Roger Willco

Tin Promises - A Painful Goodbye, Part 4 of 6

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The changes in Danni over the years were so insidious that I hadn’t really recognized them; but I finally realized that I no longer knew her. The sweet guileless woman who only wanted to help others was now totally consumed by her pursuit of material wealth—a pursuit that recognized no bounds. Danni’s rationalization for her ambition was that the more material wealth she possessed, the more resources she’d have to help those in need. However, her expressed motive wasn’t the issue for me. That Danni’s obsession had become the transcendent priority in her life and now overshadowed every aspect of both our lives was the problem.

It was finally clear to me that Danni’s active involvement in MLM’s twisted and isolating culture had become so compulsive and destructive that I could no longer ignore the looming specter of an addiction. MLM’s glittering promises had revealed themselves as worthless counterfeits—nothing more than tin masquerading as gold. Our relationship had lost its magic; and I had been withdrawing more and more from Danni and from life. I could no longer deny that my very survival now depended on me making the change I’d hoped would never be necessary.

I studied Danni’s graceful moonlit silhouette sleeping peacefully next to me; and tears welled up as I realized that the woman I still loved with all my heart had become exactly what I saw—a barely discernable shadow of the woman I had once known.

Finally clear on my only reasonable course, I slipped silently from between the sheets of the bed I knew Danni and I would never again share, gathered a few clothes, packed them in a small suitcase in the next room, took a quick shower, then labored for a few hours over a goodbye letter to her. Knowing I could no longer delay my departure, I slid my packed suitcase into the back seat of our old beater second car and returned to Danni’s bedroom for the last time. Again, I took in her still sleeping form, now clearly visible in the early morning light. Wiping away tears that by now were beyond my control, I leaned over and softly kissed her forehead. It was over; and I was tearing myself away from the woman of my dreams. However, I was also leaving a crumbling life that had inexorably been destroying me.

I’m no angel; and I brought my own issues into Danni’s and my relationship. In fact, I’d become an isolated, brooding and grumpy old guy no one would’ve wanted to be around. It would take me nearly two years to sort through my own garbage enough to finally put most of the puzzle of our relationship’s failure together. Writing this story has been the catalyst that has enabled me to assemble a recognizable picture of our disastrous descent from what started out as an idyllic life together. A lifetime of accumulated baggage for both of us undoubtedly contributed to many difficulties in our relationship. However, it’s crystal clear to me that our involvement in MLM was at the center of everything that tore us apart.

Time and distance from my life on MLM’s fringe is lifting the fog of confusion and depression that engulfed me for much of the time I lived in that sinister world. Intensive self-directed study since I left that life has led me to some solid and carefully considered conclusions:

1. The MLM business model is reliant on “business opportunity” prospects being sold on two foundational fictions:
a. There is an endless chain of prospective distributors.
b. There is a perpetually virgin market for the products offered for sale.
If prospective distributors aren’t at least implicitly convinced these two fictions are actually truths, an MLM cannot even launch, let alone survive.

2. The deceptive behaviors and mind-control practices of MLM are essential for its viability. Distributors who are capable of critical thinking get out when they recognize the logical fallacies on which MLM relies. Therefore, MLM must prevent its distributors from becoming “infected” with critical thought; and cult methodology works efficiently to that end.

3. Most MLM recruits are drawn into MLM’s alternative reality for any of a number of reasons—most having nothing to do with personal character flaws or a lack of native intelligence. The human mind is predisposed to intuitively accept a broad spectrum of logical fallacies. Cults (including MLM) exploit that tendency in order to deceive their victims and induce them to act against their own self-interest. Case in point: Danni was the valedictorian of her high school graduating class, but was still drawn into the false promise of MLM. Another case in point is my own gradual descent into complicity with MLM’s constellation of deceptions; and I hope I’m at least reasonably bright.

