I received this book for free from St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Ruthless by Ron MiscavigeDan Koon
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Religion, Scientology
Source: St. Martin's Press
For my whole life I have believed that, regardless of the hand we are dealt, each of us chooses how we play our cards.
This memoir sounded interesting because it’s from the unique perspective of the man who fathered the leader of the controversial Church of Scientology. Ron Miscavige wrote this book after he discovered that his son David had him followed and directed the private investigators not to intervene if it appeared Ron needed medical assistance. He is also upset that his daughters stopped speaking to him due to the CoS’s policy of disconnection. Ron seems like an affable man, but he has an old-school door-to-door salesman vibe. I got the feeling that he might be presenting himself and the events as rosier than they were. He also really needs the answer to the question of nature vs. nurture to be nature! That’s not to say whether he’s right or wrong, it’s just a point that’s emphasized. Ron had a toxic relationship with the mother of his children. She gets the ‘shrew’ portrayal; the caricature is that pronounced. Most of Ron’s admissions of wrong-doing or bad parenting were usually followed by a minimization or deflection of blame. The most obvious offense: “I never slapped or hit [Loretta] in the face but, still sometimes I did strike her. I might punch her in the arm or push her away when she was getting on me, She threw things at me–pots, pans, a pot of boiling coffee once.” He is typically quick to gloss over his mistakes, which made him difficult to empathize with.
They were people who sincerely wanted to help others and make a better world. The impulse to help is strong in most people, and I think it exists in the greater part of humanity, but there are also a relative few among humankind who would use people’s kind hearts and good intentions for selfish ends. You could even say that good people are flawed because they have a hard time conceiving that others are not also basically good and therefore can be deceived.
My biggest disappointment was that David Miscavige remained on the periphery of the account. David moved out when he was sixteen, but I didn’t even feel like I got to know him when he was living in the family home. Basically, Scientology cured his asthma and he was an aggressive bully in school. There are a few direct interactions between father and son, but most of it is speculation, hearsay, and declarations of personality traits without detailed examples to back them up. It’s not that I didn’t think the events were believable, but I would have liked to see more conversations and corroborating accounts. I know those must be difficult to obtain since the organization is so secretive and quick to retaliate. I didn’t feel like I was always getting the whole story, like the rape allegations against Ron or David’s quick ascent to leadership after Hubbard’s death.
How does it get to that point? By tiny increments. A small change here, a small change there. A slight modification of a rule here, another one there. You agree to each one because it seems like no great loss of liberty or freedom of movement or of thought. It is for the greater good, you rationalize.
There are some interesting tidbits about life in the Scientology compound. My favorite part was Ron’s break with the church after twenty-seven years. He went to absurd lengths when planning his escape! My eyes also perked up when Tom Cruise briefly showed up. The celebrity obsession of the Scientology leadership is so strange and creepy! Ron did a good job explaining how a person can get caught up in such a restrictive environment. Despite everything he went through, he still has an overall positive view of the church’s teachings. While he does talk about how much better the church was in L. Ron Hubbard’s control, he occasionally reveals Hubbard’s flaws. It was interesting to see the illusion start to fade as he reflected on the past.
A philosophy is just a philosophy. Nearly everybody follows someone else’s way of dealing with life or makes up their own or creates a blend of the two.
Obviously, this book wasn’t received well by the Church of Scientology! When I search “Ron Miscavige” via Google, the first link is a paid ad to a website set up by the CoS to discredit Ron and his co-author Dan Koon. Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me was more about a man who needs to absolve himself of both his and his son’s sins, rather insight into the mind of a cruel and controlling cult leader. I’d recommend it if you’re curious about what kind of environment David Miscavige grew up in. I preferred Leah Remini’s memoir because I was already familiar with her, the transition from regular member to celebrity member was interesting, and it was pretty juicy on the celebrity gossip front!
What is the catalyst for such an unfortunate transformation? I have included that it is the acquisition of power. Some who come into positions of power may be able to remain whole and true to themselves, but my son David has demonstrated beyond doubt that he is not one of them.