Jonestown and Cultural Narratives by Andrew Gelwick

I listen to podcasts more than I listen to music. Who needs friends when ya got verbal xanax. Anyways I was listening to Last Podcast on the Left's 300th episode and this wasn't the first time I learned about Jonestown but it was the best contextualized story I've heard yet. When I first learned about Jonestown it was presented as cautionary tale against religious cults and their inevitable result, often said in the same breath as Waco and Heavens Gate. Jim Jones was atheist and an annoying one at that. Perhaps this is the most insidious aspect and the most overlooked, something that changes Jones from a religious extremist to a mass murderer; he used these peoples religious beliefs as a tool for further power. Another aspect of Jones I hadn't realized was the good he did.

Essentially Jones was a hyper liberal pastor and his efforts to desegregate Indianna in the 1950s and his continued and radial support for the civil rights movement until his church relocated in the early 1970s needs to be acknowledged. His radical Maoist and socialist leanings too need to be acknowledged. Frequently Jones would rail against what he termed the Christian "Sky God" and by the end Jonestown was a bizarre mix of different religious ceremonies and ideas trying to support Jones' own version of socialism. 

I wanted to talk about this because Jim Jones acts as a intersection of a variety of ideas that interest me. The idea of conspiracy and narrative; a biracial, socialist, cultish colony in South America with extensive ties to the United States was radical for the time and the "religious cult" story that is presented today I believe supports American hegemony. They killed a senator, the first murder of a US senator I think atleast in a very long time. The idea of Hero Worship and its eventual, apocalyptic outcome is on display in this story as well and the current cultural narrative of Jonestown also supports this. 

Finally Jonestown gave us the term "Drinking the Kool Aid" for someone who blindly follows a leader even to their doom. I think this is so offensive to those lost that day (over 900 people) and their affected families, who had members pack up and leave the US within a week, often never hearing from them again. Most of the victims that day were found with needle marks or gunshot wounds because they refused to drink the kool aid. I just wanted to also mention that