The Soviet novelist, Chingiz Aitmatov recounted a story in one of his articles written near the end of the failed Marxist movement in Soviet Union.
In 1935, Stalin invited his trusted senior advisers and some media henchmen to a meeting with intent to make a point using the most evocative of methods. When everyone was gathered at the barnyard, he called for a live chicken and vigorously clenched it in one hand. With the other hand, he then began to pluck out the chicken’s feathers in handfuls. The poor bird squawked under the torment but Stalin kept at denuding the chicken until it convulsed with agony.
Remarkably unperturbed by the feeling of disgust obvious on the faces of the people too afraid to express their unease to the dictator, he continued until the chicken was completely unfeathered. He then put the bird down by a small heap of grain and stood up to finish the last act while the people curiously observed the chicken move towards the grain. As the chicken started to peck, Stalin put his hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out another fistful of grain, putting it out in front of the wounded bird. To the utter surprise of the transfixed spectators, the chicken managed a weak-kneed stagger back to Stalin and started to peck the fresh grain right out of the hand that moments ago had inflicted unbearable pain on it. Stalin had made his point — loud and clear.
He turned to the people and said, “People are like this chicken. It doesn’t matter how much pain you inflict on them. The moment you offer them what they need, they will still follow you and turn to you for their survival.”
To me this anecdote has another, slightly different meaning. It is not ‘despite’ the pain that Stalin inflicted on the poor bird, but ‘because of it’ that it followed him. This explains the working of weak minds — animals’ as well as humans’.
Our minds become slaves to those we see as having total power to control us and to cause pain to us. We are quick to give up control of ourselves to those who have the power to rule us as long as they also have the power to feed us. This is the fundamental construct of the Cameroonian society to which so many Anglophones are beholden.
By Larry Eyong