How the BLEEP did that happen?! - Episode 17

[I recommend going in numerical order with the Episodes. They build on each other.]

Episode 30 contains the full resource list.


I collect heroes. I have since I was fairly young. My grandfather, Hannes van Zijl was one. An Advertising man and a soul sincerely committed to nobility. He stood up to Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid and told him time and time again it was a disastrous policy. I discovered film-making and George Lucas and Steven Spielberg became my heroes. I read about Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko. More heroes. I had the great fortune to meet Bishop Desmond Tutu when I attended WITS University in Johannesburg, South Africa. That blew my mind.

Whoopi Goldberg & Mark Vicente "Sarafina!"

Whoopi Goldberg & Mark Vicente "Sarafina!"

My most memorable moment with a hero was when I was the Director of Photography on the film "Sarafina" and Nelson Mandela came to visit our set. The feeling of respect and pride we felt for this great man had all of our chests bursting with gratitude. Because most of my South African heroes were somewhat anti-establishment, I found myself at odds with the politics in my country and most of my family.

I’d always felt like a stranger in my own family. Like I belonged somewhere else. They didn’t ‘get' me. My country didn’t get me. Somewhere my people existed. Somewhere.

Many years later, I walked into a Massive Auditorium. I took my assigned spot and waited. It filled up with all kinds of people who all seem to know each other. These weren’t my people but I was willing to give it a go. Whatever ‘it’ was. I was told once I met the leader, my life would never be the same. I’d heard that before. But still, I was excited.

Then he walked in.

Over a thousand people jumped to their feet and roared their appreciation. DEAFENING. It was like a Dothraki Horde. It was MAGNIFICENT! Between ‘what the fuck is going on!’ and the tears streaming down my face, I was affected. He raised his hand for quiet and the horde fell silent. And then he began speaking…

He spoke about my hopes, my dreams, my fears. It was like he reached into the dusty corners of my soul. His words were EXACTLY my thoughts. I felt he knew me. He knew I wanted greatness. He knew I've always wanted more than a mediocre life. That I could BE more. More than merely mortal. I felt he knew me like no-one else had ever known me.

I was hooked.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

This is an amalgamation of experiences I've had. (I have omitted names and places). It might seem like a delusional and fanatical recounting, and frankly, now I would agree. It also seems remarkably like the first blush of infatuation a person might have with a lover courting them, using every trick in the book to ensnare them.

In my ‘Self-Help’ decades, there were ‘little’ things I would witness in groups that would trouble me. But I was still so moved by those transcendent moments I’d had, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. My assumption was always that the leader had my soul in their care and they were morally and ethically pristine. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine they would want to hurt me, or others.

But, what if a leader of a movement, church, corporation has the same characteristics describe in Episode 15? What if a leader has Narcissistic Personality Disorder? What if they lead thousands and maybe even millions?

To be continued....

Mark Vicente ©2017