Yo' Mamma's a Scientologist
Knowledge is a cruel path, summed up fairly early in our culture with the story of Adam and Eve and the fruit. It wasn’t an apple. You can look it up. Anyway, the fruit was the “fruit of knowledge of good and evil,” and once the Edenites took a bite, they understood more about their environment and could judge right from wrong. Thus the fall from grace. The more we know, the less we’re comfortable in our surroundings.
Think of every person who grew up with commercials selling housewives cleaning products, because their homes were too damned dirty. To highlight this, advertisers gayly showed us close-ups of microscopic germs breeding and breeding on our kitchen countertops. They anthropomorphized these germs into dirty little men with pointy teeth and evil intentions. Only strong Mr Clean or Scrubbing Bubbles would make these horrible creatures go away. A century before, surgeons were just learning to wash their hands before cutting someone open. That was a positive change, of course, but since the idea of germs was imbedded into the mass-market mind, we’ve been inundated with anti-bacterial soaps and lotions and foot-powders and toothpastes and wipes and sundries. The effectiveness of these things can be debated, but we demand them, because a little bit of knowledge has turned us all into OCD patients, thinking, “must wash… never be clean… must wash….”
When I was in high school, I was learning a bit about the food chain and our industrialization of it. I do not recommend this course of study if you want to eat your food guilt-free. Still, I never felt too uncomfortable about it, because I can rationalize justifications for eating chicken, even though most of these involve soup being so damned tasty. But in art class, a fellow student told me that she was trying to become vegan and found that the only thing she ended up eating was Twinkies.
Two things to explain about this. First, this was almost twenty years ago, and it was far more difficult to be a suburbanite vegetarian than it is today. There were no Whole Foods or Wild by Natures on Long Island, and McDonald’s idea of a salad, at the time, was the shredded lettuce and re-hydrated onions found on a Big Mac. When you were a teenager and wanted to eat something without bits of meat in it, you invariably turned to junk food.
But, secondly and sadly, many junk foods were still made with lard. Yes, today the fillings in Twinkies, Oreos, and Hostess Cupcakes are made with vegetable shortening, but then each of these were filled with lard and sugar, a crunchy and rich combination, that some purist still lament the passing of. And I had to tell this to poor, sweet, burgeoning vegan Liz in art class. She looked sadly at me and said, “Oh,” like Pooh when he discovered that he ate the fifth and last jar of honey.
A lesson I should have taken from that is to keep knowledge within, and only release that knowledge when entirely necessary, but I don’t do that. I like to tell people constantly that they’re using quotemarks and periods incorrectly, or that George W. Bush actually is dangerously stupid. I think intelligence is just a matter of getting your facts straight, because if you know a little about anything, you can’t believe in Creationism or acupuncture. But intelligent people do believe crazy things, and I am always amazed at their credulity.
And it was with this in mind that I searched around a bit on the web for things about Scientology, as I often do from time to time. You have to be a bit off, I think, to believe that you have a 75 million year old alien living inside of you that is upset about botched abortions that happened to it several millennia ago. Scientology has been in the media again, lately, because of nutty Tom Cruise and his one man mission to make Scientology look even scarier by preaching it’s virtues. I always start off my web journey into the madness of Scientology by reading xenu.net, called Operation Clambake, which compiles tonnes of materials about the Church of Scientology (or Co$ by its detractors), at much personal and financial risk to the operator of the site. Co$ uses lawsuits to scare critics (in Scientology speak SP, or Suppressive Persons) into shutting up. I imagine in the age of the Internet, this is getting harder for Co$ to do, but they try.
In following some links, I came across a simply formatted page listing various players in Hollywood who are involved in Scientology. And there, knowledge burned me. Learning that Giovanni Ribisi was heavily into the Co$ didn’t bother me. Or that much of the cast of That 70’s Show believes that bad science-fiction author, L Ron Hubbard, was akin to a messiah. I kind of laughed when I found out that Jerry Seinfeld took a couple of Scientology courses in the 70s and 80s and felt it helped his career. No, that didn’t matter much.
But Beck and Neil Gaiman, those were two names that surely did not belong on that list.
Beck first. Beck is a second-generation Scientologist, which means he may not have much choice in the matter, but his catalog of music is built upon the cast-about foundations of other genres. He mixes and melds and is obviously a creative and intuitive person. His continued involvement with a dangerous and destructive, pyramid-scheme of a money-making operation is beyond my comprehension. He looked like he wasn’t really a practicing member for much of the 90s, but a break up with a non-Scientologist girl friend sent him spiraling inwards (inspiring the excellent, but somber Sea Change). He is now married to Marissa Ribisi, Giovanni’s twin-sister, ironically enough. The whole Ribisi clan seems to be fully saturated by the Co$.
Gaiman second. He doesn’t talk about it, but his father is BIG in the Co$, so big he runs the church in Russia. Gaiman himself seems to have left, and may be an SP, but his wife may still be involved. This is disheartening and disappointing for several reasons, but my ability to rationalize comes into play again, and I think all is forgiven if he really is a heretic to Scientologists. Should it come out that he is still involved in it, a good chunk of my library is suddenly eBay material (or eBayt, a term I just coined now). I’ll still listen to Beck albums, possibly not enjoying them as much because I question the extent of his genius, but I won’t get rid of those. Why would I treat Gaiman worse?
Because much of his output concerns myths and gods and religions, and Neil Gaiman is a very well-read man. Although he is also second-generation Co$, like Beck, Gaiman has to know better. He could easily look up the dozen of sources that L Ron Hubbard ripped off to create Dianetics and Scientology. As a maker of myths, better myths too, I might add, Gaiman could surely see that Hubbard was no more than a charlatan who got lucky, gettting rich off of people’s ignorance.
But who am I to question beliefs? People wish for strange things, and I don’t pretend to understand them. Is a person who believes that living a decent life and believing in the divinity of the right man will send that person’s invisible and undetectable energy/life force into a plane of pure bliss and light, which is also invisible and undetectable, any less crazy than someone who believes an overlord alien solved overpopulation on 26 planets by freezing much of that population and sending them to planet Earth and bombarding them with atomic bombs under mountains? Well, yes, I think a Christian is less crazy than a Scientologist, honestly.
And is it fair to hold that against someone? This is murky ground on top of a slippery slope. I know it isn’t fair, but the knowledge of it disturbs me, and the road ahead is far more twisty than it was when I didn’t know.
Posted by Jonathan at 01:15 AM, 02 July 2005