Archive for the ‘Introductions’ Category

Articles

Liberation

In Introductions,Plans,Scientology on December 13, 2010 by ryepdx

The holiday party was fun, though somewhat difficult. It was fortunate that wine was provided for free. At the party I was reminded again how very good of a group I was leaving, and how hard it was to be doing so, especially as I stood to gain so much if I stayed. Doing the right thing, it seems, is often incredibly difficult.

The goodbye party was somewhat awkward and short. I was thrown off a little by the fact that two members of the company were missing. These two I had hoped to say a proper farewell to, but it seemed it was not to be. I had to give a speech, which involved trying to say everything I wanted to say which I could say while still keeping it appropriate as a group address. Since this was rather short (something like, “it was great working here and I’ll miss all of you!”) I ended up repeating myself a bit to make up the time. There are a lot of different ways to say “I enjoyed working here” and “I’ll miss you,” it turns out.

15 minutes later I was finally free! As I drove down the road back to my apartment, I turned on the radio. Nirvana’s cover of Bowie’s “Man Who Sold the World” was playing. I thought it rather appropriate.

I still had one more appointment to go: I was to meet with a friend from college for coffee that evening. I spent the little bit of time until then playing on my guitar, fussing with my stash of salvaged electronics, and generally just enjoying the feeling of freedom. I had not yet started worrying about the fact that my lifeboat, so to speak, was rudderless.

Consumer whore that I am, I met her at Starbucks. She was late, which was perfect as I was only a little less late. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte, forgetting that I had ordered that drink before and had disliked it, and took a seat in the back of the store.

She had come in coughing, the last vestiges of the bronchitis that resulted in our meeting last Thursday being canceled and moved to that day, the Monday following. By then I was standing by the Tazo display, entranced by the tea tins. I’m a sucker for tea tins.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I replied.

We hugged, then sat at the table.

After the initial “how are you”s and such, we fell to talking about our relationships. Her boyfriend was a logical introvert, while she herself was a bit more on the emotional side, so she had a lot of insights about how to make such a pairing work. I joked, suggesting that she write a book someday. “And hey,” I said, “I could help you write it, seeing as that’s what I’m doing these days.”

“How is that going, by the way?” She asked.

I told her about my exodus and how I had begun to keep a blog to help garner support for my efforts as a writer and musician. “I’m terrified,” I confessed.

“Yeah,” she said, “it does seem like a rather un-Ryan-like move.”

“I know. I’m all logical normally, right?”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine,” she said. “You’re determined. That counts for a lot.”

“Thanks,” I said. Then I spilled my guts about what I was hoping to do, which, due to the lack of detail in my plans at that point, didn’t take all that long.

One thing I’ve been impressed with so far in my nascent journey as a writer and musician is the level of support I’ve gotten from the people around me. Without that support, I do not doubt it would be impossible for me achieve what I hope. It’s one thing to work alone and quite another to work with the comfort of friends.

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Articles

An Abrupt Ending

In Introductions,Scientology on December 10, 2010 by ryepdx

Being new to the working world, I expected to be around for the 30 days I had said I would be around for. Though I disagreed with the practices of the Church of Scientology, I did like and respect my coworkers and thus did not want to leave them with any of my half-finished code on their hands. I intended to finish up my work in time for the website release and then leave, giving my bosses and coworkers a whole quarter to recover before the push to finish the product updates for the next release got too intense again. I expected to be able to use my lunch breaks during that time to say my goodbyes properly, to find closure before leaving.

Instead I was called in at the end of the week to meet with two of the partners in the company. They tried to get me to stay, telling me I was a very valuable employee, and offering me things like pay raises and three day weekends. It was difficult and rather stressful, but I kept rebuffing them, telling them I would rather start working on my music now instead of waiting three years. For that was, after all, the reason I had given for quitting: to go work on my music. While not at all a lie, it was also not the entire truth. Finally, after an hour or so of this, after I realized my given reasons were not good enough for them, I told them the entire truth. I told them I could not, with a clean conscience, work for an organization that stood to benefit the Church of Scientology.

“Oh,” said the partners, realization lighting up their faces.

“Yeah,” I said, trying to get comfortable with the awkwardness of the situation.

At that point they ceased their overtures and accepted that I was leaving and that there really was nothing they could do about it. They were not hostile at all, though one of them was visibly confused as to how I could come to such a conclusion.

