Editorial note: All Guest Post authors share their views and experiences, and do not represent Week of Saturdays. This is one of the submissions of writers participating in a 21-day Don’t Break the Streak Writing Challenge. Details here.
There’s a tale about how Stalin once ripped all the feathers off of a live chicken. By the time he was done, the chicken was all bloodied and obviously in immense pain. You’d think it would be wary of the man that had just put it through such immense torture, yet when Stalin threw pieces of wheat at the bird, it began to follow him. Such loyalty.
Stalin said to those watching, “This is how easy it is to govern stupid people. They will follow you no matter how much pain you cause them, as long as you throw them a little worthless treat once in a while.”
I’ve read a lot about Stalin, enough to know that this is something he could do and say. And even though I read this from an unverified text, it rings true.
Writing this I figured I’d go political, but I’ve been in this space for so long, I fear I might begin to grow a potbelly, a bald head, and start throwing chairs to prove a point or something. That’s not a pretty image in my head.
Fact. Stalin’s narrative not only rings through in politics or governing people; it’s a strategy many of us have experienced, either as perpetrators or victims.
There’s always that person or thing that continually violates our space. Our minds. Our bodies. I do not know if I am the only one with voices in my head, but I think I can speak generally when I say most times there’s a voice that tells you, you’re being knocked about. But as you come to this epiphany, a huge wave sweeps it out of your mind: the thought of a thing called benefit.
Like it or not, as toxic as these situations are, whether they are friendships or romantic relationships, there’s something that keeps us holding on, even by a thread.
For me, it’s usually the fact that for some time, I’m treated like a person of value— the care, the ‘sacrifices,’ the concern; it all wipes my head clean of any wrong I’ve been subjected to.
Of course, as a perpetrator, you may never fully realize what you’re doing. Even if you do, man’s natural predisposition to see himself as a paragon of good blinds you from any further realizations. But we’re all villains at some point, as much as we are victims in need of saving. People need to get away from us, and we need to get away from people.
Like Stalin’s chicken, though, the allure of the ‘treat,’ no matter how useless in the larger scale of things, keeps a lot of us tied down to someone or something. It’s that benefit that keeps us in toxic situations, and where we might readily see solutions to that of others, our personal cases are a far cry.
How long will your feathers keep being plucked?