The Truth About NATLFED

History Reinvented

Have you ever had difficulty remembering an event that happened?  Certain details seem fuzzy.  You might start out a conversation recollecting an event in perfect detail but by the end of the conversation the person you are talking to has managed to change your perspective of what “really” happened.

It constantly happened in the organization.  At first, you might not be aware it was happening.  If you were newer, you felt you were subject to making mistakes or not quite understanding the situation.  You quickly learned to accept the criticism and correction of your ordinates.  You trusted them implicitly.  They were, after all, the leaders of the movement.  Questioning was discouraged, but when it happened you were re-educated.

If you hear it over and over again, you feel it must be true. If you say something over and over again, you believe it must be true.

Such repetition is constant.  It starts with the basic pitches or spiels you use while engaged in the various organizing activities.  You go out on a bucket drive and your most important tool is your written pitch.  Same with phone calling, speaking engagements, any activity.  As you develop your skills, you learn to deliver the pitch without use of the written spiel for you have it memorized.  You can adapt it to a particular situation.  If someone raises a question, you can cite sections from other pitches or presentations flawlessly.  It included the written pitches or briefings.

Sooner or later you would run into a contradiction.  Maybe you began to realize that a tuberculosis epidemic could not be really happening, for if it was then the CDC would have stepped in a long time ago to close down the farm labor camps.  They could not just let that pass.  You listen as the organizer explains that due to the migratory nature of the population, the CDC is ill-equipped to track the migrations.  Farm workers will move on before the CDC can move in, either on their own or at the behest of their crew chiefs.    It seems to make sense.  Then you hear it again at a local National Labor College presentation.  You hear it from other organizers and volunteers.

It did not have to be limited to aspects of organizing.  Persons in leadership positions had to maintain firm control of their ordinates.  If something happened that in their eyes appeared problematic, no matter how professional the person came across or no matter how upset the person appeared, their goal was to get you to believe their perspective of what really happened.

I remember one incident, but it is hazy in my mind.  I was throwing up and had diarrhea.  I figured it was the stomach flu or something.  Two cadres came to talk to me for almost three hours.  By the end of the discussion, I was convinced that I was sick because I had allowed doubt to get in the way of work, it was manifesting physically and the only solution was to get back to work.  It did not matter that I sat typing traffic on the floor with a bucket next to me, for everyone else knew the problem was psychosomatic and they were there to help me work through it.

Why could it not have been the stomach flu?  At the time, that was my initial question but three hours later I “knew” it was not the flu.  I had doubts about the leadership that stemmed from my insecurities over the (at the time) recent arrests of several cadres.  How could the organization allow comrades to be arrested?  It was a temporary setback, soon to be remedied, the result of an enemy determined to destroy the organization, which meant we had to fight harder.

There comes a point when something happens, you know what really happened but others try to convince you it did not happen that way.  When you dig in your heels, you endure hours of lecturing.  You refuse to budge from your position.  You saw one cadre hit another cadre as her way of waking up that cadre, she just hit the cadre who barely had her eyes open from the noises of reveille.  They try to tell you that the sleeping cadre started hitting first but you know it did not happen like that.  Then you end up in Oldie’s office and he is furious with you, having heard from the operations officer that you were acting in a contrary manner.

You do not want to lie to him but you also do not want to disappoint him.  It was, after all, his organization.  He has more important things to deal with.  You finally concede the point maybe you had missed the sleeping cadre hitting the other cadre first but it does not sit too well with you.  He senses this, being very astute at sizing up people.  He wants to make you feel like you are still capable of making an important contribution to the situation.  Then he dictates the famous Reveille Protocol.  You hear the conversations, everyone agreed the sleeping cadre hit first, you “know” you were wrong but something good came out of it.

No matter how major or minor the situation, it could be reinvented to fit the agenda of the person manipulating the other person.  It was about control, after all.  You might have two groups disagreeing about a particularly course of action until ultimately Oldie would come in over the top and either side with one group or put down both groups altogether in favor of his particular agenda.

Manipulating situations is not something exclusive to cults.  Have you ever been at an office staff meeting listening to someone drone away about a marketing strategy?  You begin thinking, “Boring!”  All it takes is one exaggerated yawn, and pretty soon everyone else in the room is yawning.  The speaker finally shuts up and the meeting is concluded.  You have managed to take away that person’s control by creating a sense that his agenda is unimportant and no one cares.

In an organization, it is important for those in leadership positions to maintain control.  Even if an individual does hit upon a real problem, to discover it before a leader does causes another problem.  The leader must change events such that he or she has the answers, the individual has been corrected and sees things the way the leader wants him or her to see them.

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