Later that day one of the partners took me aside to tell me that the CFO would be talking with me, but that he had kept my stance on the Church secret and talked the other partner into doing the same. I thanked him for his discretion, glad to see that I had not misplaced my trust in divulging my true reason for leaving.

I was then called in to the CFO’s office, along with the two partners mentioned above and my manager, and told I would not be working there anymore. They said they were letting me go to do my music earlier rather than later but would continue paying me through the notice period, “like a paid vacation.” Though I must say I did not have any problem with getting started with my music and writing right away, it threw me off. Furthermore, I was told not to say a word about any of it to my coworkers until after the Saturday holiday party. I agreed and then left the building as my manager began deleting my e-mail, version control, bug tracking, and building access accounts. I was free, save for the Saturday holiday party and the goodbye party they had planned for me on Monday. It was a weird feeling.

Isn’t that just the way of it? What you wanted most is what you’re most afraid of. Freedom is an exhilarating, cold, lonely feeling sometimes, particularly when that freedom is new. There is nobody around to share in freedom at first, for freeing oneself is undeniably isolating in nature. It normally involves severing connections which not only held you captive, but which also killed loneliness.

But then new connections are made which don’t restrict, which don’t destroy your freedom but which kill loneliness and tie you to certain places and times. And then I find I have to ask what freedom really is in the first place. Is it having the ability to do anything, or is it having the ability to do exactly what I want? As a philosophy professor once said, “is a man bound to a chair free if his only desire is to sit in that chair?”

I find that I do need those connections. I would much rather be bound to certain places and times, assuming those places and times are of my choosing, or at least to my liking, than be unbound and alone. Freedom (or, in light of the above paragraph, disconnectedness) and comfort are at odds and a balance must be found, for too much or too little of one or the other and both will suffer. At least, that’s how I find it.

Articles

Quitting

In Introductions,Scientology on December 8, 2010 by ryepdx

I would like to point out now that I make a distinction between Scientology and the Church of Scientology. There are “Free Zoners” out there who do not operate under the Church’s authority for one reason or another. Sometimes they are for the very reasons I have listed here. Needless to say, the Church of Scientology is different from the Scientologist belief system and its sects. These Free Zoners are, in the Church’s view, heretical and “suppressive,” but, in my view, a perhaps safer alternative to Miscavige’s machine.

One more thing before I continue: I am not speaking out against Scientologists themselves. As people I think we all ought to get along and whatnot. Most Scientologists are ignorant of the policies and actions of the Church. They are told that all the reports and cases are simply lies told by Suppressive Persons. After having paid at least $33,000 (the price of becoming a Clear as of a few years ago) and having spent hundreds of hours of their lives in the Church’s service, most are more than happy to accept this. Nothing like confirmation bias, right?

You may have already guessed what I came up with regarding my doubts. I read more about Scientology, this time trying specifically to find pro-Scientologist stances on the Fair Game policy and the way Suppressive Persons ought to be treated. I found little about Fair Game aside from the assertion that the policy was repealed in 1968. I did find out that the passage of L. Ron Hubbard’s writings which state that anyone a 2.0 or lower on the tone scale should be “disposed of quietly and without sorrow” is often translated as an injunction to either re-educate or “permanently quarantine” such individuals, rather than killing them.

This discovery created more doubt in my mind as I realized that Scientologist scriptures may be different in practice than they were on paper. I was, to be sure, experiencing massive cognitive dissonance. The people at my work were incredibly nice people. Some of the best people in the world, I would wager. It was hard to reconcile what I knew of them with what I knew of the Church of Scientology. I also stood to gain a lot in a short period of time by working there, making my decision all the harder.

However I could not convince myself. The actions, I reasoned, and not the words of an organization must be the standard by which it is measured. By that standard the Church failed, even if the most conservative stance possible was taken in addressing the claims made by the Church’s detractors. There were too many suspicious deaths, too many claims of abuse, too many defectors at every level corroborating each other’s reports.

Even taking Scientology at its word I could not stomach it. At the very best, the Church of Scientology was espousing concentration camps for gays and lesbians, for they believe those sexual orientations are caused by being a 1.1 on the tone scale. The only way for gays and lesbians to escape such a fate would be for them to feign heterosexuality. (John Travolta, anyone?) This alone is enough for me to withdraw my support, the totalitarian, megalomanic, and genocidal aspirations of the Church aside.

