[Editor’s note: The following document is an extended version of the transcript of Q 616.]
- He not wanting to see us hurt and us being foreigners in Brazil and not being able to really help with their struggle we went back to Indiana for a short while.
- Fortunately it was not a serious injury – it was a graze: Dad assured me that it was alright and not to worry.
STEPHEN [STEPHAN] GANDHI JONES
We were all unacceptable. My brothers and sisters were unacceptable because of the color and I was unacceptable because I accepted them… At least I felt like I once again had an identification with my family. I didn’t have to worry about them resenting me.
When I was little, I live with my mom, dad, my Black brother Jimmy, and my Korean brother and sister, Lew and Suzanne. We never had discipline in the form of spankings or physical punishment. One of the things that struck me was that I knew when I’d done wrong. I felt much worse just knowing I’ve done wrong then if I’ve been beaten for it. Dad had a way of making me know that what I had done was wrong. He never put a hand on me. But I’ve been spanked by teachers and all it ever did for me was make me hate. I have a way of taking my mind off what I’d done wrong and directing my hostility… I’d be hostile at the persons who spanked me. But he knew how to make me know I’d done wrong.
We never had violence in the family. None of this stuff. The parents arguing over different matters – they disagreed about some things – but it was just a good atmosphere. There were never favorites. In their own minds they had to prove that they didn’t favor their natural-born over their adopted children because they knew the children had conflict over that. They always had time for us, and dad always had time for us. He would play with us and show his love at the same time. He would talk to us about what was right and wrong and everything you can imagine that was good about a family – that’s what it was.
As I got older dad got really involved with people because he knew he had something to offer, we all knew he had something to offer. People started coming around and seeing his goodness and more and more I was pulled away from him. Not just me but all of us. He had less time for us as other people made demands on his time. You could tell – you could see – I know it hurt him more than it hurt us. It was sort of a combination of feelings because not only did we feel hurt because he didn’t have the time but you could also see his hurt that he didn’t have the time with us. It may me hostile, really hostile, because the only thing I had to identify with was the nuclear family, our family. Because nobody tried to understand. Everybody hated… For whatever reason. When you don’t understand something, you usually strike out against it rather than try to understand. They just couldn’t understand me having a Black brother and an Asiatic brother and sister. It was a conflict with me and anyone I would try to make friends with. So, the only thing I had was my family, and I saw it falling apart and it made me withdraw really bad.
I started to care about animals; that’s when I started my thing with animals, because they were all I had. As long as I would give something to them, they would give to me. I kind of pulled away from people. It was a good part of my life because animals have been fulfilling to me.
It was hard for me to come to realize that dad had something to offer. I just never took into mind that it was selfish of me to think that I could have all of such an advanced mind and person. Because he is far ahead of most people intellectually. He knows what’s right and he’s been blessed with compassion but at the same time, he’s always had the ability to know where he stands on a subject. I’ve never known anyone not to respect what he has to say.
I’d say I was probably eight or nine when dad turned toward a communal way of life – not just the nuclear family but anyone that relieved what he believed and stuck with him was part the family. Now I see that’s right and I know that’s right and it’s made my life a lot better having people that you can fall back on and know you can rely on. Another time, I saw my dad just… just drained. What used to be a lively person, an energetic person, just faded before my eyes. Seeing him just drained to the point of near death – from that time on it was nothing for me to think dad’s only got a couple of years to live. I’m to this day surprised he’s made it as long as he has because he’s always made it a point to talk to me, to let me know what my responsibilities are if he’s not always with us. It was the loving thing to do because I don’t know what I’d do if, if… I’m ready for it now, but at that time it would’ve just… I would have just gone completely insane if I’d lost him. Because he’s been my only identification point – the only thing I had to keep me in touch with reality. Everybody seemed so cold, and so distant and so selfish. It made me really hostile because I’m surprised, I’m really surprised that I just didn’t totally turn away from what we believe and just becoming totally selfish and self-centered person. Because it made me hostile. I had lost just everything that seemed good to me. Of course, it was later replaced by something that’s even better – a better security because there is no security… Dad made me feel secure but what is one man or one family against a very… hostile world?
