Posted On: Friday - April 26th 2019 2:27PM MST
In Topics:   Commies  California  History  Socialism/Communism
40 years ago this past November 18th, that is. Man, I HATE missing these anniversaries, as there's something about it being "this exact day XX years ago" that makes a story like this that much more interesting. So, it's 40 1/2 years ago now from the day over 900 Socialist/Communist cult member followers of Mr. James Warren Jones drank cyanide-spiked Kool-Aid* and died at their remote commune in the jungle of a place called Guyana.
This Wikipedia article on this "largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001" reads pretty fairly. I remember this news story that even long before the internet, 98% of Americans were surveyed to have heard about This long ago for me was a time when I was too young to really put things into perspective. In other words, I heard about an airliner crash and thought maybe that happens every week, and the same with this story (along with the eruption of Mt. St. Helens a year or two later).
It was a big, big cult era, that decade of the 1970's. I can picture some of the adventurous, maybe overly-open-minded, people that realized at the end of the 1960's (~ 1972) that no, your brain is not going to last long on this LSD, or that following The Dead around supported by the selling of beads and drugs, and an occasional gift from Mom is just not a long-term career. They'd already helped win the internal Cold War for their side (not ours) by starting the mass infiltration of the institutions. What other kind of weirdness could they get into while they were still young?
The country was still less populated, much more free, and wild, to where any unorthodox ideas could still be put into practice without Big Feral Gov't clamping right down. Maybe others were too young during the '60's and wanted to have some fun. The free sex could not be had at non-existent protests anymore (maybe a few anti-Nuke ones), so the next best thing might be joining, or better yet, starting, a cult. The girls join due to their ditziness and awe of anybody charismatic, and guys will follow. It wasn't all about sex, especially the Jim Jones People's Temple cult in this story, but it's gotta be nice to be worshipped as the Head Philanderer and others can aspire to be Assistant Head Philanderer or at least Assistant TO the Head Philanderer. Maybe, just life is not treating you right and this guy really sounds like he knows his shit about life. As Johnny Cougar sang a decade later, "You'd better stand for something, or you're gonna fall for anything".
Yeah, cults were all over the place, it seemed in that era, some no more than churches a little bit wackier than the Unitarians, but others that involved mass kidnapping. Of course, like anything throughout the 2nd half of the last century, this stuff seemed to all start in California. For a very humorous take on that, Peak Stupidity recommends the 1980 movie Serial with Martin Mull.
I like those '70's sunglasses. Bring them back, fashion designers.
These People's Temple folks were on the more serious and political side. The charismatic Jim Jones was much more political than some cult leaders and in no small way either. He met with the California state politicians, supported by a number of them, and even Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale. He had some good recommendations from Rosalyn Carter, the 1st lady at the time. Now, Peak Stupidity may throw the word "Commie" around more than some readers may think appropriate. In this case however, as one can read in that surprisingly fair Wiki article, some time in the mid 1970's Mr. Jones, who'd been a Marxist since the 1950's in Indianapolis, Indiana, decided to take the group full-out Commie. No more feel-good Socialism only for his flock, the People's Temple built their commune down in "Jonestown", Guyana, in S. America to implement the hard-core sort, the type where, at some point they had to threaten people to keep them from going home.
I don't remember hearing of any of the political aspect of the Jonestown Massacre when I learned of this on the TV, but I can't blame the media, as it was just too long ago. However, the Wiki page discusses Jim Jones' fondness for the government of North Korea(!) and discussions with, and invitations to, political figures from the Soviet Union.
Was it a matter of building an idyllic People's Paradise in a non-fertile tepid jungle not working out finance-wise? Well, they did use the Social Security checks of the older black ladies to obtain sustenance from the bad Capitalist world. (- 2/3 of the residents of Jonestown were Afro-American - the term in use then - to be historically correct.). Thanks, LBJ and FDR! Oh, speaking of the finances, though. The cult still had some money in the bank upon mass suicide/homocide day, and that was arranged to be sent to the Soviet Union to help the Communist Party out ... hahahaaa! I'm not sure if it got there. Man, what a crazy time those '70's were! A note from the wife before she drank the Kool-Aid:
I, Marceline Jones, leave all bank assets in my name to the Communist Party of the USSR. The above bank accounts are located in the Bank of Nova Scotia in Nassau, Bahamas.What a big money sink that Communism can be. To each Commie sinkhole according to its needs, from each Kool-Aid-drinking fanatic according to his Social Security check.
Please be sure that these assets do get to the USSR. I especially request that none of these are allowed to get into the hands of my adopted daughter, Suzanne Jones Cartmell.
For anyone who finds this letter, please honor this request as it is most important to myself and my husband James W. Jones.
This is so interesting, and I have more to write about geography a bit, the shootout, including murder of a US Congressman at the Jonestown airstrip just before the mass death, and, of course, the much-used idiom that has been possibly the only good thing to come out of that sick cult/gulag in the jungles of South America 4 decades ago. They'll be at least a Part 2. Please read the whole Wiki article if you have 1/2 - 3/4 hour - it's wild, wacky stuff.
* OK, it was actually a cheaper version of flavored sugar water called Flavor Aid, but when you're Communists living in the jungle, you have to sacrifice for the Motherland. I'm gonna stick with "Kool-Aid" for the story, as it's been 40 years, and people ain't gonna change a whole expression now, dammit.