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How do you get a people under your rule to be completely docile and accept whatever you do to them without pushing back or questioning your authority? You keep them distracted. Divert their attention to something else that’ll keep them too occupied to question your rule. Too placated to put up a fight. Too dumbed-down to raise a challenge.

Bread and Circuses” is a metaphoric phrase attributed to Juvenal, a Roman poet. It refers to superficial appeasement. In a political context, it means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy, but by diversion, distraction or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace — by offering a palliative like food (bread) or entertainment (circuses).

Once people are fed and kept entertained, they’d ultimately leave you alone to do whatever you want with them, save taking away their food and games.

It always beats me how an obviously poorly performing politician seeking re-election can go into a neighbourhood, distribute some bread and tiny bags of rice, put on a show — maybe bust a popular dance move — that’ll get the people cheering and hailing him, and then secure their votes. They would actually go ahead and vote for the incompetent fellow. But, you know, as long as a people are susceptible to being placated in that way, those in power would always unashamedly use the tactic.

It appeals to the ‘base’ requirements of the populace – as long as you have a populace with majority of people stuck at their ‘base-selves’, and not actively striving to become their better selves, this trick would work every time.

Some may be stuck there because of the poverty all around them, as in underdeveloped countries, so it’s easy to entice them with food and some entertainment. Others are stuck there because they have an abundance of food and entertainment — more than enough to keep them distracted. Americans were largely asleep at the political wheel, Netflix-ing and chilling, until the advent of Donald Trump. Then, everyone suddenly became politically ‘woke’. Nigerians seem to always forget about the prevailing political troubles of the time, whenever BBNaija is on. All the rants on Twitter are suddenly replaced with posts about Laycon. And then as soon as the season is over, police brutality is remembered.

We’re all susceptible. The human condition is always the same and it cuts across geographical location and place of origin. But constantly appeasing our base human cravings always leads to a numbing of our senses. Mind-numbing entertainment would always serve its purpose of numbing the mind.

We probably can’t escape it. We’ll always live among people who’ll allow their base cravings to drive their decision-making. And we’ll always have those in authority who are ready to take advantage of this. When the former is the majority, our lives are ultimately affected by their poor decision-making. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We shouldn’t be one of those who can easily be taken advantage of.

We should work on developing ourselves so that we’re not stuck at our base-selves where we’re easily swayed and enticed with circuses and bread. Attaining our higher and better selves every day, having much higher goals and aspirations that can’t easily be brushed away by any power seeker of the day. This would mean changing our habits — numbing that part of us that so desires constant mind-numbing entertainment and instant physical gratification. Yes, we would have to start with ourselves and not those ‘bad decision-makers’ around us because changing the world, after all, begins with changing ourselves first.

The post Your Better Self with Akanna: Don’t be Easily Swayed by Circuses and Bread appeared first on BellaNaija – Showcasing Africa to the world. Read today!.


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