Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Ingrid Wolfaardt

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

I’ll do it my way, thank you.

According to popular culture, people and books will change you over the next 5 years, more than anything else and so when our new neighbour, fresh from Gauteng invited us for a an intellectual soiree at his house to listen to a speaker on business concepts and all things clever, both J and I accepted graciously as this fitted in perfectly with our urban renewal strategy, called “know thy neighbour,” a phrase recently coined by me. On top of this, I was also secretly chuffed, (being someone with low intellectual esteem) that I had been chosen to attend too, knowing he was a hot dog, working for the world’s most prestigious motor company, I made the assumption that I was to become one of the inner circle…

So, off we went to enlarge our minds and friendship circle (all done in one fell swoop) and it was good to see some familiar faces, even if their lower bodies were an oddity and no offense meant here, its just that most of them I know from having a waving thing going as they zoom past me and my car which is permanently parked in the access street to the rest of the neighbourhood, and so I only ever see their upper torso and head, (it was good to know that they weren’t hand puppets.)

I noticed the speaker standing to one side, blond, beige and bland, while I worked the room and it was interesting, that J positioned himself in the back row, (a throw-back, I suspect to his Matie days and inglorious career there in the Landbou Fakulteit,) while I sat down in the front row, which recalled my teacher’s pet status from school, when all the other girls flattened their elacticised hats till they resembled a wilted cabbage leaf as a sign of girlish rebellion, whereas moi walked around with her perfect, coming up roses, specimen. No wonder they couldn’t stand my guts, me hatted and always standing in a balletic first position…(the mad hatter my children would comment here.)

The chairs were facing the television screen and happy photos of the neighbour and his family, played out, then he stood in front of us with the speaker’s very obscure CV, ending on a slight but noticeable, symbolic tap on the fingers for the likes of me, “julle moet konsentreer en luister want Ms X het al die pad van Gauteng gekom en haar waardevolle tyd hier kom deel met ons”. In sleepy hollow of a Paarl I must add and therefore our gratitude should be all the greater, I assumed was the slightly sinister implication. I also found, this last line of his, smacking of the “ou Suid Afrika,” shut up and listen because I know best for you and I began to worm in my chair.

The speaker knew me, “agge nee man,” from school days and I had to confess, in front of all, that I had no memory of her, and so I got a big black tick next to my name right from the start.

They began with a video, which would demonstrate the key business principles of this new wonderful thinking and so I eagerly leant forward, not wanting to miss a thing and to make up for my horrible memory and faux pas.

It was animated and appeared geared for the intellectual consumption of grade 0 to 1, I thought, so I pulled faces, trying harder to understand. Something was very wrong with me obviously, this was all so clever that it went completely over my head and I just didn’t get it.

Then Ms X took the floor and very carefully and very convincingly, began to create a scenario of unfullfillment and frustration in us, her captive audience. She listed a lot of so called wants and needs and desires on the screen and as she spoke them through I then knew I was lost to the cause, as my mental answer to each and everyone was the opposite of what she, our teacher was expecting from us, especially me all alone in the front row and her knowing me and all.

After an hour of equating, happiness equals money and goods and no work and free holidays the name, Amway appeared, in very small print in the top left hand corner and then I knew why I was having déjà vu. Ten years ago I had had a visit from two women who sat in my small house, where one could spit on the neighbour’s kitchen window, trying their best to convince me my life sucked and after trying each and every trick they had learnt at their leadership conferences, they gave up on me , disgusted with my contentment, driving off in their silver shiny car with the registration plate, “Dreams, WP.”

And so here I was again being confronted to become part of the great American dream, of materialism, that has proven to be morally bankrupt, that has proven to be unsustainable.

At the end of the talk, no time for questions was given, they simply whipped out forms and files to fill and so I walked over to the speaker, thanked her for her precious time and informed her I would not be needing the forms, now or never. On that note, J and I excused ourselves, me fuming inside, that I had been duped in coming under the pretence of enlightenment, of community. The religion of me-me-me.

I liked J’s take on it when he shook her hand and left, “we’’ll do it our way and not the Am-way, thank you.”