STEPHEN GANDHI JONES
It turned me against that way of life and it made me very withdrawn. It made people dislike me at the same time because I was nasty, I always thought I was right, and I never will shut my mouth. I started fights over little things and I became what most people would call a… a… I can’t think of the word for it. I would have ended up in some sort of reform school if it hadn’t been for my dad – having parents that cared and then I can go and talk to because I had become hostile to the world and people in general because I felt they were taking something from me. But now I see they deserved him just as much as I did.
We lived in Indianapolis up until the early sixties. At that time before we left Indianapolis dad was a pastor in a church. The way he could see it he was fighting a losing battle because people were drawing from him but never making any kind of commitments to him, to his ideas. He knew that in Brazil – which is where we went – and other Third World nations there were people starving that would be appreciative of what he had to offer. He knew he could do something for somebody instead of wasting his life on people who were by no means ready to make any kind of commitment. So we left for Brazil when I was about three years old.
I don’t remember much but I know that dad got right into setting up an orphanage for all the children whose parents had just died off. The only thing that I knew about was that I never have a shortage of playmates and I just thought it was great because I always had somebody to go out and play with. They never looked down on me for having a Black brother because they were all darker complected. I just remember the way we lived because dad would never live high no matter what. We always would live in the poorest sections of town because we didn’t want to lose our identification. You didn’t feel right, you didn’t feel right living higher than anyone else. But he always made sure that we were fed and we always had the little things that he feels children should have.
I remember that people would constantly be coming to the door wanting food, needing something because they were starving just right and left. We had lived what was considered poor in the United States but when we went down there it just shocked me to see how people were forced to live to so many places. It was hard for me to cope with for a long time because it just… I just… I don’t know. I never even imagined that people can be so degraded, malnourished, just so without anything – I mean they had nothing. They had everything they could to keep themselves alive and their families alive.
In a place like this dad always had something to do. He was always getting things done for the orphanage or either seeing about somebody. He was away from the house quite a bit. Up till that time growing up, I had always identified with my father more than my mother because he had always presented both sides, the strong figure in the same time, the loving figure. I didn’t see how I needed anything else. But with him gone, I kind of had to turn to my mother; I think from her I got a lot of my compassion. I never felt like I had to prove anything to people at least not at that time. I felt like I could say I loved somebody and I knew I could cry and not feel like a sissy or weird. So I got a good balance.
There was also another woman that lived with us. She was kind of like a second mother to us. It was a good experience for me because she was so down to earth, so practical because that’s the only way she knew to survive. You had to be matter-of-fact. You had to be matter-of-fact – you couldn’t get into a whole bunch of fairytales and niceties. It was a hard world. I remember we went one time to her house because she’d go home and visit her family. This was shocking to me because my parents could always find time to give us love but she had to make money or they would’ve died. So she didn’t have the time to see them but on weekends. I went home with her one time. It was terrible. She lived on a mountain, on a little hill, and you just looked around and the rains had washed half the houses down the hill. People were walking around trying to rebuild their little huts that were just made out of scraps. It just looked like a junkyard. It had a hell of an impact on me. I’d never realized that people could live like that.
After being in Brazil for a couple of years, it became evident to my dad that there was going to be some sort of right-wing takeover because there was too much unrest in the people. They were getting tired of living conditions and the way they were being oppressed and dad was sure of what would happen so we got out of there. Sure enough, eventually a stronger government was put into power.
We went back to Indiana for a short time, at the most, I think it was a year and a half. It was about that time that I started school. I went to
STEPHEN GANDHI JONES
kindergarten. Before that time I had never ventured out into the world much. I stayed… well, the only thing I knew about the world with my family. It was hard for me because ever since I can remember I had a Black brother and I had a Korean brother and sister. Until I was well along in life I was not even told that they weren’t my natural brothers and sister. I thought they’d come from the same place I had because we’ve always been taught that – that nobody was any different. I just couldn’t understand. It just seems irrational to me. I mean it just didn’t even… There was no way I could understand it. There was no way I can understand that I was acceptable to these people but my brothers and sister weren’t. From the start I was incorrigible but I guess after a while I learned… I learned to cope.
I was in school about half a year when we moved out to Redwood Valley because the people were starting to call us on the phone and shoot at us. They would mess with our car. They were just starting to harass us. And dad… Once again, we had to run, we had to get out of there because he wanted to protect his family (not just meeting us – there were other people that were loyal to him that he cared about). We all made the move.
