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Follow a strict diet, watch lots of ‘Star Trek’, an...

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Follow a strict diet, watch lots of ‘Star Trek’, and the UFO will finally save you


Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a Brown Woman in a White South Africa. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

A desperate person may find themselves part of a cult, but not only does that person have to be desperate enough to join the cult in the first place, they also have to have a very, very strong belief in a giant spaceship and aliens.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

My wife and I crave documentaries that err on the side of a little bit crazy. Crazy people, crazy crimes and crazy cults. She’s the family fisher of documentaries and as soon as we can find even a bootlegged watchable version of the newest cray doccie, we sink in.

Which is exactly what happened this week.

We watched Heaven’s Gate, about a cult formed by a psychiatric nurse who met a music teacher suffering from a breakdown in an institution. Her name was Bonnie Nettles, and his name was Marshall Applewhite. When Applewhite was at his absolute lowest ebb, Nettles dragged him in.

This is also where I tell you that I was once almost part of a cult. I took a class filled with indoctrination and brainwashing, in which they took our phones and removed all the clocks and, before we knew it, we had been humiliated for about 13 hours. This happened for three to four days straight and over the course of those days the cult vibe became very clear to me. And then they asked us to sign up for more when our bodies were deprived of sleep and food and our minds were filled with hatred for ourselves. I tell you this because it is possible for a completely intelligent human to turn to a cult. You say you won’t, but I maintain you just might.

Anyway, Nettles and Applewhite renamed themselves Bo and Peep and then Do and Ti (from the song Do Re Mi) and went on the road for six months to assemble the “crew”, mostly residing in southern California.

The cult fused – wait for it – UFOs and Christianity. Do told everyone he was the second coming of Jesus, God was an alien, and a giant UFO would come and release them from their “vehicles” – their bodies – and beam them up to the “next level”.

Now, here’s where they lose me. Fine, you must all live together and have sort of a genderless appearance. Everyone has the same haircut and wears the same type of clothing. You must give up all contact with your family and your material earthly ties. Fine. Nothing new there. You must follow a strict diet; everyone drinks only a mixture of water, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and lemon. Cool. I’ll buy it. Which cult doesn’t have rules about this stuff?

But the whole “Beam me up Scotty” thing? A desperate person may turn anywhere for help and find themselves part of a cult, but not only does that person have to be desperate enough to join the cult in the first place, they also have to have a very, very strong belief in a giant spaceship and aliens.

Fast forward several years down the line, and by years I mean decades – that is, from the 1970s to 1997 – and the comet Hale-Bopp passes near Earth. Do, who by this time has lost Ti, not by being beamed up, but from cancer, a very human thing, has now decided that the spaceship shape “following” the comet will not fetch them, but instead it has opened a portal for them. So they must kill themselves, and to do so they all drink a mixture of phenobarbital and vodka, die, and hope this will help them enter the alien spacecraft, and pass through Heaven’s Gate into a higher existence.

As soon as I heard the cult’s main philosophy was buying into this UFO bullshit, I signed out. But you get it, right? This is the type of person we’re talking about. And this spaceship-alien tenet of their preaching comes from one thing, wait for it, Star Trek and Star Wars, of which Do and Ti were avid fans. In fact, Star Trek was just about the only thing the followers were allowed to watch, and it was used as a TV sermon.

Look man, I know a desperate heart and mind will do anything, but you lost me at UFO.

Nope. Sign me out Scotty. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.


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