Paul Morantz, it’s interesting that you should ask me whether I’ve finished reading your book or not on the day I finished it. I was up late last night reading the end of it…Blown away man !
You have lived such a life !
I have been really interested in Synanon, ever since I found out about it, which was about the time I got online, in 2005 and discovered the fornits website, which was a site dedicated to the discussion of the troubled teen industry and activism against the industry. Through that website I met other former prisoners of drug rehab cults and was able to reconnect with many of the people who I was in Straight Inc. with and already knew well and I got involved in the activism, participated in public demonstrations against places like Kids Helping Kids, and spoke out at public meetings against other Synanon/Straight Inc descendent programs. Once I began to look into the history of Straight and try to track down where it came from, out of a need for a deeper understanding of it all, I found out about Synanon and have been kind of obsessed with the story ever since. What a character Dederich was ! A very dynamic person ! The rebel in me respects those who can push back against authority, and though I realized the injustices he committed and also enabled others to commit, I none the less had an enduring respect for his ability to simply tell the authorities to shove it somewhere. I was in Straight for a reason after all, and not simply because my parents exercised bad judgement and there were criminals willing to take advantage of our family. …LOL… Pardon my ramblin… My own intentions, which had to do with gaining an understanding of social power, were paramount to my being placed in Straight, when I was 16. That doesn’t excuse the injustice committed against me, by the society and the people who ran and supported Straight. You’re books have broken any illusions I had about who Dederich was. Before I read your books I had this sort of grudging respect for the guy, because of the way he could give it back to the government and whoever he pleased. I couldn’t help but admire his chutzpah, so to speak. Now, I realize the ferocity of the coldness of his heart. I am still somewhat sympathetic to him though. It’s a tough world.
I wonder about the influence of the LSD on him. From what I understand Synanon, was intended to sort of simulate an acid trip, in order to give people insight into their own interior mindscapes, and thereby provide the understanding required for wellness. If I could ask him something, it might be, “What did you learn from the LSD” ? It’s interesting to think about… The other question I would ask him would be in regard to his employment at Douglas Air Base, supposedly as a maintenance man, and whether or not he had any relationship with the RAND Corp. or anyone who worked for RAND or was otherwise associated with RAND… He was a cybernetical genius of some kind and that’s exactly what RAND was studying too. He formed a successful cult with his abilities and RAND is a shady social engineering firm, with federal government connections, that intentionally participates in the cybernetic manipulation of our democracy. It’s just so coincidental.
I was most fascinated by the history of the early days and the dynamics of the situation that created Synanon, and the old timers who were sick of their lives and desperate to be sober and get off the junk. Also there is a certain nostalgia among some, today, for those romanticized early days of bein a Santa Monica hipster, shootin dope back in the late 50s. Synanon seems like it started out as a righteous endeavor. I can understand, people who are strung out on heroin choosing to join Synanon, rather than live a life of misery on dope. I respect that, and say again, it’s a tough world.
Synanon changed gradually into a malevolent cult, and over time had less and less to do with a cure for heroin addiction, as Dederich consolidated his power and became more and more isolated from the outside world.
It was a long book, with a ton of detailed history. What a monumental work it must have been to write !
By the time I got to the part where you are deposing Dederich, I was ready for it and thought that was the climax of the story. Since I was in Straight Inc, a Synanon descendent program, I read about the legacy of Synanon with great personal interest. I was glad to see Straight mentioned by name and credit given to Wes Fager. I had never put it together that Mel Sembler was the founder of Kids of North Jersey Inc. When I read that, my mind flashed back over previous conversations I’d had with other survivors and I remembered being told that before, but I had never really consciously remembered that.
A lot of respect for Alvin Gambonini, the Marin County rancher who lived nearby Synanon and had the courage to help so many otherwise helpless kids when they needed it and Dave Mitchell of the Point Reyes Light, for his courage and righteousness, in the way he ran his small newspaper. Good men !
And Paul, I know you made plenty of sacrifices to take the fight to Synanon the way you did. I want to thank you, for everything you’ve done and all the personal sacrifices you’ve made, and thank you for writing such an incredible book, that I will be reflecting on for some time to come. I was touched by your understanding and compassion for the victims of Dederich and Synanon, even when they were the 2 members of Synanon, Musico and Kenton, who placed the rattlesnake in your mailbox.
Thanks for signing the books for me and for engaging with me in dialogue about it here on facebook. It means a lot to me, to understand it all, and you’ve been a great help. You have my sincere respect and I would love to meet you some day and shake your hand.
All the best.