I started first grade in Redwood Valley and, if anything, it was worse. There was nobody… We lived in Indianapolis in a poor area, in a Black area – so I went to school with Black children. But there was nobody Black in Redwood Valley’s school. It was unbelievable. They acted like they had never seen a Black person before. They acted like they were inhuman. You’d hear the chants every day; finally you got immune to it. There was at least one thing that was different about Redwood Valley: I wasn’t acceptable either. We were all unacceptable. My brothers and sister unacceptable because of their color and I was unacceptable because I accepted them. So at least I could understand that. I could understand that people would be people but at least I felt like I once again had an identification with my family. I didn’t have to worry about them resenting me.
Pretty much all of my early years, I knew we were different. I knew the people saw us as different and that we weren’t… well, just that we were different. But I always felt that it would just stay there. I would have my family, we would feel how we feel, and everybody else would feel how they feel. I thought that it would stay that way. It all one day just kind of all came crashing down on me that that wasn’t true. I was about twelve years old. I was out in the parking lot and somebody… Dad got shot. I just knew the loud noises and… I just… I don’t know. All the people around. There are hundreds of people around and he was out seeing the people… It just hit me hard because at that time he was doing what he’d done all his life – reaching out to people, showing them love, giving them something they’d never had before. All I saw was… I heard the noises and he was slammed hard on his face. It was traumatic for me but then, at that time I came to realize how far people would go to wipe out anything they didn’t understand. Or even worse than that, that could hinder their exploits.
The band had been playing loud and then it stopped. Then I just heard three really loud noises and I looked in that direction. I thought it was a drum or something. And I saw dad slammed down on his stomach. All I remember is that I just started screaming, a high-pitched loud scream and I didn’t know what else to do. Everything just happened – it all came crashing down on me. I didn’t know what happened. I had no familiarity with any kind of guns or anything – I didn’t know what it was. I remember he had reached out and touched some woman’s hand, and it was like… When he did it, right when he did it, he just… He fell down. It wasn’t just falling down though, it was like something… It was like a big weight had just come down on his back and slammed him down. I know if anyone would’ve thought from the way he was hit that the person had to come… We had a grape vineyard around our house – all around the property. From the way he was shot and the way he was standing, you know that’s where it came from. And I know dad knew where the shot came from – I know he did. He was hit in the stomach. I had a big dog; his name was Husky. I remember now I thought Husky was scared because he went charging out into this vineyard, I thought he was scared of the shots. Dad pointed, he said, “No, it’s over there, it’s over there, it’s over this way”. I now know that he knew that people would have torn apart the man who shot him if they’d found him.
I remember this old guy Richmond Stahl who I’ve always liked. He was a drunk and people called him a good-for-nothing. But I’ve always identified with him. I knew a lot of religious people, a lot of people who thought they had their morals together but they were so phony. I’d always remembered the phoniness. I never got anything out of them but phoniness. They had an aura about them, you just picked it up every time you got around them.
STEPHEN GANDHI JONES
But I just remember Richard. He looked around and all he saw was a pick. He was sick, he was having trouble with his heart. And he picked that pick up and I just know that if he would have got a hold of that person that they would have… They wouldn’t have survived it. Dad knew this so he steered them wrong.
To this day, I don’t know who did it, I don’t know what was done with, I never saw the person. But it made me realize that from then on, it would be one hell of a fight. It would be more than just a disagreement, it would be a conflict – they would constantly be trying to snuff us out. Some people… There are different reasons. Some people they just knew that the way of life dad was trying to bring about would go against their different ways – their exploitation and the way they wanted to make money. And there were other people who knew their selfish way of life and they knew it was wrong and every time they saw us, they were reminded it was wrong. For that reason they wanted to get rid of us and then, there were people that just didn’t understand us. For the most part when people don’t understand something, they strike out against it. I think that was the time that I realized that it wasn’t going to be easy.
From that point on it was a fight – just a fight. And we were just… Thought we were holding out for a few days longer. And I always thought that. I never kind of expected to last much longer. I mean, either we were there, we would be totally snuffed out, or we would change the way we felt. I guess – I mean I know – that we finally realized that there was… People had been given just enough to make them satisfied. Because for the most part, human beings – animals in general – if they’re doing okay, that’s fine, that’s all they need. There was nobody willing to change them any. So, it was kind of like a waste of time. Dad knew that he had a couple of thousand people that acted like they wanted something. They wanted to change or they know their way of life was wrong and they knew they just weren’t happy. So I guess he just… Well, if he couldn’t – it would be better to do something for these few people than nothing at all for anybody. And we moved down here to Guyana.
