Drinking the Kool-Aid

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 8.37.58 AMWhen I first heard this expression I had never drunk Kool-Aid, I didn’t even know what it was, and I would have spelt it Coolade,

Kool-Aid is drink… and a wool dye. It does seem worrying that something you’d drink can also dye wool, but onion skins, beetroot and tea are also effective as dyes.

From the context I understood the phrase to mean “you’ve been brainwashed by corporate-speak, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear”.

Which is roughly correct. The origins of the term are more disturbing. It goes back to events in 1978 at a community known as Jonestown in Guyana (named after the founder Jim Jones; when people start naming stuff after themselves it should be a warning). The community was initially founded on socialist lines in the 1950s and known as the People’s Temple, but by 1978 had relocated to Guyana. When a US senator visited on a fact-finding mission and learned that some members of the community were unhappy, and wanted to return to America he offered to help anyone who wanted to leave.

By this time Jim Jones’ health had deteriorated, and he was paranoid about enemies from outside and from within the community. His security men attempted to stop those leaving, killing several people, including the senator at the nearby airport as they attempted to leave. He then induced more than 900 people to drink a poison-laden mixture, reported as kool-aid. This had been planned beforehand and was known by the Temple members as “revolutionary suicide”, it is now known as the “Jonestown Massacre”, and until 9/11 it was the single largest loss of US civilian lives apart from natural disasters.

The survivors returned to the US, and tried to build new lives. Fox News reported on some of their stories at the 30 year anniversary. It’s a litany of sorrow and guilt.

Somehow I don’t think I’ll be using this term.

Image; Kool-Aid Laughin’ Lemonade FunFizz / theimpulsivebuy/ CC BY-SA 2.0

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