"Take What You Like and Leave the Rest"
This is usually good advice. But it has very serious limits the advice is giving to someone who is pondering whether to get involved with a group or belief system he or she is unsure of--or already has some misgivings about.
A) If a recruiter doesnt know the full extant of the belief system and doent know the actual history of the group or its leader or what is done with money, that recruiter cannot give a full disclosure.
How can you take what you like and leave 'the rest' if you dont even know what 'the rest' consists of?
People who say, reassuringly, 'Oh, take what you like and leave the rest"
They themselves may be unaware of the full extent of the belief system, which means they can say this and radiate sincerity. They may be high on the mood generated by a groups social technology and not know or care what's behind it. Its like junkies who are so desperate to fix that they will shoot up with anything that looks like smack if handed to them by The Man.
How can you make an informed decision to 'take what you like and leave the rest' if you are not told in the beginning, up front and in full, what the entire
belief and behavior complex consists of?
For example, that they are actually led by a guru considered infallible, but this is not mentioned to new recruits who might otherwise refuse to join.
We are all influenceable by social context if we stay in long enough.
B) Human beings, no matter how intelligent, well educated, and socially sophisticated, are influenceable by social context. We rapidly normalize even bizarre and horrifying situations if we remain in them too long. Forget the fantasies peddled by Hollywood movies about heros uncorrupted.
Robert J Lifton interviewed German physicians who had become agents and involved in torture experiments on prisoners in concentration camps. He wanted to know how they had come to violate their own ethics.
* The doctors had already bought into the ideology that there was such a thing as a 'real German' and others were subhuman. Their social surroundings taught them an ideology that dehumanized others.
**By staying in the laboratorys of the concentration camps, the doctors got used to the shock and coped by creating a dissociated doubled personality. It took anywhere from half an hour (!!) to two weeks to adjust.
And once they did so by remaining in teh KZ camp that long--they became active perpetrators.
Thats the danger of staying in a bad social situation for too long. It empowers us much more to accept we are influenceable and remove ourselves as rapidly as possible from a situation that shocks us and violates our ethics.
Otherwise if we remain, we risk adjusting to what should never be adjusted to--and become capable of harming others.
There are some lines which, when crossed, grow dim and are difficult to find and re-cross.
For more on Lifton and the doctors read here