I came down early. All that was down here was the people that came originally and a few other guys that had had so much trouble in the states that they were just on their way to prison. Dad knew it and we all knew it. It was theirs and their parents’ decision to come here. We all expected to come anyway. Just from the time that they left till I got down here (it was just a few months), the changing them was just phenomenal. I mean they… They felt. Let’s say Ronnie, for instance. He didn’t care about anybody, he was constantly starting something. He was what people considered a punk in the states. I had no time for guys like him. Now I come down here and he works and… I don’t know – he brightens up my day just to watch him. I might feel down or something and he cares. He points out little things that I’ve even stopped noticing because I felt like it didn’t do any good because you just sat there and you noticed it. There were times that I’d mentioned things I noticed – little things – and they look at me like, ‘you’re weird, you know, you’re weird, who cares – it’s not happening to you’. It feels good to me to know that there’s somebody else who notices – I mean, he’s pointing it out to me. That’s been good for me.
I’ve seen that change in everybody. At least now, dad… He’s worked to the point that he’s ready to fall any minute. But at least he’s been able to work with these people and get something into their heads – get feeling into their heads. You get the feeling that people care – at least, somebody cares, and that they’re trying to at least.
Here I see my role – I kind of think of myself as an identification point for guys my age and people in general because dad does it to the best of his ability but he no longer can do that like he used to be. They want me to get into a more administrative part and I’ve gotten into it with the Steering Committee. But I still feel like I’ve got to stay down – not that physical labor is the only work there is, that’s not true. But I feel like the way to give leadership – and the only way I got it from dad – was on a personal basis. It wasn’t from him just preaching to me – I got it from him and I think that’s the best way to get it across to a lot of guys. It’s not to just throw it out them and to say ‘you’re wrong for feeling that way’ or preaching at them what’s right. They’ll rebel against that. I just feel like you have to take it gradually and plan out little things. With Ronnie, sometimes he’ll make jokes about things that just shouldn’t be, and I’ll just say, “Put yourself or someone you care about in that place and try to feel that way about how bad it would be.”
Also I see myself as a person building this place. In the states I used to
STEPHEN GANDHI JONES
just fight all the time and stuff. Mostly just trying to prove something, also I had a lot of hostility but I’m trying to show by not fighting – I’m trying to break down the competitiveness between young guys. Guys compete over who’s the strongest – who can do the most work. I’m gradually trying to break that down.
I see myself as an identification point. What I mean by identification point is something that people could relate to. People I know work hard and I’ve just seen them nearly break their backs. But people don’t see them enough. They have no way of knowing and they don’t want to know. For the most part, people just don’t out of nowhere just come up with feeling. I mean you have to put it right in front of their face – they have to know. I know dad doesn’t have the time to give everybody what he gave me – the personal. And I know you have to be personal – you have to touch, you have to be able to feel before you can relate to it. People can come up to you and tell you what Victor Jara went through, but you just don’t identify as much. So, I feel like it’s my role to – in some way – be like they were. Be like they were and what they saw important and get to know them in that way and gradually break it down. And lessen this image – the big, tough guy image – and take it slow. By feeding little things, a pat here and a pat there. Or they point out, ‘Oh, wow, that was good’. You say ‘That ain’t nothing, is not important’, and you do it slow. Because if you just walk up to a guy and start hugging him and kissing him, he’s going to think, ‘This guy’s weird’. That’s the way I see it. Take it slow because you don’t just totally change people’s way of thinking. You just don’t do it overnight – I mean it has to be taken slow. That’s the way I look at it.
For the most part, people we went to school with at Drew were a lot of liberal capitalists. It was a private school, progressive. Every teacher thought they had the answer to the world. We had all college books and they made it so you could understand it. But they were egomaniacs. I felt guilty about going to the school because it was uppity. People got dropped off in chauffeur-driven limousines, guys in school will drive up in their Camaros. You just couldn’t relate – you couldn’t relate to these people, you couldn’t relate at all. We use to knock them on their ass a couple of times – throwing stuff at them that they just were not ready for. Most of them agreed with the way we believed, but they weren’t ready for it.
