Another planet

Related Topics
One day - when I was a teenager - I decided to have my personality tested. For weeks I had passed the odd-looking bookshop near Goodge Street Tube station, on London's Tottenham Court Road, which advertised on-the- spot analysis. Perhaps it was the luridly illustrated science-fiction paperbacks in the window, or the insistent manner with which the man in the doorway invited youngsters (always youngsters) to come inside, that put me off. And then, in a fit of self-confidence, I went inside and filled in the interminable questionnaire about holes in my life (none, unfortunately), spiritual emptiness (also absent) and my longing for completeness (incomplete).

Someone in the shop took a quick shufti, looked me up and down and bade me farewell. And thus ended my only brush with the Church of Scientology.

Had I been slightly more promising material, I would have been slowly drawn into sessions of self-exploration. Gradually truths (as witnessed by Scientology's founder, L Ron Hubbard, sci-fi author and honorary Venusian) would have been revealed to me. I would have come to know how evil Lord Xenu filled the world with alien Engrams some 75 million years ago, how these can be measured by a machine passing 1.5 volts through your body, how they can then be purged through a mixture of psychobabble and mumbo-jumbo called dianetics. And how giving vast amounts of your time and money to the Church of Scientology can assist the process of becoming a Thetan - one of the elect. I might have been one of the several millions worldwide who subscribe to this nonsense.

According to a group of Hollywood writers and actors - including heroes of mine such as Gore Vidal and Dustin Hoffman - I have had a fortunate escape. For had I become an aspirant Thetan, I might then have faced a similar persecution at the hands of the modern German government to that which was experienced by many of my (never-met) Jewish relatives in the Nazi Germany of the Thirties.

This alarming charge was to be found in a full-page advertisement, "an open letter to Helmut Kohl", the German Chancellor, in Thursday's edition of the International Herald Tribune. "In the 1930s it was the Jews," says the ad. "Today it is the Scientologists." Then, "the world stood by in silence" as "Jews were marginalised, then excluded, then vilified and ultimately subjected to unspeakable horrors". Not any more. "Extremists of your party should not be permitted to believe that the rest of the world will look the other way. Not this time."

Joining Hoffman and Vidal in signing this remarkable accusation are Costa- Gavras, CNN's Larry King, Mario Puzo, Oliver Stone and a score or more of Hollywood's finest.

Here are some questions that I would like to ask the co-signatories. Have Scientologists' assets been seized? Have their churches been systematically burned? Is there a law forbidding intermarriage between Scientologists and Germans? Do gangs of semi-licensed thugs roam the streets beating up Scientologists? Are there embryonic concentration camps where leading Scientologists are incarcerated without proper process? Do ordinary people spit at Scientologists in cafes and restaurants? Are the cinemas filled with films depicting Scientologists as vermin? Does the Number One hit on the Kurfurstendamm this year contain the words "when Scientologist blood spurts from the knife, then I feel good"?

No. What has happened is that the democratic Germans have taken Scientology seriously (just as they take everything, from bowel movements to dental hygiene, seriously), are wondering about how to dissuade the impressionable from joining the cult, and getting it a bit wrong. The youth wing of the CDU has tried to boycott a Tom Cruise film (because of his membership of the cult), but exercises about the same influence on the young as a line-dancer at a rave. The European Court will sort the whole thing out.

But Hollywood, with its rich schvuntzes, talented schmucks, political schmos, public schlemiels and casting-couch schnorrers, with its feted campaign endorsers, with its Cinemascope understanding of the great issues in world history (Liam Neeson Scots nationalists, Kevin Costner cowboys, Dan Day Lewis Irishmen), with its tenuous grasp on any notion of morality, Hollywood knows better. It looks at one of the two or three most democratic states in the modern world and cries "Nazi!"

Actually, there is a group whose treatment by democratic societies holds a much better parallel for the Church of Scientology. This group is forbidden from practising its rituals openly, its assets are seized and burned, it is not allowed to trade, it is forced into a shadowy, criminal existence, it is not tolerated in schools, it may not be propagated. I refer, of course, to drug-taking. Drugees - the new Jews. How about it, Gore?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Partnership Sales Executive - TV

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global multi-media...

Sauce Recruitment: Account Director

£26017.21 - £32521.19 per annum + OTE $90,000: Sauce Recruitment: My client is...

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Development Manager - North Kent - OTE £19K

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...

Day In a Page

Read Next

I loathe the term ‘hard-working people’. It's patronising, snobbish and wrong

Simon Kelner
Auschwitz death camp survivor Jadwiga Bogucka, 89, holds a picture of herself from 1944  

Holocaust Memorial Day: This isn't the time to mark just another historical event, but to remember humanity at its worst

Jennifer Lipman
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea