Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In This Case, Stupid Is Good (Yeah: It's A First)

First, a confession: Some 25 years ago a friend talked me into spending a load of money and considerable time to attend an Erhard Sensitivity Training seminar; est, as it was called — with lower case letters — was like a rip-off of Scientology, Zen Buddhism, and numerous feel-good philosophies, cobbled together into an upwardly mobile way of thinking and talking that was part of the "human potential movement."

You probably don't remember that, either. It went the way of disco and mood rings, but for a few years it was hailed as the breakthrough of the ages, allowing human beings to transcend themselves, attain happiness, fulfillment, prosperity, and peace with all people: est ultimately disappeared in a welter of litigation, acrimony, and IRS claims.

I guess I was too thick or slow or stupid, but I never got on board,...
-- The very-smart Will Mordock, of the Charleston City Paper, on Self-Improvement schemes.


  1. EST is alive and well in Landmark Forum - minus some of the more controversial exercises. It is all marketed slickly and now has access to corporations, schools, gov't employers - as something to attend that "may help you". Of course - Scientology is kicking itself for being registered as a religion - they get the tax breaks - but your boss can't make you attend a religious event as easy as he/she can suggest you attend a Landmark self-improvement seminar. I did it about 6 years ago - a friend paid for it so I agreed to attend. Minor psychobabble - coupled with things modern city people may find uncomfortable- such as no leaving to go to the bathroom - chairs jammed together to restrict personal space - REALLY long days - etc - with a hard sell on continung other events and bringing friends at the end to attend. The exercises are a cobbled group of rip-offs from other philosophers/groups/ therapies - so that when you reach an ah-ha or feel-good moment - the connection is made that the Forum made that happen - that it (the forum) in itself is the answer to life. Makes me want to vomit. The mental and physical discomfort so cleverly designed to keep one unsettled doesn't hold a candle to military Basic Training - which is about two months of being unsettled to say the least. I sat through the entire weekend - watched how people the first day were like - "this is crap" - but slowly by the end of the second day everyone was buying in and drinking the Kool-Aide - because at $350 - people want to see that they are getting their money's worth AND humans in groups are some of the dumbest F*&^ing animals on the planet and will follow whoever is the leader. The threat of public humiation and pointedly severe peer-presure also helps to make everyone play along and have breakthrough after breakthrough or whatever they called it. They gave us all name tags and we had to turn them in at each break and pick them up when coming back in. That way they had instant attendance stats. Oh, and we had to go to lunch in groups - and people would tell on one another if someone was talking bad about the training during the break. ah, human nature....