At school, some fellow students gave a presentation in which they discussed a questionable company of which the CEO was accused of being a cult leader and only employing cult members. The personnel for the company allegedly worked almost 80 hours a week for this person for a minimum wage without much complaining (except for the people who quit the cult/company). I wondered how this CEO got his people to sacrifice their time and energy to work so much unpaid overtime. Why do people choose to join such a “company”? I later realized that this company/ cult clearly gave these people something in return which they valued higher than mere money or even their precious time and energy. Something that all people deep down crave for, and is the driving motivation behind the choices people make and what they do. Joining this group gave them something to dedicate their life to. It gave them a purpose.
Life itself is without any meaning, however this doesn’t mean life has to be meaningless. We humans give meaning to actions and things. The definition of meaningful is something that serves a desirable goal/ purpose. We often lack the motivation to do certain things because we don’t see the point in it, it lacks a desirable goal. The same goes for life; a meaningful life is a life with a desirable goal/ purpose. This ability to give meaning to actions is both a blessing as a curse. By finding a worthwhile higher life goal we can achieve great things, however it is also a serious security hazard in our system.
All people want to live meaningful lives deep down. No one likes to waste away their lives, especially since this is the only one we have. We are hardwired to find and pursue a higher life goal. However as long as we haven’t filled in this slot ourselves by choosing our own goals we are open to being hijacked. People crave this gap to be filled, when this gap is not filled by a person’s own ambitions and dreams it is easy for others to offer to fill it. They offer people a purpose; this is how cults can get people to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the cult leader. By hijacking the “Life goal/purpose slot” in a person’s mind, people with bad intentions can hijack their lives by getting them to sacrifice their time and energy and in some cases even wealth for the sake of the cult leader’s goal. Cult leaders don’t even have to force people, people make these decisions themselves because their choices are guided by the higher goal that makes life meaningful.
So how do we protect ourselves from this happening to us? It is really simple; make sure you are the one who fills the gap. Put your priorities straight and find out what dreams and goals you want to achieve so your choices and actions are in the benefit of you. Make sure you are the one who controls your life. This purpose is the ultimate control center. If you don’t take control over it, other people can do it.
To quickly come back to the ethical part of this all. Is it really this bad that this CEO got his people to work 80 hours a week for a minimum wage? It depends, he is fulfilling a deep craving in those people and it gives them some sense of self-worth and being productive, making them feel they are not wasting their lives away. However, it is bad to use these mechanics to your advantage at the costs of those you control in this way. By keeping this gap filled you prevent people from filling it with their own goals and you get them to sacrifice their precious lives. This is in my opinion unethical. The same goes for getting people to fill the gap with serving some higher being which may or may not exist.
To conclude: Make sure that no one can hijack your life by finding your own higher goals to pursue.