Roger Willco

Tin Promises - Tin Promises Turn Deadly, Part 6 of 6

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The prior weekend, Ethan had been invited to help staff an initial mini-seminar sponsored by the same cult he was confident had helped him so much in the past. It was held several hundred miles from where Ethan lived, so he stayed in the local sponsorís home.

Sometime mid-seminar Ethan phoned Danni, upset that heíd violated his obligation to participants by sharing too much about his own personal struggles. In subsequent calls to her over the next several days, he told her that he was [obsessively] studying the cult-founderís written manifesto. Apparently, no facilitator, seminar staffer or his host realized that Ethan was in emotional crisis. They simply didnít have the knowledge or expertise to recognize it.

After the seminar, Ethan returned to his home near the university he attended. By midweek, his continuing bizarre behavior had alarmed his long-time girlfriend. She phoned her dad who owned the house in which they were living; and he came over to tell Ethan heíd have to find someplace else to live until he got some psychiatric help.

Danni received another call from Ethan that morning in which he told her of his unraveling situation. She was out of town for the day; but she reassured him with an invitation to move in with her until his circumstances stabilized. That call would be Ethanís final communication with anyone in his family.

An hour later, a friend of Danniís, Joanne, arrived at Danniís house to feed her menagerie of birds and cats. As she let herself in, she noticed Ethan sitting on the front room sofa, reading aloud from the cult guruís manifesto as if delivering a sermon. As a puzzled Joanne wished him a good morning, Ethan, without acknowledging her greeting or saying another word, set his book on the coffee table, pulled a small-caliber revolver from his backpack and pressed its muzzle against the right side of his upper neck. Joanne, now panicked, ran back outside and to the house next door to call 9-1-1. At almost the same moment the spring-loaded screen door slammed shut with a bang behind her, she thought she also heard a second report that sounded to her like it could have been a gunshot.

Minutes later, police found Ethan, slumped onto his left side on his motherís sofa, his legs askew and dangling to the floor. He wasnít breathing. His book was open, face down on the coffee tableóas if he had intended to pick it up again, and his handgun lay beside him on the sofa near his empty right hand. The officers found a nearly bloodless gunshot wound just below and behind his right ear. His handgunís deadly missile had obliterated his brainstem and Ethan had died instantly.

So ended the life of an amazing young man, full of promise, full of care for everyone whose life he touched and loved by all who knew him. Hundreds attended Ethanís memorial, listening to his grieving friends and brothers tearfully recount his delightful personality, his intellectual curiosity, his openness, his honesty and his ability to think outside the box.

Months later, Ethanís closest friends and family gathered once moreóthis time aboard a borrowed yacht. They sailed silently on a gentle breeze into the deep waters of the ocean Ethan so loved. There they ceremoniously scattered his ashes, consigning his physical remains to the sea and locking their memories of him forever in their hearts.

Ethan left no written communication explaining his decision to end his life. As is always the case, his family and friends sought some . . . any explanation for his unexpected passing. Estranged from Ethanís family and alone with my grief, I began my own analysis of what might have led to Ethanís decision to leave the life that had become for him, too painful, for a more peaceful place.

My opinion is heavily colored by emotion and should by no means be considered anything more than that of an acknowledged layman. Iím just someone with a penchant for logic who loved Ethan and is trying to understand why he died. However the circumstances involved, from the beginning of my life with Danni to the end of Ethanís life, lead me to conclusions which more than any other, make sense to me.

Thereís no question that Ethanís untreated psychosis was the ultimate cause of his suicide. That fact cannot be obscured by the other circumstances surrounding his death. There was nothing his family or friends could have done to prevent it. Ethanís choice to refuse treatment was his alone. This reality is incontrovertible; and no person on this planetónot even Dannióhad the power to change Ethanís tortured thought processes without his permission.

Beyond that all-important recognition, it seems apparent that Ethanís final psychotic episode began while he was staffing a self-help seminar the weekend before his death. In my opinion, Ethanís cult-related activitiesí and symbolsí proximity in space and time to his suicide point to its contributionóat least as a triggering factor.

None of us who knew and loved Ethan could have predicted his life would end this way. Maybe he didnít really have to die. Maybe Ethan died, in part because of the dangerous mind-bending stress self-help cults impose on their followers without appropriate knowledge and expertise.

The unacknowledged and deniable link between MLM and self-help cults isnít intuitively recognizable . . . it all seemed harmless enough to me at the time. However, there is an observable and documented connection.

MLM is allowed to flourish because agencies of our state and federal governments charged with protecting the public from fraud have abdicated their responsibility to understand and counter the economic and social tolls the MLM industry exacts from its victims. And partly because MLMs flourish, many mind-control cults do as well.

Our government regulators fail to act because they are, in reality us; and we as a nationwide community, choose to tolerate these predatory enterprises. Until we stop tolerating their malignant abuses, the MLM industry will continue to feed pernicious mind-control cults with ready victims. One thing is certain: The consequences of our tolerance reach far beyond the economic and social costs to victimized members of our community. The chain of contributing factors to Ethanís suicide extends all the way to usóAmericans whose love of freedom sometimes leads us to forget our responsibility to prevent exploitive abuses of our blood-bought liberty.

That is why Iím making this very private story public. Itís a story my conscience wonít permit me to leave untold. Iíve changed the names of victims, left undisclosed the identities of perpetrators and altered details of Ethanís suicide to protect the privacy of innocent people whoíve already suffered far too much.

However, this story couldnít be more real. The tragedy of what happened to Ethan and Danni, and the pain Ethanís family and friends suffered at having to tell him ďgoodbyeĒ much too soon doesnít have to be a complete and total waste. If their story can help persuade a reluctant public to put an end to the MLM deceptions that all too often entice our innocent neighbors onto a disastrous path, at least some good can come of it.

The path begins with glittering golden promises. However, itís also a path which at least 99% of the time leads to financial loss . . . a path which if followed farther, leads to financial and social ruin, revealing the golden promises of MLM as counterfeits made of tin . . . and a path which can end in devastation. In Ethanís case, those tin promises were ultimately deadly. Maybe Ethan didnít have to die . . . but he did; and from where I stand profoundly humbled, it looks very much like I, as part of a largely unenlightened community, let it happen.

Peace Ö Out [Ethanís favorite sign-off]

Epilogue: Shortly after I finished my most recent edit of this story, the MLM which encouraged Danni's involvement with this cult sponsored a series of dinners promoting it around the state, including in Ethan's hometown. This development effectively removes any doubt that the link between the MLM and the cult in this story is direct and all too real.

ďItís not that we canít do something about it . . . itís just that we havenít.Ē ó Salty Droid

© 2014, Roger Willco, All rights reserved.

Originally published with additional commentary by ďCosmic ConnieĒ L. Schmidt December 9 and 11, 2013 on her blog ďWhirled MusingsĒ

Links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
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Updated 01-19-2016 at 01:34 AM by Roger Willco

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  1. skeptic99's Avatar
    I lack words to express how sad I felt reading your story... I sincerely hope that you can continue rebuilding your life. Please receive my best wishes for a peaceful and harmonious year, full of things to be grateful for.
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  2. Roger Willco's Avatar
    Thank you skeptic99. I appreciate your kind wishes. My life couldn't be better. I've successfully parlayed my experience to meaningful activism agains ever-pernicious MLMs and their associated scams.

    Best wishes to you as well for a great 2015!
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