NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)
30th November, 1978 : In what may be the modern world’s largest instance of mass suicide, some 913 members of an American religious cult, the People’s Temple, have been found dead, deep in the jungles of Guyana. The discovery follows that of the bodies of US Congressman Leo Ryan and five others near the camp-site. The cultists, all of whom lived in an agricultural commune know as Jonestown, appear to have been poisoned, and survivors, who have been hiding in the jungle, claim that the cult’s leader the Rev Jim Jones, forced them all to drink a mixture of soft drink Kool-Aid, laced with cyanide. A note, signed by Jones, explains the deaths as “an act of revolutionary suicide”. How Jones induced his followers to kill themselves remains a mystery. But rumours coming from the commune told how the former Methodist preacher, who founded the Temple in 1957 and moved 1,000 of its members to Guyana in 1976,, had turned from a philanthropist into a dictator, often rehearsing the cultists in such acts of self-destruction.
[Suicides are not nice, especially the mass ones. One, almost forgotten now, occurred in June 1945 near Lienz in Austria. The British authorities told a group of Soviet nationals that they would be forcibly repatriated to the tender mercies of Stalin and his NKVD. One hundred and thirty-four people committed suicide.]