The Mesmeriser

Throughout human-animal history, humans being animals also, the ability of one mesmerising person, usually a male, to lead his followers into self-immolation or suicide by toxins has been baffling and deeply curious.

The last major incident was in Guyana, when Jones’ followers committed mass suicide using poison. It shocked and repulsed; and left us asking ‘why?’

Historically, of course, humans have at times chosen suicide over subjugation and slavery. However, when it has a mesmeric quality to it, as in Guyana, then suicide is not an escape from something so much as an escape to something – utopia, perhaps.

Which makes you wonder why, if there is a utopia out there, we take birth in this hellhole in the first place? If it’s out there and you can reach out and touch it, enter it, then why not do so before entering this period, this planet, this sequence of events, this life? Save the bother of having to live and then commit suicide.

This quality of utopia, this place that Jones’ followers apparently yearned for, is the same rainbow that fanatics long for, those people who cannot but challenge another’s viewpoint – political, social, religious etc – who cannot countenance anything but the mesmeric quality of their own truth.

They do so with the aim of converting their interlocutors to the fanatics’ version of utopia – meaning, surely, that if everybody across the globe attuned to, and practiced the fanatics’ lifestyle then utopia would reign on earth. Misery, desires, needs, illness and death would be things of the past. Because utopia is precisely that, isn’t it – eternal life and the fulfillment of all desires (no questions asked!)? Just ask the fanatics.

But, to throw a fly in the ointment for a moment….if Buddha and Guru Nanakdevji could not secure nirvana’s utopia here on earth, then what hope is there that the damn thing exists elsewhere?

A telling point is that these enlightened beings were savvy enough to introduce a caveat in defining the brand “utopia” – such that we oughtn’t to think of it as a thing per se, but as the fulfillment of a gradual process, subjectively reached.

And it is on this notion of a subjective utopia that the mesmeriser pegs his most fervent egotistical ambitions. And why not, when at his disposal are the infectious naïve assumptions of the vaguely disenchanted that somehow the morbid provincial dance of comatose suburbia can be transformed by gorging on the glittering stars and shapes of the kaleidoscope and lead to inner emancipation. Old clothes contriving a new look.

In all of this, the role and motive of the mesmeriser becomes the most asked-about question – as if we might uncover the communal human DNA through which humans exercise power or prostrate themselves at its feet, and thereby come to an understanding of how to control the human race.

But in order to really understand the mesmeriser – distinct from the literary obsession with mesmeric individuals and the morbid fascination they incite in their biographers and chroniclers – men have to look deep into their own selves, and there they’ll find the template of the mesmeriser.

That template is one of low self-confidence and esteem. Men of this nature defend the cultural view that woman was created from man’s rib and/or (as in cultures with highly respected religious ethics, such as Hinduism) that woman is the sole of the sandal that they (men) wear.

To be created – out a rib or other body part! – implies that woman was needed? Why was she needed? If for the propagation of the human race, then how did man know this – how did he know that he specifically needed a woman, not a toy or a blow-up doll or another man?

And if, despite knowing that man needs woman, men continue to hold women as inferior beings, let them achieve this feat of ultimate power that puts woman in her rightful place… let them self-immortalise, be cremated, have their ashes scattered into the wind, and then regoup those same ashes to create a baby, a baby who is self-nourishing and grows eventually into an adult man. I’m sorry, was that a “no can do” I heard being muttered in the back row? Oh dear, where’s a woman when you need one?!

The point is that if serious faith and religious ethos can be built on the notion that woman was created from the rib of man, then why do we castigate the mesmeriser who leads his followers into mass suicide in pursuit of this thing called utopia? The only difference between the husband who follows a religious belief system and the mesmeriser is a numbers game.

There lurking in the middle of his open spaced out mind each man will find his own god and his own mega-idiot. But what he will not find is a woman waiting to be created out of his rib who wants to be treated as the sole of his sandal.