The only good to come out of the evening was to be confronted with all the “desirables” that money, (which you don’t have as yet) can buy and to be calm and at peace in oneself, content and grateful for what you do have, in family, in friends, in work, and something that they never mentioned not even once, to be in a position to give back to the community you live in, to share with those less privileged.

Our third daughter has just come back from Malawi and her experiences of people with so “little” in the conventional western sense and yet so much, to my mind have more than any Amway program, can ever give.

What she has to tell and share resonates with me. I’ll go with that.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://liesljobson.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    Liesl
    December 14th, 2009 @17:10 #
     
    Top

    This brings back memories of being hoodwinked into an Amway presentation. I said I'd buy their goods in support of their endeavour, but I had no interest in peddling such dubious notions. I, too, was furious at being held hostage in a misleading gathering. I recall saying - and it's a good ten years ago, if not more - that I had nothing in common with the presenter and my worldview was too different from his to further a useful exchange. At which point I left in high dudgeon. I never did see a single product that they supposedly "sold".

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://ingridwolfaardt.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ingrid</a>
    Ingrid
    December 15th, 2009 @08:56 #
     
    Top

    Liesl, back then they didn't have the "slick" video presentation of now and weren't formally endorsed by the author of the so called mega seller "Rich dad, Poor dad."

    Bottom
  • ebarble
    ebarble
    January 24th, 2010 @16:39 #
     
    Top

    Hello Ingrid,
    Thank you for your article, I found it to be very enlightening.
    Being a person who is naturally sceptical of people’s opinions, I decided to investigate the validity of your opinions. Sadly it appears that your comments, although perhaps true to you, certainly give a biased view of the truth.
    I too was invited to such a meeting and found my experience to be very much the opposite of your tale. I was impressed at the simplicity of the meeting. What I discovered was simply just another way for anyone wanting to uplift their own lives while helping others to do the same.
    I decided then to read Rich Dad Poor Dad. I then dug deeper only to find that he actually is a top selling author and actually has endorsed this concept.
    We are a couple committed to being involved in community upliftment and so we naturally investigated the charitable influences of the company. We are impressed at the continued efforts of the company to inject resources into communities globally. Our research found efforts focussed on environmental protection, under-privileged and community development.
    So instead of looking for what was wrong we decided to look for what was good, we asked questions, asked to see products, asked for more information, all of which have been met and have left us even more impressed.
    Since the age of 17 when I began working until now (19 years later), I have found that despite the long hours, countless courses and ongoing education, I still find myself caught in mediocrity and not that much closer to where I envisioned myself to be. Over the last few years I have engrossed myself in personal development reading incredible books such as Leadership and Self-Deception, Dream Making in a Dream –Taking World, Attitudes of Amazing Achievers, to name but a few. One thread has stood out for me, we live in a challenging world and hope is something that each of us need. I found that, although simple and perhaps even unprofessional to the critics, the concept does offer hope to people, this in itself humbled me and would like to believe that even if I chose not to pursue this type of venture, that I would have enough respect not to criticise and even steal the dreams and hope of others.
    My observation concluded that the world is filled with people each with their own desires, some want money for material gain and other want money to simply help others, some want more time and some just simply want another way to do things. For some, perhaps this would just help to keep up with the bills.
    So again, I would like to thank you , your cynicism and criticism helped me to realise that we have no right to judge, especially when we have not adequately researched the facts.
    To anyone else reading this blog, I would like to encourage you to investigate, research and make an educated decision for yourself, if it offers you hope, go with it and if not just simply walk away enlightened. For us we are going to investigate even further, thanks to Ingrid for spearheading us to get out of the box, it is so true when they say that out of negative, positive can prevail.

    All the best with doing it your way, I have no doubt that it will be the best way for you.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://ingridwolfaardt.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ingrid</a>
    Ingrid
    January 24th, 2010 @20:33 #
     
    Top

    Thank you for such a wonderfully thought through response. Go for it-in life there are different courses for different horses-I wish you the best!

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    January 25th, 2010 @08:51 #
     
    Top

    Is it true that Amway are changing their name to Spamway?

