Scientology….I mean, where to even begin?! Perhaps we should start with Xenu and the Galactic Confederacy? But then I’m writing a blog post, not a book, and I’m supposed to be concentrating on Mexico. I’ll leave the novels to Ron Hubbard.
So, Scientology and Mexico. They’ve been here a while, but earlier this week they opened a new center. Helpfully described as being located adjacent to Bellas Artes, and neighbouring the Supreme Court and the National Palace on their website. Chaps, do your research, and at least get the address right. The latter two are no where near the former.
I guessed it was near Bellas Artes. Seeing as the building they’ve renovated is the Juarez Building, and Bellas Artes is surrounded by the Benito Juarez monument, the Juarez Plaza and the Juarez Edificio. I guessed right – map. I wanted to get some photos of the place, seeing as I rather like architecture and design, and Like the Mormon Church in the north of the city, they have tried to meld traditional Mexican symbology with their own.
I got a few snaps of the outside. I was rather hoping that by standing there for ten minutes snapping away, some shady characters in black leather jackets and black sunglasses might come out and start photographing me. This is a pretty common occurrence in Clearwater Florida, their home base. But I had no such luck.
So I ventured through the doors into the visitor center, to see what I could snap there. Was I from a newspaper? Their first, and rather paranoid, question. No, I wasn’t. Just a Brit, teaching English, photographing architecture and design. I did tell them I was really only interested in getting some shots of their logos and design features of the building. They all looked very nervous and unsure of what to do or say. I suspect I was the first person to stroll in with a camera, as not a single person knew whether or not a photographic policy existed.
An elderly lady decided to take a decision and informed me that photography inside the building wasn’t allowed, but she’s happy show me round and tell me all about Dianetics. Yawn. No thanks. I do understand the paranoia, even if the cause is largely self inflicted.
They have a long history of being freakishly present on the streets of the US, following people around. Repeatedly. I could post an awful lot of links to YouTube videos with similar incidents recorded. Their stalking behaviour has provoked a pretty strong reaction, from the Anons.
They get plenty of mainstream attention too. BBC’s Panorama did an excellent report on the cult a couple of years back, Scientology and Me, including a famous scene where the BBC investigator really lost his rag – the video went viral in a big way. The group have also been hammered in a French fraud trial, and their legal status is under threat/review in several European countries. They get very upset if you refer to their nonsensical organisation as a cult instead of as a religion. I think the word cult is being too polite.
Scientology does have it’s supporters though. Tom Cruise for one, as expressed in this leaked video. Cultist? Or nut case? Take your pick. They have some other supporters too. Including a number of the ‘good and great’ of Mexico City, mostly in government positions, who turned up for the opening of the new building and gave short speeches. But none of them mentioned how much they got paid for their appearance….
The Scientologists have some pretty impressive claims regards their success rate with drug addicts, and intend to bring their programs to DF. So….well, good luck with that in Mexico City. I guess I would wish my scepticism proven wrong. I’m not holding my breath though.
Final thought. I recently had a debate on Facebook regarding the French passing a law banning the wearing of a certain piece of Islamic clothing. I thought legislation outlawing a veil worn by a pitifully small number of French Muslim women, 1900 or thereabouts, to be a waste of time and money, and likely to achieve nothing. Pick battles which can be won, will change things for the better was my opinion.
No point banning a veil. But banning Scientology? Go for it! Radical, fundamentlist Muslims might be more dangerous to western socities, but the demographics of much of Western Europe make banning Islam a futile (and wrong) path to go down. The veil wearers are not necessarily the dangerously radical ones for a start.
But Scientology is dangerous, even if it is only dangerous to individuals, rather than to society, and unlike Islam, where the vast majority of believers are moderate, normal, productive and likeable human beings, Scientologists are a different kettle of fish. And no new legislation is required.
Just the enforcement of current fraud laws for those in positions of responsibility within the organisation. And the Mental Health Act for those who are essentially the victims. For the Mexican officials who helped open the new building. Meh!
In the bottom right photograph, by the by, is a little open square right next to the Scientology center that was once home to a large hotel. Until one morning in September 1985. It’s a regular hang out for a fair few druggies, so we can use this as the barometer for the success of the Scientology anti-drug unit. If they can’t clean up their own doorstep, then….tsk.
Oh, one more final thought! Scientologists have a reputation for trying to get any bit of negative content about them removed from the web. I’ve backed up my blog, just in case….!