Furthermore, I was fully aware that many Nazis in Hitler’s Germany were completely ignorant of the concentration camps. In fact, the majority of the Nazis were simple, commonplace German folk. They did not walk around scowling all the time, kicking puppies and murdering their mothers. They were people, as kind and flawed as anyone else. They were simply brainwashed. They were lied to. They were willing to believe what they were told. This is, I think, the state of the Church of Scientology.

Realizing this, of course, did little to help my emotional state. It was frustrating and confusing to find out that my friends were caught up in such an organization. I began to wonder if I was blowing it all out of proportion. Is my conscience too sensitive? I wondered. After all, I’m only aiding the Church indirectly. The INC has no official ties to the Church. But I knew that in working for the INC’s success I was working to generate dollars which would without doubt end up in the Church’s coffers, and no small number of dollars either. I knew that the windfall for the Church would likely sit somewhere in the millions.

I turned in my 30 days notice.

To be continued…

Articles

Discovery

In Introductions,Scientology on December 7, 2010 by ryepdx

I had read a bit about Scientology about a year ago, along with Theosophy, Qi Gong, and a few other religions and cults, when I was exploring Wikipedia. I had remembered that it had been founded by L. Ron Hubbard, and that he had taken many, many drugs while forming his new religion. As he wrote in a letter to his wife in 1967, “I’m drinking lots of rum and popping pinks and greys…”

I decided to read into it a little more, as I considered I was probably the only non-Scientologist there and thus ought to be saavy to what my coworkers believed. What I discovered was the entirety of the “Bridge to Freedom” on WikiLeaks. I skimmed through the Operating Thetan, Level 1 course and read the “Keep Scientology Working” letter from L. Ron Hubbard, which is, if memory serves me right, required reading between levels. It was all very interesting, though more or less exactly what I would expect a drug-addled mind to come up with.

My interest in Scientology, and then the Church of Scientology, continued. I kept researching and reading, learning what I could. I learned that the Pre-Clear (i.e, unprivileged) information (or, in Scientological terms, “tech”) consisted almost entirely of time management, self-empowerment, and productivity techniques. It was essentially what you would get from reading a self-help book.

A few of the Church’s policies pricked my interest though, primarily the policy of “Fair Game.” The policy states that anyone who has been declared an enemy of the Church of Scientology (or Suppressive Person, SP for short) may have any action taken against them. As L. Ron Hubbard wrote: “[SPs are] Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” The use of this term, though not the practice of the policy, was cancelled in 1968 when L. Ron Hubbard issued the following order:

“The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease.
FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations.
This P/L does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of an SP.”

Through my studies I discovered that the Fair Game policy did indeed continue well into the mid-70s, as proven by the exposure of Operation Freakout, and, judging by the number of reports, legal cases, and settlements, continues even today.

I discovered that Clears (paying members of the Church of Scientology who have completed the first set of required materials) and all levels above are considered to be “the next step in human evolution,” referring to themselves as “homo novis” or “homo scientologicus.” As L. Ron Hubbard states: “Compared to a Homo sapiensHomo novis is very high and godlike.” All non-Scientologists, on the other hand, are referred to as “wogs.”

I began to realize that the Church of Scientology is a very unethical organization. Totalitarian and, in a sense, racist. Megalomanic (for they must “Clear the planet” to unlock OT IX) and purveyors of a “master race” ideology.  I found out about the actions of the Church against those who spoke out against it. These were handled in the way prescribed in the Fair Game policy.

I discovered Josephus Havenith.

Josephus Havenith was a Dutch Scientologist back in 1980. While his case is now 30 years old, the photograph of his corpse as it was found is singularly chilling. It is for this reason I focus on him, though there have been much more recent deaths linked to the Church.

I found the photo of Josephus Havenith on a Thursday night. All I had been learning up to that point had formed a fairly negative image of the Church’s leadership in my head (a number of current and former Scientologists decry Miscavige’s mismanagement) and a fairly negative image of the Church itself. The photograph drove it all home for me, though.

In the photograph, which you can look up yourself if you have the stomach, Havenith is laying in a bathtub, arms curled up like a starved Holocaust victim. There is a bit of blood coming from his nose. The water he lies in is a rusty red. There is no skin on his right arm and chest, nor on parts of his left arm. White blobs sit on bits of his skin above the water. He has been boiled in the bathtub he was laying in.

