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November 18, 2003

Drinking the Kool-Aid

25 Years ago today, in Jonestown, Guyana, the reverend Jim Jones saw his religious settlement about to be exposed as an inhumane snake pit. Over 1000 followers, some willingly and some by force, drank a poisoned "Kool-Aid" concoction and died there in South America. Those who did not drink or tried to escape were shot with guns and arrows. The dead included 200 children. 

These were dispossessed Americans who had left their homes for a better life promised by a charismatic leader - a new society was to be formed there in the wilderness. The reality of membership in this  cult was strict behavioral rules, the separation of families, and other classic brainwashing techniques. Individualism squashed, free speech abolished, and a undercurrent of terror established that made individuals seek out leadership instead of thinking for themselves.

The Jonestown legacy lives on in the phrase "he/she/they were/are drinking the Kool-Aid." You may have heard this, even used it, without knowing it's origin.  It is meant to indicate an absolute willingness to put aside personal thought and allow one's destiny to be controlled by another. If you're looking for evil, you don't have to look much further.

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Although we started this morning out thinking just about the origins of the phrase, it sure ended up being a lot more significant as we thought about it. Funny thing thought, it sure leads you down some interesting paths.


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