Julia Scheeres - A Thousand Lives (17)

"No one joins a cult" is one of my favourite lines in the book. 

"No one joins a cult" is one of my favourite lines in the book. 

"A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown” is about the rise and fall of Jim Jones and his People’s Temple. Jones, an American, takes a group of followers to settle “Jonestown” near the Guyana - Venezuela border. Their journey ends with nearly 1,000 people dead.  

The book is based, in part, on reports from survivors. This is both a strength and a weakness. The survivors tended to be people who were jaded Jones followers, so they are unable to answer the most important question of all: why on earth would anyone follow this guy? Jones seemed like a strung-out, inconsistent egomaniac without any real religious conviction or idealism to capture people’s imaginations. The book tells the “what” but not the “why”, and the why seems like the more interesting part. 

Scheeres seems to make a case against the idea that Jonestown was a “mass suicide”. She argues that residents at Jonestown were starving, living in terrible conditions, and had guns pointed at them when they drank the poison.

The phrase “drank the Kool-Aid” should probably mean “chose the lesser of two horrid options”, rather than "going along with something out of obedience or peer pressure". One doesn’t normally have a gun pointed at them in those cases. This again brings me back to the main question: how did all of those people actually end up at Jonestown in the first place?

What’s Next?

Stepping onto an airplane, so going with something that was already in my audiobook library. Elon Musk it is (and nope, no connection between the two books intended).