.. , building and agriculture were carried on effectively in Jonestown. Jones’ young lieutenants were able to master intricate financial transactions and made public statements which seemed clear and honest. From superficial observation outsiders can believe that members of such a community are doing better than they did before when they may have felt confused or unhappy and demonstrated more overtly their unsure character. So investigators from the American State Department and the Embassy who went to Guyana believed the people at Jonestown were doing fine.
They had become zombies, well functioning ones, but zombies nevertheless. They operated with, as Dostoyevsky said, a stable conception of the object of life without having to question it. Even a hard-nosed lawyer like Charles E. Garry got fooled by the appearance of happiness in a certain proportion of members. After a ten-day stay at Jonestown, he described it as Paradise on Earth. The sad thing is that once such a system is established, it feeds on itself and diminishes even the physical ability of oppressed members to move out and evaluate themselves or their community from the outside. Boundaries become more and more rigidly set and impermeable.
Outside even those who suffer under the system, because it is the system that defines their reality and chaos looks like the only alternative, fear influence or intervention. Within this tight-knit system a pecking order with sergeants and lieutenants develops. They become a layer between the Big Parent and the Slaves. In this layer are a few unskilled Type II (Master) types who joined for opportunistic reasons. But, for the most part, this layer contains intelligent or crafty Type I (Slave) individuals who continue to be dependent on the Leader.
Rather than becoming rebellious when they are disappointed with him, their angry Child acts out the anger on lesser Slaves by becoming bossy. They have internalized a part of the Master’s controlling Child or Parent, usually the cruel persecutory aspect, even before it becomes evident to outsiders. These lieutenants become secondary Masters, pseudo-Parents, with the drive and permission to lash out at those beneath, using the justification of obeying orders. They contribute to maintaining the community’s rigid boundary; eventually the whole community receives permission to enact whatever destructive patterns have existed in the Leader. For a long while these patterns are hidden even from him, covered as they are with his altruistic and helpful rackets.
Jones was probably suicidal from way back, but his rackets prevented him from knowing it most of the time. Which brings us to a description of Jones himself, as a tyrant or Master type. He cannot simply be dismissed as evil, paranoid, or cynical from the beginning. We need to account for his rise to power. It’s in seeking to grasp the motivations of persons like Jones that the theory of the substitution factor of rackets becomes so important.
At early stages of his career Jones probably saw himself as idealistic, loving, and devoted to the welfare of humanity. The trap is that this view of himself was probably based on a love or benevolence racket. It covered awareness of his inordinate craving to be loved more than the average, perhaps more than anyone. In type II (Master) individuals such a craving turns into lust for power. (I’ll make you love me, if it’s the last thing I do).
Beneath, sit suicidal impulses and/or murderous rage for not having been loved, as he wanted, perhaps even prior to age three. One should remember that for a while, Jones’ rackets led him to make valuable social contributions. He fought racism, even to the point of adopting seven different children of different races, he supported some of his followers and various liberal causes, and he served effectively for the San Francisco Housing Authority. But as a result of his love and benevolence racket, he found himself pushed to dish out, and to dish out concern and love to others while becoming increasingly hungrier and frustrated from not getting what he truly needed. Whatever he received got deflected to his power hungry Parent rather than to his starving Child.
Initially he may have experienced excitement, energy and creativity, but as time went on the abject, needy, rackety strokes from his followers failed to gratify his basic yearnings. It is no surprise that he was desperate about holding on to Tim Stoen, the 6-year old adopted child, when the latter was being claimed by his own parents. Tim may have been the source of the few genuine loving strokes Jones received. To reassure himself that he was not dying of depletion, and to boost his sure attitude, Jones increasingly was forced to depend on mass rallies, alcohol and pep pills. His emotional starvation created inaccurate assumptions about being beset with a variety of physical illnesses. This is a typical syndrome in tyrant types when their sense of sureness begins to falter.
Trying to enforce more control over his followers, he moved from Benevolent Rescuer (his racket) to Persecutor. While still maintaining a sureracket of what was for the goodof his followers, he had eruptions of murderous rage; increasingly he experienced himself as the Victim, even before the self-created calamity closed in on him. After increasing success in building up followers and admiration, persons like Jones set them toward destruction within the net of mutually shared magical beliefs in their community. They start out believing, as do their followers, that they can omni potently solve the world’s problems, if only people will do it their way. This was also Hitler’s stated belief. And this may also be the tragedy of Dederich at Synanon, the one time effective treatment of heroin addiction, turned authoritarian community.
When the magical process fails to succeed totally, frustration and anger in both leader and followers develop. Initially, both deny these, lest their airtight system explode the shared illusion of leader’s omnipotence, and follower’s newfound effectiveness. Positive mutual stroking transforms it into negative stroking, particularly by the leaders on the followers who get blamed for everything that goes wrong. They in turn accept the blame rather than confront their leader. Where followers challenge or try to defect, the group literally or figuratively exterminates them.
They continue to try to remain tightly knit in spite of the internal combustion that can cause implosion, or from explosion due to external intervention. So a given individual can get himself entrapped into a dangerously violent system through having a confused or frightened Child and even when his Adult is operational, he may be so enmeshed, it is too late to cry uncle. Then, his best apparent Adult option may be to go along and save his life – or his relative sanity. These appear to be improved as long as he stays in the system and does not waste energy fighting. Typically, individuals like Jones have a talent for distorting and converting ideas like freedom, responsibility, self-respect, caring, and love. These ideas get co-opted into representing rackets rather than into representing profound meanings. In hearing such leaders, it is sometimes difficult to identify exactly how their lofty justifications don’t ring true. Surrender and trust, beautiful in a loving relationship, become capitulation of a free child to the grandiosity racket of a misguided parent. This sad phenomenon can be witnessed in certain couples’ relationships, families, religious or psychological movements and, more tragically, in communities such as Synanon and Jonestown. Commenting on Synanon, Max Lerner identified the seed of tragedy as lying in the surrender of individual choice both to the leader’s decision and to the group’s pressures.
If an individual allows himself to be stripped naked within such a setting, then he inevitably becomes dependent on the leader and the group for psychological support. Concluding, Lerner states: We have still to resolve the mixture of authority and self help that is best for therapy and religion. But until we do, the Buddha’s remark on his deathbed may be worth recalling: Work out your own salvation with diligence. In hearing of the deaths in Guyana, Rabbi Maurice Davis, who had sold Jones an synagogue within which was housed the first People’s Temple in Indianapolis, said: I keep thinking what happens when the power of love is twisted into the love of power. Bibliography Dostoyevsky, F.
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