The image of Havenith haunted me all Friday morning. I realized then that the stories I was reading were real, that the abuses of the Church were real, and that I was, though somewhat indirectly, aiding the Church. I could not reconcile this with my conscience, nor could I quit immediately. I had some doubt, some uncertainty, so I kept silent and waited until later that night to read more.

To be continued…

Articles

The Beginning

In Introductions,Scientology on December 4, 2010 by ryepdx

(Note: I refer to my former employers as the INC in this blog. This is not the name of my company. I have changed it here, as well as the names of my coworkers, to protect the innocent.)

I began working my last job about a month before graduating from university. In spite of soaring unemployment rates and economic catastrophes, the number of available, new jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and math had continued their steady climb. Graduates with degrees in computer science and software engineering were (and still are, as of this writing) particularly in demand. Thus it was I found myself working at a tax company staffed primarily by Scientologists before I had even walked with the rest of my class at graduation.

I knew little about Scientology when I joined. What I did know was that I had been offered a near-ground-floor position in a small startup that was already experiencing exponential growth. The CFO’s crowning achievement up to that point had been selling Neopets to Viacom for $160 million; this company seemed to be on the same track. I was told I would be given options when the company was sold, and that these options would be worth at least $400,000, though likely much more. I was told the two employees above me would be given enough money to retire on, and it was insinuated that the same would be done for me if I joined.

The only hitch was that my bandmate and I were planning on going on a DIY rock tour across America. We had put aside two months for it and had been telling all our friends and family, trying to garner support. There was not much in place yet, but it was something I wanted to do. More importantly, it bothered me greatly to go back on what I had been telling everyone. A small moral crisis ensued, but in the end a compromise was made: I would continue working part time until graduation at which point I would get a month off to go on tour.

To cut a long story short, the tour fell through and I ended up going to Canada with my brother and a friend for a couple of days instead. Nowhere near as epic as what I had planned, but it was better than just doing nothing.

My time at the INC was incredible. I made friends with my coworkers and really enjoyed working there. It was a great place to be. Everyone was friendly and good-natured. There were regular foosball and foursquare breaks. Bonuses were distributed almost every month I was there. Then I started reading about the Church of Scientology.

To be continued…

Articles

The Beginning of the End

In Introductions on December 2, 2010 by ryepdx

I quit my job a few days ago. Not really “quit,” as in “I left and no longer work for them,” but “quit” as in “gave them thirty days notice.”

Why would I do such a thing?

Because I want to make music. (Also because my conscience was bothered by my employer’s ties to the Church of Scientology, but we’ll get that later.)

I am applying to move in to an apartment complex for artists. It’s almost a commune, really. All the units are studios and there’s a single, shared kitchen on each floor. This is the same complex my bandmate is living in.

Since it’s 1 A.M. right now and I have to get up at 6:30 A.M. to go to work, I will now copy-and-paste the bio I wrote for my apartment application to make my post seem more substantial.

Short Biography:

I was born in the Gateway district of Portland, OR and grew up there. At an early age I displayed the temperament of a performer, always looking for (and finding) an audience. It didn’t matter to me whether it was a stranger on the street or the kids in my Sunday school class. These tendencies were unfortunately discouraged in me at the time; as I grew more introverted I found an outlet for my fecund imagination in writing stories.

Writing was my primary creative outlet until I was thirteen, when I began writing music. While I had long loved music, listening to the Electric Light Orchestra and the Beatles to fuel much of my writing, it had hitherto seemed beyond my ability to produce. I had been, and was at the time, homeschooled. About the only time I saw music addressed in a group setting was at church, and from that environment I had derived the lesson that music was only for the elite to create.

Around the age of thirteen I found myself in my church’s youth group, where the attitude was quite different. I realized that I too could create music, so I began. I did not know how to play an instrument so I composed in a MIDI notation program, compiling and self-releasing a CD of my more pop-oriented instrumental compositions at the age of fifteen. Eventually I learned guitar and at the age of sixteen joined a band that was broken up by the time I was eighteen. I began producing music as a solo artist and self-released a CD a month before my high school graduation.

At college I chose to study computer science, as I felt practicality dictated. However, I continued to write and perform, forming a band with Lauren Hatch called Original Sound Trash. This band has continued on to this day, as have my efforts in writing fiction.