His survivalist instincts primed by the threat of global warming and mass pandemics, Russell Cartwright of Nashville, Tennessee, began contemplating founding his own self-sufficient society, which in turn prompted him to ponder the critical question of whether he had what it took to be an effective cult leader.
“Charisma’s not an issue,” he said. “I’ve been told I’ve got that in spades. As I see it, the only area where I might fall short is in pulling off a convincing level of authoritarianism. When you’re a cult leader, you can’t mess around.”
Cartwright went on to emphasize that, naturally, he’d be committed to his cult beyond all else, and would initially burn with righteous wrath at anyone who sought to question his authority. “The trouble is, it’s tough for me to sustain that level of fury,” he said. “I’ve never been good at holding a grudge.”
Another potential failing point, said Cartwright, is his tendency to burst into laughter while attempting to reprimand someone for breaking a rule – especially a stupid rule. “But in cults, you’ve got to take even the most mundane rules super seriously,” he noted. “Again, the authoritarianism is definitely my weak spot.”
One cult-leader component Cartwright has fully come to terms with, however, is the focus on maintaining a dignified, formal air about him. “I’d have to start going by Russell rather than Russ, which is fine,” he said. “And no more cutesy nicknames like ‘Russ in Boots.’ I can do that."
All told, “Russell” says that he feels relatively confident – “Make that supremely confident,” he amended. “Cult leaders can’t show the slightest doubt.” – about his ability to become an effective cult leader, when and if he decides to take that next step. “I’m not quite there yet,” he said. “But just like the seeds I’ll be sowing among men, I’ll grow into it.”