In the mid 1950s, the Reverend Jim Jones formed The People’s Temple, in Indiana.
He preached that society should be a socialist Utopia, with equality for all.
By the mid 1970s, he was ready to put his vision into practice.
He moved the Temple, with 1,100 members, into 10 square miles of jungle in Guyana.
The promise was a paradise where everyone was equal.
The reality was rather different.
The Reverend Jones had become addicted to a cocktail of drugs.
These made him progressively more depressed and paranoid.
He was worried about bad publicity.
He was worried about outsiders infiltrating.
He was worried about people escaping.
The paradise became a prison compound.
No one was allowed in or out.
Back in the USA, relations of the Temple’s members became worried.
They suspected that members were being held against their will.
They lobbied the newspapers and politicians to investigate.
Eventually, congressman Leo Ryan agreed to go and find out the truth.
He flew into the jungle airstrip.
His group went in two small planes, carrying relatives and reporters.
After visiting the Temple’s compound, the congressman found 15 people who said they wanted to leave.
He agreed to take them with him.
He, and the newsmen, escorted them to the planes.
But the Reverend Jim Jones decided he couldn’t allow them to leave.
So at the jungle airstrip they were shot.
The congressman, a civilian, two news reporters, and a cameraman were killed.
Several more people were injured.
But one plane escaped.
Now The Reverend Jones had crossed the line.
He’d murdered a member of The United States Congress.
Now there was no turning back.
Now there was only one way out.
He instructed his followers to prepare a fifty-gallon drum of cyanide flavoured with Kool Aid.
Then he instructed all his followers, one-by-one, to drink it.
He told them to attend to their children first.
A third of the people in the camp, around 300, were children.
So the parents helped their children drink the Kool Aid, before taking it themselves.
People did the same with their pets.
When it was all over 909 people lay dead, all over the camp.
People holding hands.
People with their arms around their children.
And the big question is, why?
Not why did The Reverend Jim Jones do it?
We know why he did it, he was finished.
His choice was between a shootout in the jungle, ending with a bullet, or extradition to California, ending in the gas chamber.
So for Jim Jones it made sense.
The real question is, why did everyone else drink the Kool Aid?
None of them had participated in the killings.
None of them had anything to fear.
Most of them would be better off back in the USA, anyway.
So why did they do it?
And the only reason can be, they were brainwashed.
They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, think for themselves.
They desperately wanted to be part of the group.
And, if they thought for themselves, they couldn’t be part of the group.
They’d be on their own.
And that was scary.
So they just accepted everything he said as fact.
The question of disobedience didn’t even crop up.
In America nowadays ‘drinking the corporate Kool Aid’ has become a cliché.
It’s used to describe anyone who doesn’t, or can’t, think for themselves.
Usually people who repeat the latest jargon parrot-fashion, without ever questioning what it means.
Or if it even makes sense.
People who’ve learned the current, most fashionable, lingo without ever really understanding it.
In fact they don’t have to understand it, because that would involve questioning it.
And questioning it implies disagreement.
So they just accept it.
And expect everyone else to do the same.
These are people who would literally rather die than think for themselves.