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    January 25th, 2010 @09:48 #
     
    Top

    I was mildly entertained when the Ambot called Ingrid cynical and negative.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://ingridwolfaardt.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ingrid</a>
    Ingrid
    January 25th, 2010 @09:53 #
     
    Top

    To be honest ar I've always seen myself as the blissfully idealistic-optimist, all- -things-are-possible-gal around town.

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    January 25th, 2010 @10:01 #
     
    Top

    That's how we see you too, Ingrid. Wouldn't want it any other way, either :)

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    January 25th, 2010 @10:06 #
     
    Top

    AR, I also had a bit of a jaw-drop trying to imagine Ingrid and cynical in the same room together... nope, I think she just smelled a rat, and with good reason: 30 seconds on the web indicates that Amway are under investigation in half a dozen countries for running scams. It's the evangelical nature of the programming that bothers me -- your life sucks, do this, and you will be happy.

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    January 25th, 2010 @10:22 #
     
    Top

    The only words I have for Amway are too obscene, cynical, negative and inflammatory to put in here.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    January 25th, 2010 @10:26 #
     
    Top

    SuperCult Spamway

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    January 25th, 2010 @10:26 #
     
    Top

    But the nice thing about life is that self-help comes in many guises - Amway may not actually be as lucrative as getting a 9-5 and working very very hard but it gives people a sense of community, belonging and support. Because it attracts a lower LSM (sorry but it's true) I would say better to get hope from this type of venture than from the machines that go ping inside casinos.

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    January 25th, 2010 @10:37 #
     
    Top

    Except that I have seen sweet people get eaten by Amway. Naivete, a missing snake-oil filter plus a desire to "better oneself" does not deserve that type of punishment, and when they eventually get spat out (almost always) they are usually worse off in every way.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    January 25th, 2010 @10:44 #
     
  • <a href="http://kathrynwhite.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kathryn</a>
    Kathryn
    January 25th, 2010 @10:49 #
     
    Top

    Very true. and that is why people must be educated! because there are too many charlatans. i used to not feel sorry for people who fell for scams but i came to realise that that naivety is from not being educated enough, not reading enough and a real lack of decent role models. (but i still stand by my casino barometer: a scam in a lounge is better than a scam supported by and benefiting cartels).

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://sarahlotz.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    January 25th, 2010 @11:09 #
     
    Top

    Ingrid, you must see the movie 'Go' - it has an absolutely hilarious yet truly terrifying Amway fanatic couple in it.
    Oh, and loved your hand-puppets reference.

    Bottom
  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    January 25th, 2010 @11:16 #
     
    Top

    The best piece of writing I've come across on Amway is by American Matt Roth, who published "Dreams Incorporated: Living the Delayed Life with Amway" in one of my all-time favourite publications, The Baffler. The piece isn't anywhere online, but here's a good summary (w/extract):

    http://www.webraw.com/quixtar/archives/2004/12/amway_and_the_baffler.php

    Meanwhile, get thee to The Baffler:

    http://www.thebaffler.com/

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    January 25th, 2010 @11:29 #
     
    Top

    Amway once accused Proctor&Gamble of being satanic. True Story! Mind you, for a given value of satanic, they were probably right; whilst also being incredibly hypocritical. :)

    Good link, Mr Ben. Here's one that doesn’t fixate specifically on Amway/Quixtar, but dissects the problems associated with MLM (multi level marketing) as a method of doing business. For those who, unlike me, are not pathologically averse to salespeople and marketing as a whole:

    http://www.vandruff.com/mlm.html

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    January 25th, 2010 @12:01 #
     
    Top

    Is it just those 2 paragraphs, Mr Ben? Or am I just being obtuse? Where can I get more of that piece, do you know?

    Huh. Bears repeating, over and over:

    "...Amway doesn't seem to have changed much at all. Perhaps what's changed is us. While Amway is the same as it ever was, the rest of us have made peace with commercial insanity. Maybe capitalism has finally reached the stage of self-parody, unblushingly celebrating a house-of-cards as its highest achievement..."