Then we’d come home to the Temple and we’d be talking to kids that weren’t going to this school and you just… You felt bad about it. I really felt bad about it. We knew the fantastic amount of money they were paying that school and I just didn’t feel it was worth it. I felt the only education I really was getting was from dad. That education was secondary because I didn’t think it would do any good. About fifteen students from the Temple went there and we decided to withdraw from the school after we had been there about three months. We felt it was a waste of money and we also didn’t like going there when other kids from the Temple had to go to public schools and didn’t get the same quality education.
There were kids there who had gotten kicked out of other schools because they were so incorrigible. Their parents were well-off enough to send them to this place. They were Black kids so they still rebelled. They came to this school because none of the public schools would have them. To be in class and have them called on and just sit there and… You had just been called on the floor and you knew the answer. You’d rather not a big thing because… A big intellectual spiel, and this kid would drag you right back down to what it was really like. There really was no education from the common folk. I don’t know, it just kind of got to me. It seemed such a contradiction – all that we believed in – to be going to this school. It was a conflict.
Not all of us thought about that the way I did. Some people just plain old wanted to go to public school. I think what brought them about our leaving Drew as I was playing basketball in this gym. This guy came and asked me what school I went to. He was from Washington High and he wanted me to come play with him. Then we got to talking about it and how we didn’t like the place anyway. I said it costs too much money anyway. I was already cutting. It just seemed stupid.
In September of that year, everything was starting to point – things that were happening in the government and things that were being sent about us – just the whole trend in general was pointing towards a right-wing takeover. It look like our position here wasn’t secure any longerr. We were expecting at any time to see an army coming up at us. At that time we were having a lot of harassment
STEPHEN GANDHI JONES
from… From I don’t know who. We saw the people come – they do come in with weapons and take shots at us and just totally harass us. They had us on edge 24 hours a day. Then they shot at my dad and came within inches of his head. It was like the first time I saw dad shot. I subconsciously come to think of Jonestown as a world of its own. I thought that we could go on without any trouble, without any harassment from the outside. The whole idea was destroyed. It kind of once again made me realize that it’s a struggle wherever you’re at. You see these people that are moving good off other people’s oppression and they do not want to see communism. They know dad and they know his leadership, and they know his potential, and they know what he can do to people. I think they kind of see this as a breeding ground for communism and they want to snuff it out.
The first thing that happened – we never expected it. Dad got shot at that night. It was toward the end of August or the beginning of September. We had just been down there to talk to dad – me and Johnny. We were walking up here and we heard it and someone came running back there. Right then my heart sunk because I realized it’s going to start up again, I knew it. When they took those shots at dad, it was the same feeling that there’s no way to– there’s no way to survive independently from the rest of the world and that people aren’t going to sit back and watch us build communism. There’s just no way. It was the same thing when dad was shocked the first time. I know people didn’t agree with us and I knew people were against us but I thought they’d just be content with the way they felt and just let us stay to ourselves. But I know that there is no way that we were going to build separately from the rest of the world. It just hit me again – the same feeling. When I reacted to it – I didn’t react to it the same way because I’d learned to cope with it.
My relationships to people changed. Tim Swinney, for example, is supposed to be this big, tough, burly guy. He’s supposed to be unapproachable. When we were in the last few minutes – when we were sure we were going to die – me and him were like a team. We just broke down and said, “I couldn’t have gone down fighting with a better guy.” We hug and we just said, “Well, this is it”. That felt good to me and we’ve been closer ever since. We’ve been able to relate a lot better. We both had felt distant because we both had this tough image. I don’t think that we had that image of ourselves but everybody else has the image and we didn’t know how to relate to each other. I didn’t know if he believed it about himself and he didn’t know if I believed it about myself. We didn’t know how to break the ice and it was like a blessing.
The thing that hit me really hard was that I was separate from dad. I knew dad well enough that if anything went down – which we saw as inevitable – I knew dad would be the first to go. He’d be right there. All my brothers were with dad; they went around with him everywhere. I was separated from him because I knew a little bit about warfare. I had done a little reading up, a little studying, and a little firsthand experience. So it was required of me to be on security to be guarding the place. I had to be separated from him. I resented it because I felt all my life I had made more of an effort than my other brothers to relate to dad and try to please him, try to be close to him. I wasn’t hung up on a lot of the stuff that the other guys are – or were. I always had fancied myself in my fantasies about coming in at the last minute. I knew someday they were going to finally get dad and he was going to be on trial or something similar or they were going to have him back to the wall. I’d come in at the last minute and just come with him and we’d fight together to the finish.
