The name of the hate cult group is the healthy people’s family which is focused on creating a lot of negative publicity for the fast food industry that is promoting a lifestyle of obesity and nutritional deficiency in the country. The group was started thirteen years ago in response to the increasing rates of obesity around the world which were mostly attributed to the growing fast food industry and the unhealthy food served in most of these restaurants. The group was founded by two members, Marcus Harvey and Thomas Pendgrass, who held the belief that fast food, violated the bodies of human beings, making them unclean and unhealthy. They established the healthy people’s family based on the notion that the global fast food industry was designed to solely eliminate the nutritional and healthy lifestyles of people around the world (Cox et al, 2009). The two founders established a paradise that would offer the cult’s members a lifestyle that is free of any unhealthy foods that were being pushed on people by the fast food industry.
In 1999, Harvey and Pendgrass acquired a large 14 acre farm in the outskirts of Missouri, USA where they would go on to establish the healthy people’s paradise. The large piece of land enabled the various members of the group to grow nutritional and healthy foods which included cabbages, carrots, fruits, lettuce, onion and parsley. In the farm compound there were three buildings where one was used as the food store, the other as a gathering place and the other as a place for sleeping.
All male and female members shared the same quarters and they were all required to participate in health living activities. On joining the group, new members had to first undergo a cleansing ceremony conducted by Marcus Harvey himself because he considered himself to be the prophet of purity and health in the world (Cox et al, 2009). The cleansing ceremony involved swimming in a drum of beet root juice that had been fermented for two days after which members would be required to drink the same juice to signify the entry and exit of unclean food particles which the new member had brought with them into the family. Harvey would then proceed to cleanse the member’s feet and hands with the milk of banana tubers which he himself produced to signify their new beginning as healthy people’s family members. Harvey would lay his hands on the member’s heads to reconfirm them to the group after which the members would swear an oath to Harvey and Pendgrass that they will uphold the beliefs and convictions of the family. Once members joined the healthy people’s paradise, they were not allowed to leave unless they violated or went against the healthy lifestyles of the group. Harvey elected himself as the overall leader of the group and even went as far as claiming that he was a prophet sent from God to warn people of their unhealthy eating habits.
He believed that God would send an apocalypse to wipe out the earth of all unholy and unclean human beings if the fast food industry was not done away with. Because of his elevated status, Harvey changed his name to that of Prophet Marcus because he believed that he had a connection with a higher power. This elevated status saw him rewarding himself with worldly pleasures; alcohol, women and drugs such as heroin and cocaine as well as marijuana which was by then being grown in the paradise’s farm. Pendgrass on the other hand did not take Harvey’s new found leadership and change of identity too kindly especially when Harvey tried to steal Pendgrass’ wife away from him. This caused Pendgrass to have a physical confrontation with Harvey that ended with Pendgrass bitterly leaving the paradise without his wife who was eight months pregnant with Harvey’s child.
Prophet Marcus, as he now came to be called, continued to grow his flock by touring the various towns in Missouri, trying to convince the people there that food generated by the fast food industry in the country was killing the American population. He even went as far as stating that the poultry and meat products used to make burgers and pies in McDonald’s fast food restaurants were genetically modified and the genetic material altered the DNA structure of human beings causing them to physically mutate over a certain period of time. He convinced the people in Missouri that the healthy people’s family had been chosen by God to be the ambassadors of reform and change in the country at a time when the government was plagued with a health crisis that threatened to declare obesity as a national disaster. While some of his convictions were false and at times absurd, the healthy people’s family continued to acquire new members in Missouri and the neighbouring states within the first five years of its establishment.
This increase in group members was mostly attributed to the increasing number of Americans who wanted to lead a healthier lifestyle by doing away with unhealthy food produced by the fast food industry. Five years later after the group was established, the number of members had amounted to 1,055 men and women who co-habited together within the walls of the healthy paradise farm. This large population demonstrated that Prophet Harvey and his members were developing a strong hold over the fast food industry in the country. To further reinforce himself as a leader of the healthy and living, Harvey built a shrine for himself that had a water fountain in the middle which was meant to symbolise the fountain of youth. He also developed a healthy people’s doctrine that would be used to govern the people of the paradise farm which had now grown to be a 100 acre farm. The doctrine stipulated that people living in the paradise had to cleanse themselves with the juice of a tree bark once every three months and bathe in the nearby river to signify their continued rebirth into a healthy lifestyle. According to Harvey’s doctrine, all members were required to forfeit their worldly possessions so that they could fully be embraced into the paradise (Zablocki & Robbins, 2001). This was a symbol of starting a pure and clean life in the farm.
The doctrine also stipulated that the members had to pay a tithe to Harvey so that he could be able to provide for them despite the fact that most of their food was produced in the paradise’s farm. The tithe had to be paid every Thursday, which is when the family had their prayers and it had to be given to Harvey wrapped in a lettuce leaf because he considered contact with other mortals to be unhealthy even if it was from members of the healthy people’s paradise. The members never knew what was done with the money as all Harvey bought were drugs and more alcohol. Despite the fact that they were all required to work in the farm without any pay and also forfeit their worldly possessions, the members were expected to pay tithe to Harvey every Thursday.
As they did not own any possessions, the members were generally poor and they relied on the farm and its resources for all their basic needs. The water used for cooking was the same water drawn from the river where many of the members bathed. The farm’s buildings lacked any running water which made the aspect of maintaining hygiene very difficult. Eventually after several months, the members of the group began suffering from constipation and diarrhoea as the conditions within the farm continued to deteriorate. The healthy diet did nothing to prevent an onslaught of typhoid that killed five children and two men (Myers, 2010). On top of these problems, the members began suffering from psychological and emotional problems which Harvey was not concerned with.
The members of the healthy people’s family also experienced de-individuation where their sense of identity became lost as they continued to be engrossed with the doctrines and lifestyle of Prophet Marcus. De-individuation also means that individuals who join a cult or hate group are more than likely to gain the characteristics and behaviour that make up that group. Under de-individuation, persons who are in a grouping have a sense of shared accountability rather than individual accountability for their deeds. With such a perspective, a morally questionable act would therefore seem perfectly right given that it occurs within the group (Breckler et al, 2006).
De-individuation in the healthy people’s family occurred when the group’s members believed that they were God’s chosen people designed to perform a purification of the whole world. Under the guidance of Prophet Marcus, the group was under the belief that they were predestined to eliminate all fast food joints in the United States and the rest of the world. After years of being brainwashed by Harvey’s doctrines, the healthy family become more de-individualised as group thinking became the basis of the group’s operations. If any of the group’s members was attacked or insulted by outsiders, the rest of the members would react since one of their own had been attacked. Members of the group also suffered from cognitive dissonance which refers to the uncomfortable tension that arises from having two conflicting thoughts and ideas in the mind (Cooper, 2007). This was mostly attributed to Prophet Marcus who had begun a drug smuggling syndicate with some members of the group. People within the group knew that what Prophet Marcus was doing was wrong but because they believed in his teachings and his doctrine, they continued to uphold the value system of the healthy people’s paradise.
Other members participated in smuggling drugs from Mexico to the US despite the fact that what they were doing was illegal and punishable by law. On the subject of conformity and obedience, the group’s members demonstrated these two aspects when they gave up their tithe and meagre possessions to Harvey every Thursday during their prayer service. They also demonstrated conformity by defending the healthy people’s family when it faced persecution and interference by various media stations, politicians and human rights groups which had by now become more aware of the group’s activities. The group was declared a danger to society because of the severity of Marcus’ doctrines which had now enslaved all the members to him.
Everyone in the paradise farm was meant to worship him since he had ensconced himself as their god and rightful leader. During the end of the group’s life span, the original beliefs and ideas that were designed to fight the fast food industry became lost to the members as they struggled to survive within the farm, during a time where the farm became unproductive and the living conditions became deplorable. Harvey eventually died with 100 hundred other members of the family when a cholera outbreak occurred within the farm ten years after the group was established.
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