    Bottom
  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    January 25th, 2010 @12:06 #
     
    Top

    Just those two snippets, I'm afraid, ar. Maybe write to The Baffler for a back issue?

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    January 25th, 2010 @12:07 #
     
    Top

    Done. Tks

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    January 25th, 2010 @12:09 #
     
    Top

    They got my oldest sister. She had my poor dying mother on her state teacher's pension buying cases awful crap just to prevent my sister from going bankrupt. I'm more angry with my sister for being stupid and greedy and not being able to make ends meet in a regular fashion than at Amway for being greedy, manuipulative capitalist pigs, a cult preying on the weaknesses of the populus. Their major flaw is that their labout force is made up of gullible, overtrusting and unconfident people: they'll never take over the world like that.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    January 25th, 2010 @12:26 #
     
    Top

    I don't think the Ambot was counting on unleashing this massive backlash of bad publicity. *cackle*

    That is a very sad story, Louis.

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    January 25th, 2010 @12:28 #
     
    Top

    It IS a sad story. But au contraire, Louis. Trusting, meek people make the best consumers & minimum-wage labourers. In a sense the f'ckers have taken over the world already because their ethos permeates everything.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://www.itsnotmytree.co.za" rel="nofollow">Annette</a>
    Annette
    January 25th, 2010 @13:53 #
     
    Top

    My sister in law peddles vitamins in a similar set up and the whole family is obliged to buy the stuff from her. Recently my little step child had a bad case of measles, she came running with her herbal antibiotics, the main ingredient of which is garlic, Manto would have been proud. It's amazing how people get suckered into this kind of thing. Personally I found Rich Dad Poor Dad was a pretty good cure for insomnia.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://ingridandersen.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ingrid Andersen</a>
    Ingrid Andersen
    January 25th, 2010 @16:48 #
     
    Top

    I'm glad someone mentioned the dodgyvitaminmerchant company. Ingrid's description of being pursuaded to attend a presentation is almost word for word the patter that was used by a well-respected university colleague some years ago. His intensity in making the invitation was intriguing, and I didn't know quite how to refuse.

    Half-way through his very vague discussion about this thing that was going to empower and liberate me, changing my life in the process, I recognised a very old company with an updated name.

    I laughed cheerfully and left.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    January 25th, 2010 @17:00 #
     
    Top

    It's exactly the same patter used by the evangelical Christians I fell foul of in my undergrad years. Your life sucks, we have the answer. The problem was that if your life still sucked after you had embraced whatever, then the fault was yours -- lack of faith, not trying hard enough, not believing and trusting that the glorious new life was just around the corner. So it became a vicious cycle, where doubts were quelled because they were sinful/undermining etc.

    Bottom
  • ebarble
    ebarble
    February 1st, 2010 @18:47 #
     
    Top

    Hi Ingrid, thank you for your response, in all honestly I simply wanted to share my thoughts with you as my experience unfolded, you being a catalyst as I embarked on this journey. It does however appear that some points were taken out context. After reading several of the comments that have been added to this blog, I find myself feeling somewhat disappointed with society. My comments to you were written with gratitude and I in no way wanted to come across as trying to bring you or your comments down.
    As I have gone through life the one thing that has become apparent to me, what is right for one may not be right for another but I have no right to put people down for not thinking as I do. Having said that I respect your right to your views but then when reading some of the comments, I realised the following that although I enjoy reading your comments, engaging in electronic dialogue can certainly bring the worst out in some.
    Electronic conversation does not appear to allow for emotional context as a face to face conversation would, when I see comments like “supercult” etc, I find myself questioning our intelligence as a species, why do we spend time educating ourselves and express ourselves in a manner that breaks all that effort down.
    I am grateful to you and sincerely wish you all the best and again I apologise if there was any disrespect.
    No doubt there will be comments added to this blog (most likely negative), but I just wanted to share my thoughts with you.
    Best regards.

    Bottom
  • ar
    ar
    February 1st, 2010 @20:15 #
     
    Top

    I get you ebarble. I feel your pain in a way because I question our intelligence as a species every hour on the hour. Best etc.

    Bottom

Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat