In Klaw’s analysis of the communist utopian society at Oneida, New York beginning in 1848 looks at what we, at this point, would consider to be the typical religious cult, based in free love, communal lifestyles, and a personality cult around the leader, John Humphrey Noyes. One of the biggest aspects of the community was an equality both sexually and in roles between all the members, and an abolishment of marriage to have a sense of ownership of one person be thrown away, instead holding onto the idea of each member of the community belonging to one another.
This kind of community is something that we are very familiar with, the most notable being that of Jonestown in the 1970’s. This basis is something that can be tied back through many different communities, and we can look at as one of the repetitive parts of history that every century, or few decades, will rear its head to show us this hope for a more equal setting between individuals and a base in the communal behavior of human beings.
Unfortunately, as seen in both the Jonestown massacre, and in the situation with Noyes’ community in Oneida, there is a much darker undercurrent than the premise of the community would lead us to believe. The unfortunate factor in all of these events is the characteristics required of a leader to be able to found it in the first place. There is a narcissism in the actions and there is a paranoia in both the cases of Jim Jones and John Noyes. At one point there is a situation where Noyes flees to Canada in order to escape the persecution that he felt coming toward him due to his sexual liberation of women in the community by engaging in sexual acts with girls just as they reached puberty, as there introduction to the sexual freedom of the rest of the community.
During the time in which Noyes fled, there was a type of dissent within the community, in which people split off, getting married to one another, despite that this was outside the ordinary type of relationship expressed in this community. This complication led to troubles, even after Noyes came back from hiding. This kind of difficulty with the relationship structure is what began to bring up more real issues within the community as a whole.