The first step in creating a cult is to brainwash people.
Stand up. Look into the mirror. Point your index finger on your head? Ask yourself aloud: “Mustapha B Mugisa, I am in control of my mind?” replace my name with yours. If you cannot question all the things, they ask you to do, you are likely not to be in control of your mind and destiny. The bad with brainwashing is the inability to differentiate good from the bad. One tends to do anything they are asked even when such a thing is very bad.
In institutions that thrive on killing, mistreatment of people or meting out punishments on others, the first step in brainwashing is to assault on one’s identity – to undermine your values, beliefs and personal ‘soul. ‘This is done deliberately and consistently until the target yields. If you are a proud Muganda or Munyankore or Munyoro or any other tribe you may think of, your identity will be attached to make it appear weak, inferior or something not good to associate with. The way most local people look at African traditions as if they are inferior and not ideal thereby making true Africans appear out of place. We all want to associate ourselves with everything Western. You get the idea.
In the powerful book, The Manipulated Mind, Denise Winn, gives a good account of how about 7190 American prisoners of war held in China were brainwashed and changed. Their tormentors started by attacking their identity as Ámericans’ being valueless compared to their Chinese captors.
Then you are made to be guilty. You are accused of all sorts of crimes. As if attacking your identity is not enough, your identity is also attached for being bad. Your antagonists will put all sorts of cases on you and your identity so that you feel guilty. It is double jeopardy, so you think. But this is calculated to break you and your beliefs and your followers down. That is the human condition. If you lack identity, you are alone and lost. If the identity you once associated with is accused of having caused mayhem and suffering to the rest, you want to run away from such identity, don’t you?
As you start running away from your identity, you are made to admit guilt. There is nothing bad like self-guilt. Denise Winn, writes, that punishments are meted if you do not admit. These may be sometimes complemented with favors. For example, a prisoner of war who has not been given water for two days may accept anything if the water is offered! This is done until one reaches a breaking point.
Thereafter, you are allowed to confess and ask for leniency. Once you ask for leniency, another party may be created to which all the guilt is channeled. Because you confessed, you don’t want to go there. Someone must be identified to which guilt is channeled. Now, this becomes the enemy. In the psychology of brainwashing, the identified enemy for which guilt is channeled is the enemy your brainwashers want you to hate and fight. It could be the general masses. Or it could be another race or tribe. It can be anything. We know most religions teach justice over torture. For that reason, cults will undermine other cultures or religions because religion – traditional or otherwise, makes people think of potential consequences after death for their deeds. Cult leaders surround themselves with sycophants who they brainwash to only respect their leader while undermining everyone else including those people who work for the same leader!
So, point your index figure on your temple, next to your forehead. Are you in charge?
The only way to overcome brainwashing is to reverse the process you went through. If it took 12 months for you to get fully brainwashed. You will need the same period to get un-brain washed. The biggest challenge is most victims do no realize that they have been brainwashed.
That is why you see people one would respect write or defend positions that are not accurate. That is the power of brainwashing. Brainwashing is sustained by providing ongoing rewards to the sycophants such that they continue the respect of the cult leader and their wanton interests without question. Because they have access to the instruments of power and resources, they can easily give privileges and wealth to anyone who sings their name high.
That is why some cult leaders in the world, including ours in Uganda, have continued to thrive. You find young people distributing posters by the roadside even when it is raining because they expect blessings in the form of money and privileges like being mentioned by name during the gathering. It is such small rewards that continue making people go to do things that they do not like. Because it takes long to un-brain wash someone, they must make it their agenda – by seeking knowledge. One must conduct self-study. Read a book. That gives the best freedom of all. The discipline of seeking knowledge on one’s initiative by reading books is the best freedom.
During this #covid19 lockdown, may you be freed? May you search for knowledge. May you use this time reading great books like religious books, philosophy books, biographies, and non-fictional books and novels.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.