Ruthless is about Dave Miscavige, as seen through the eyes of his dad. In some ways it’s an interesting book. It’s not solely about Dave, as Ron calls him. It’s actually about a couple of things.
First of all, it’s about Ron himself. You do have to understand where he comes from, to understand his parenting, and his marriage. His first marriage was a tumultuous one. They fought a lot, and sometimes it turned violent. From his description it was the fault of both of them, but he does point out that maybe he saw it wrong. His wife, Loretta, died some years ago. I do applaud that he says that, because it could be easy to blame it on her, maybe her Italian temper, or that she wanted a kind of a man that he just wasn’t. However, he came from a place and an era when people often didn’t have the tools to resolve their marital problems. It’s partly in an effort to find a better way to communicate with his wife that he got into Scientology.
Another aspect of this story is what Scientology used to be like. It doesn’t sound all that bad. LRH, while in many ways a conman, seemed to be actually building something that may not have been completely what he said it was, did have positive aspects. Strangely, in all the talk about Scientology, there is no mention of Xenu, thetans, or anything like that. Ron seems to be more interested in the communication and self-help aspect of Scientology. He does admit that most of it was really pencilled together from earlier sources and sold as LRH’s own ideas. I do see the draw though. He also writes about how Scientology changed after LRH died and Dave took over. Dave only seems to treat the whole organisation as something to serve him in the moment. His own little kingdom to rule, with no regard to the future.
The third subject is Dave. What he was like as a kid, and that he’s really a sociopath. Which is not that much of a surprise. As a kid he had much of the classical signs. A bully, but also charming, and demanding attention. He did leave home right after his 16th birthday to join the Sea Org. While this could be a sign that he just wanted to get away from his parents fighting, the fights didn’t make him what he is. On the one hand, Ron swears that the violence was only between the adults. Also, the positive aspects of Scientology should have taught him better techniques to communicate with people. The real reason that Dave is so violent and awful, is because that’s just the way he is. From every description, it’s apparent that he completely lacks empathy. He can mimic normal people, pretend to be nice and sweet, but that’s exactly what sociopaths are like. Once you get near them, once they have power over you, they can stop pretending.
While I wish there had been more details in the book, I did enjoy it. Ron’s writing is easy, quite enjoyable. He paints colourful pictures of places and people, while being down-to-earth and no frills.
Overall, it’s a good little book. While it does feel a bit less about Dave, and more about Ron, the person who just wants to know more about Scientology will be satisfied. Is it a complete study of Dave? No. Ron seems like the old-fashioned father, who was mostly focused on bringing home the bacon, teaching his kids to ride a bike, than the day-to-day of parenting. He never seemed to have too deep a connection with his son, which is normal for his generation. However, while this book may not be exactly as promised, it’s worth reading. I did it in a day.