It’s just like my whole life had been – nothing work out the way I’d like it to and I was stuck off away from dad. I knew we were going to die away from each other and I’d probably never see him again.
I remember how good I felt when the people saw those guys on the edge of the bush and dad called me over there. I was just… I was praying that it would happen then because I knew it was going to happen and I hope they’d come then because I was with dad.
I remember looking at all but people – they’d never experienced this before. They’d never been on the edge of death. They’d never identified with dying or fighting for what they believe. I’d always pulled away from all the people because I felt they had ridden in dad’s love and his compassion and never had to suffer. We’d had to suffer. We’d had to suffer with dad. So it was like we paid for the love we got. I always felt like other people just got it and I resented it. That whole six days (that we thought we were going to die) brought me closer and closer to the people because I felt like they were now experiencing what I’d experienced in all my 19 years. I felt now that they’d be more appreciative of what they had. I felt they deserved it more now. I think the crisis – the six days – was a hell of a blessing because it brought me back to reality, it brought me closer to people.
That was my main flaw if I ever wanted to get anything done for people I needed to relate to them better. I had a hell of a time relating to people because I resented them so much (because I felt they had taken my dad from me) and I think it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
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When I first came to Jonestown, I didn’t want to stay because dad was going back and I’ve always seen myself as dad’s personal bodyguard. I honestly felt that all the guys that were watching over dad – all the security – it was kind of a big tough guy thing and I never felt that they really took interest in him. I always did worry about him and watch him. I just was worried about him going back to the States and having nobody. I know this was unfair because there were people that did take concern in his personal welfare.
After I was here I started to have a purpose. In the States, I’d just started to rebel against everything. I’d get up in the morning and right off the bat if I didn’t have my… I don’t know. But I got down here and I started having hours again. I’d wake up at a certain time. I knew what I had to do. In the States I never knew what I was going to do. I had no structure. I got here and I can go out and work and know I was doing something. In the States you knew what was right but you knew you weren’t doing it. You knew you weren’t doing a damn thing. If anything, I was turning people off by the way I approached everything because I was such a hostile person, such a hostile human being. I came to myself here. I got out of the big machismo thing. I can always relate to guys but that was only half the people. I came out of the machismo thing because I became interested in my work, and getting something done. Machismo wasn’t important anymore.
It’s the atmosphere in the States. You’ve got to be tough. You have to have a tough image to survive – to get people to leave you alone. I think I have acquired that also to get people within the Temple to leave me alone. I figured if I was me people wouldn’t come up and talk to me because I saw what they were doing to dad. They took advantage.
But down here I could think about it and I got out of it and now it’s helped me because I can relate to females too. I know what a bitch it is to be a female and you know every guy that walks are you sexually undresses you. They look at you like that’s all that’s on their mind. Now, I feel like I don’t come across that way and I don’t think there’s anyone that thinks I do. That’s not important. What’s important is relating to them and letting them know that there somebody here that cares about what they think and gives a damn about their mind. It’ll make it easier for them to relate because I think they feel they have to prove that they’re not objects and when they do it, they come on too strong. When they come on too strong, they turn people off. They make guys hostile – they make guys worse.
Let’s take Ronnie. The whole thing with him has been to get him to appreciate the companion he has now and to respect her. She comes on pretty strong. She let you know what she thinks. He used to come to me saying, ‘She had the nerve to say this or that’. Then I’d change the word “nerve” and say “She had the right to say that”. I’ve gotten him to respected and appreciate it. One thing I’ve always hated is to have people believe – honestly believe something – and instead of checking it out with you, they go believing it and then it gets worse and worse and worse. More than half the time if they come check it out with you it’s not the way they think it is and it’s not the way it looks. I just think the communication with people – the world would be better – if people would say how they felt right then and get it out of the way. Then you can feel at ease. You’d know if the person thought something about you, they’d say it. But now you’re always paranoid. ‘Does this person really like me?’. ‘Does this person feel this?’. If you knew the person would come to you when they were mad, you’d never worry about them being mad because you’d know it. It helped me in that respect.
