This book was uneven and hard to crack into but it gave me so much insight on cults around the world and how they are our human desires manifested on an intense level.
At the heart of being human is the desire to belong. It can make us unspeakably vulnerable to the manipulations of others. Cult leaders prey on this desire, but so do many unscrupulous operators hiding in plain sight.
Sarah Steel, the creator of the popular ‘Let’s Talk About Sects’ podcast, has researched the cults you’ve heard of–and dozens you haven’t. What strikes her most are not the differences between bizarre cult behaviour and ‘normal’ behaviour but the depressing similarities. Her work reveals that we are all susceptible to the power of cult dynamics.
In Do As I Say, Steel tells the human tale behind the sensationalism. Sharing deeply personal stories, gathered over years of interviews with survivors, and some shocking tales about the world’s most famous cults, she sheds light on the high cost of unchecked coercive behaviours to individuals and communities at large. from Goodreads
I was so excited to read this book that I neglected to notice that the author is Australian. This doesn’t matter terrible to me and, truthfully, I felt embarrassed that I assumed it would be American. Cults just feel like such an American issue. She covers a number of Cults from around the world, but the focus is on Australia. If this is something you are not prepared for, or you want a book that highlights only Cults from your own county, this might be distracting.
I don’t want to harp on it but the starts off unevenly. The first two chapters really want to make a point that nobody joins a cult. The author even tells a personal story of handing over her life savings to a swindler as evidence that it could happen to anyone. Unfortunately, the author also mentions far too many different groups, how to identify them, why groups are not cults, and her opinions about a great many things in just the first 25 pages. It is overwhelming and disorienting. It is a lot of cults that, by the end of the book you start to recognize. Honestly, I was also disappointed to learn that the author is a podcaster and not a someone with training in journalism, history, or psychology. Throughout the book, the fact that she is a podcaster is demonstrated over and over again when the author cannot help but insert herself back into the chapters.
The author is not a parent and, when covering the rights of the child in cults, it was clear she has many opinions. Like, the kind of opinions you can really only indulge in when you do not have children. This chapter, more than any other, had the author’s opinions woven throughout.
The better parts of the book are in the sections where the author dissects cultish playbooks, coercive control, and cults as a feminist issue. I especially found myself most intrigued with the idea of cults as a feminist issue. The more I read about the historic struggles of women the more I see Cults as a concentrated version of all that women struggle with in the world. The author does an equally compelling job exposing how difficult it is to transition out of a cult. Really, after the first two chapters, the book is a quick and fascinating read.
In the end, I really enjoyed how the author was able to take so many cults and show their similarities. the reasons people join, why they stay, and how difficult it is to get out. The book is an intriguing insight into the basic desires we have as humans and how manipulative individuals and groups can take advantage of this.
Mike Rothschild maintained his journalistic integrity by not falling to conjecture in The Storm is Upon Us and that book was interesting, but lacked depth and was sometimes a struggle to read. This book is the opposite of that. What I need now is something in the middle!
Tell me, please! Do you have a goldilocks Cult book recommendation for me?
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