Thursday, November 13, 2008
Jonestown - “THOSE WHO DO NOT REMEMBER THE PAST ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT.”
A NEW LEARNING
“THOSE WHO DO NOT REMEMBER THE PAST ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT.”
Today has been the thirtieth anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. On November 13, 1978 Jim Jones who had mesmerized, manipulated and controlled over one thousand people to move from the United States of America to a jungle settlement in Guyana, led 918 people to either commit suicide by drinking an arsenic laden drink or had them killed by his deluded loyalists. It was horrific then. Its memory is no less appalling. The quotation cited above was written on a wooden sign hung in rafters over the body of Jim Jones who lay with a bullet in his head on that dreadful day.
The slogan’s poignancy is so profound when one considers the many thousands of people who failed to learn from that awful past, and have thrown their lives away following other misguided and infamous leaders.
It appears that people do not plan to join a cult. They are looking for community perhaps during a difficult personal season of life. Cults and cult leaders target emotionally vulnerable people who are in such transitions. Cult leaders customarily manifest charisma, magnetism and seduction. Handsome and alluring leaders are often paranoiac and delusional, even pathological. Once attracted, recruits are kept excessively busy and isolated so that they cannot entertain doubts about their new alliance. Further, rigid rules and rituals reinforce the autonomy of the cult from societal proprieties and restraints. Studies of cults reveal that the average cult member has been in three or four other groups. This is termed as "seeker syndrome," which is a spiritual quest by people who feel free to experiment. Seekers typically move on when they become bored or disenchanted. The Jonestown residents did not have that escape because their passports had been confiscated by Jim Jones and anyone who spoke about leaving was ridiculed, subjected to hard labour or beaten.
During the 1970’s and early 1980’s concerned relatives would arrange for deprogrammers to snatch cult members from the street in order to confront their conduct with the revelation that they are being abused and exploited. That approach has been abandoned for less invasive correctives. My learning today is the motto of the sign is futile and people will always become prey for felonious people. It has always been so. This is a sinful world.