The best way of describing how things changed from the States to Jonestown for me is that in the States I felt impotent. You can look anywhere in the States, you just open your eyes and you see something you want to change. There’s no place that there’s not something that can be changed. For the most part, everything needs to be changed. You know there’s not a god damn thing you can do about it because people don’t relate to you. If you want to take it slow like I’m talking about, you can’t get to know a guy well enough because right off the bat it’s the competitive tough guy conflict and there’s no real way of expressing yourself. Even if you’re right, people will call you a jerk because that’s what they’re supposed to say. So there’s nothing you can do – you just sit there. You see someone getting beat on. You see your friends getting arrested as you walk down the street. You get searched along with them. It’s the whole mess. You feel impotent.
I come down here and you feel just the opposite. I feel potent as hell. I’m building this place. When I came here, the land was cleared but that’s all.
STEPHEN GANDHI JONES
There was Bush over there. There were no cottages, no apartments built. All that was here was the original community building, the office, the warehouse, and the shop. To feel so worthless and then to feel so alive. I felt like I was doing something. I knew I was building something and that the big thing was to get as much as we could built before everybody came down. I wanted to make a city out of this place. It was great – it still is.
When people came down here, I didn’t think they appreciated it. That six days when we thought it was over – the crisis – made them appreciate it more. At least you own something now. At least, you know you aren’t borrowing something. You know this is yours. Me and some of the other guys that were down here before have that feeling probably more than most people do because we put it up, we built it. When I see somebody drop trash or something, it really gets to me – they’re messing with everybody’s property. Because that’s the way we look at it when we were building it – we weren’t building it for us. We were building it for everybody.
It gets back to the situation I described with dad. People ride in – they didn’t have to go through the shit that we had to, to build a place and they ride in. They don’t respect it like I respected dad and I appreciated dad and appreciated what he was giving me. They don’t appreciate it and after the crisis, now they appreciate it more. Like I say, it gets back to that one thing. People – unless they’re made to appreciate, if they’re just given something, just handed something, they don’t appreciate it. That’s like it’s good for people to have to go through something to get it.
I tell you this place has given me some meaning because I’d lost it all. I really had. I’d lost any kind of meaning. I felt like we were just prolonging death. I had no meaning and now I got some meaning. Every time I see the kids, every time I see the little guys – they come out here and they’re so alive. There ain’t nobody telling them to shut their mouths when they got something to say even if it’s wrong. You tell them it’s wrong but you don’t discipline them for it. They’re young enough and they’re responsive enough that you could tell them, explain to them. They’re just been raised totally different. It feels so good to me. That’s one thing I’ve really wanted for everybody – to have had what I had with dad, and mom too. They were both… I think they were an ideal combination. It’s good to see it being done now – to see children be raised the right way.
I think I’m watching evolution right here, now. It’s a process – they’re going to be superior human beings. When I say evolution I mean evolution from selfish human beings to caring human beings. Motivated not by selfishness but by caring – they feel.
One of the things that keeps me going is that I feel. Sometimes it’s all I need to keep me happy because for the most part the only foundation I’ve had is dad and mom’s love, especially dad. That’s the only real foundation because for the most part, we’ve had to move around and I’ve never been able to become attached to anything. But I’ve always had one thing that’s made me feel good about myself and about everything and that is how I feel. I look around and I see a lot of people who don’t feel – they do not feel. To be able to look at something and appreciate it – I see things that other people don’t even notice. Not all of the people but a lot of people – I laugh at things that other people don’t even find funny. An example of things I notice – like when I’m with Lew. He’s the brother I think I’ve identified with the most. If I do something that makes him – there’s an expression he gets on his face that nobody else even notices. They don’t even know what I’m talking about. But it’s an expression I’ve known him long enough that when I see it I just hurt so bad inside. One time me and him had little argument. He got physical, I didn’t. I saw that expression and I felt guilty for days after it. It makes me feel good to know that I feel and I know I won’t do anything stupid. I know that I can avoid hurting people because I at least identify and I try to know what’s going through their head. That’s the only way I can describe it – I feel – I mean I’m alive. A lot of people I think just go along and take what they can get when they can get it. I will hurt people – I know that I’m not perfect – still, I know that I can avoid hurting people because I feel.