Mental Slavery

Many Africans – especially older ones, as in my parents’ generation – grew up learning to entertain themselves, often with no toys. Yesterday, I heard one of them recount the details of that ‘entertainment’.

He and his friends will find a chicken – young or old, big or small, didn’t really matter – and they would catch the chicken and put it under a plastic container. Next, they would beat and drum on the container as hard as they can and then they would lift the container, setting the chicken free. Please don’t try this for yourself – let’s just take his word for it – but the chicken would not go. Even when they pushed it and told it to go, it would stay put, paralyzed at the spot. He inferred that the noise messed with the chicken’s brain so badly making it resistant to freedom.

Now, it’ll have been great to find out what happened next, as in: did the chicken eventually get over it, did it just sit in the one spot and starve to death, did they kill and eat it as an act of mercy? But regardless of what happened to the chicken, I realized that many people are mentally enslaved, just like the chicken, but unlike the chicken, they’re on a road trip and their inability (or refusal, I don’t know which it is) to move forward affects far more than just them.

I used to think of Bob Marley as a revolutionary in college when I learned that he wanted us to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because none but ourselves can free our minds. But is it not true? Is this not the very definition of lanelessness – sitting there in the midst of others going about their business with no desire, or a lack of the will, or an inability to move forward? Who has sitting still in the place of movement ever helped? Do we not need to question our assumptions and find a way to move towards our goals, regardless of the constraints?

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