4. Only a very few MLM distributors are knowing perpetrators of predatory fraud. However, they do exist; and their prey are new recruits, many of whom become unwitting predators as well. Unaware participants lose their money—sometimes all of it, rack up debt—often insurmountable, sully or destroy many of their personal relationships and forfeit their personal credibility. Most of what they sacrifice in pursuit of the illusory MLM dream can never be recovered.

5. They are victims of the most pervasive and costly ongoing business-opportunity fraud in America—15.6 million victims losing in aggregate, $15 billion in 2012, according to one authoritative source.

6. When these unfortunate victims run out of money, credit and other external means of support, they tiptoe out of the industry—isolated, embarrassed and convinced they were the cause of their own failure. They “didn’t work hard enough,” they “didn’t follow the system well enough” or they “didn’t believe enough”. For those reasons, they seldom complain to regulators. In fact, only 1.4% of consumers who actually realize they’ve been harmed file a complaint with authorities, according to the Federal Trade Commission; and empirical evidence suggests that only a small minority of MLM victims are even aware they’ve been defrauded.

7. At least 99 of every 100 MLM recruits lose their investment and more—completely unaware that their failure was virtually assured. Danni is just one of them. They are unaware because no MLM can reveal the truth to prospective or existing distributors and remain viable. Moreover, the public has been snookered into a belief that MLM’s proffered “business opportunities” level the entrepreneurial playing field to the benefit of the little guy.

8. Depictions of exponential dowline expansion--MLM's premiere drawing card--as pyramids are demonstrably inaccurate and optimistically mythical. A linear graph of a binary (base 2) exponential growth progression actually looks like a flat line with an imperceptible peak in its middle. In fact, the graph of thirty three levels of binary progression (one recruits two, who each recruit two and so on), in which each level is represented as one inch high and each participant is represented as one inch wide, would be thirty three inches high and more than 67,000 MILES wide. That’s wide enough to wrap around the circumference of the earth nearly three times. It would encompass the entire human population of our planet—including every man, woman and child plus another 1.5 billion.

No MLM can survive without being deceptive. For that reason, the industry is incapable of self-regulation. Unfortunately, most state and federal government agencies charged with protecting the public from fraud don’t step into the regulatory void. So MLM scams roll on, crushing their millions of victims with impunity year after year and decade after decade. MLM, with its tin promises and nefarious mind control has damaged Danni immeasurably—defrauding her, her downline and her customers and leading to her divestiture of normative social values.

And me? I’m collateral damage—just one among tens of thousands of others who’ve lost loved ones to MLM’s thickly veiled depravity. I sacrificed my self respect on the altar of expedience—my judgment clouded by my own emotional needs, and my discounting of what seemed at the time to be harmless departures from time-proven social and ethical principles. In the process, I injured unwary distributors and hope-filled disease sufferers by carelessly encouraging them to become victims of MLM’s tangled web of deceit.

I’m out now; and I’m grateful for that. As I sit at my desk, completing yet another revision of my story, I’m struck by how each iteration—each telling—brings new realizations to the surface. Each one makes the story longer; but each also makes the picture for me more complete.

This experience won’t discourage me from trying new things or thinking in new ways. Openness to change has always enriched my life and helped me understand those who live differently from the way I do, who see things differently from the way I do and who look different from me. However, during my life in MLM, a voice from deep within was always there, warning me to “Be cautious. Something isn’t right. You may be harming others. You may be betraying who you are.” Knowing now how painful it is to face the reality of my failures during those years . . . how it haunts me to know I can never make right the damage I’ve done, I’ll never again ignore that cautionary voice.

“Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight,
Red is gray and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion.”
— Justin Hayward, 1967

(To be continued )

© 2014, Roger Willco, All rights reserved.

Links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, Part 6
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Updated 02-15-2016 at 05:49 AM by Roger Willco

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  1. NikSam's Avatar
    Roger, take your time, but know there are people who are waiting for more :)
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