The Sacred Goat

In an ancient African village called ‘Ja ha laat’ it was believed that goats are sacred, divine beings. Villagers followed the teachings of their ancestors who believed that goats can bring much benefit to humans and unlike other animals, can bring no harm, which led them to believe that goats are sacred. The socio political status in the village depended upon how many goats one owned. Abubu was the village leader, since he owned 20 goats. Abubu wasn’t the wisest. The wisest man in the village was Kunte, who owned no goats. The entire village was satisfied being led by Abubu and did whatever Abubu asked of them. Kunte was however averse to the idea of following an idiot just because he had more goats than the rest. There were others who did not like the idea but for different reasons. They did not want to challenge the idea of socio political status depending on the number of goats, instead they wanted to be in Abubu’s place. These five men and Kunte were the intelligent men, the only intelligent men in a village of one thousand people.

One day these five men decided to act on their idea of replacing Abubu, so they devised a plan. Each brought a goat from his herd. They took the five goats to the jungle and slaughtered them. The meat was used to lure a lion into their trap. For two weeks they fed the lion with goat meat. Once satisfied that the lion was tamed enough, they brought him to the village at night. Every night they would let the lion loose and he would hunt and eat one of the goats of the villagers. They invited villagers, few at a time, to come see the large goat they had captured. The villagers were skeptical initially but the shrewd men easily convinced the simpletons that, since it walked on four legs, the lion was just a large goat.

One by one the lion ate Abubu’s goats. Abubu protested that there was a beast who was eating his goats. The villagers, wanting to help their leader, offered to keep watch at night to keep the suspected beast out. That night three hundred villagers formed a circle around the village yet found no beast coming in or going out. The next morning yet another goat had vanished. Abubu called a village meeting, only the second meeting in his tenure as their leader. He told the villagers that the five men owned the beast and it wasn’t a goat. One of the five men proposed putting the lion’s real identity to vote. As expected a majority of the villagers voted goat and so Abubu had to withdraw his allegation.

Eventually the lion had eaten all the goats in the village and he was the only goat left. The lion then started eating people. Abubu was his first kill. The five men were now leaders because they owned the only goat in the village. Villagers came complaining that their goat was eating them.

‘We can’t kill our goat, it is sacred. Do you want us to kill the sacred goat?’ the five men asked the villagers.

‘NO’, was always the reply.

The lion kept eating the villagers, who would often wonder what had gotten into this large goat. No one would attack or try to kill it because they were made to believe that it was a goat and because they were made to believe it was sacred.

The village perished centuries ago. Though ‘the goat’ still lives, we call it democracy.


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