson in the math book – he lays out the principles and the foundations. IF you believe in something strongly and IF you have good friends (or “IF you have been a good friend”, assuming you only work for those who work for you), then they will come with you to vote for Ron Paul in the primary, or whatever else it is that you want them to do. This scales up and down as the importance of the event and the “price paid” for the friend fluctuates. You wouldn’t ask a random pretty lady to help you hide a body if you had to kill someone. You wouldn’t make a huge deal out of demanding and threatening your friend to go and make you instant noodles because you don’t feel like going to the kitchen at the moment.

Indeed, if your calculations are accurate, there should not be any conflict at all. Ideally,

“Can you do this for me?”

“Sure, give me a moment.”

is what all interactions should ever be, no matter what the event is or who the friend is. Optimally, you have “invested”/”saved” enough, so that you don’t even have to ask. If you’ve saved a person from major depression or brought them to the hospital a few times, they should take a bullet for you without you even thinking about it.

Molyneux has to lay out the second section because people don’t know when they need to do others a favor. Everybody who calls Molyneux a cult leader does so because people don’t know how much they’ve already done for others. The “cult leader” is correct. If you have poured your life and passion into someone who only ever treats you like a dick, you need to drop them. This is the philosophy always encouraged by those who have happiness in their lives: “If someone is negative to you, stop talking to them”. Same concept here, scaled up. The criticizers are also correct though. Both can be explained by one thing (or rather, the lack of one thing), and it’s really nice that our language and culture still retains this concept. It would be a humongous fucking bore if I had to write out a bajillion pages explaining this very basic idea.

If we had this, that is, that both friends have this, then none of this would ever be a problem. But we don’t have it:



One thought on “Cults

  1. Pingback: It’s Never Over « rezzealaux

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