It always comes as a shock that people on Lagos roads act in mad ways. So shocked are we that we find ourselves sinking into rage or utter despair. The source of our frustration is simple: We share the road with human beings who behave far off from the ways of actual human beings. Yet our reactions fail to flow from this interpretation. We as observers of all the madness fail to act as witnesses to people inflicted by madness.
No one thinks to shout back at the dusty naked person in the marketplace who happens to be throwing shouts at people. Engaging a mad person is a mad thing to do. The sensible response is to ignore such person. Our reaction flows from the certainty that we are not mad, and whoever walks stack naked in a marketplace is. It should be a thing of surprise that we fail to bring this sane version of ourselves onto Lagos roads in our encounter with mad road users.
The difficulty arises from appearance. A majority of the people who aren’t behind our driving wheel seem just like us. They look well-dressed, determined and decent. We could trade places with most of them if the need arose. After all we too have been the pedestrian looking left-right-left to cross a motor road, we too have sat on the right side of another human being who manned the driving wheel of a car, we too have traded with traffic hawkers. We weren’t mad when we took on all these roles. Surely, those who we see take on these roles when we sit stirring a driving wheel must be far from being mad as well. They appear to be just like us.
But to take this frame of mind is to fall pry to an illusion that those we encounter along roads are sane and it is to dismiss that number one rule of driving which goes something like this: As a driver, anyone who isn’t behind your driving wheel is mad.
They must be mad:
Here we are along a narrow road. Despite its narrowness, cars – left behind by people we are meant to call human beings – are parked on both sides of the road. The air is rowdy. Honks blaring. A trailer stands in the middle of the road. Yet shirtless sweating men are off-loading cartons of Lucozade Boost from it, mindless as to the building line of honking cars trying to wheel past the single lane left behind by the trailer’s standing size. People are walking through paths left behind by the chaos of the congestion. A girl walks right in front our vehicle, unperturbed by the non-existence of a pedestrian walk on this road. She’s oblivious of the moving bus behind her. Our driver slows the vehicle, inching behind her as she walks, in hope that she would sense his bus. She walks unperturbed, lost in conversation with her phone. The driver jerks the bus to touch her back. She turns. Shock, confusion then anger shine across her face. She shouts words at the driver, pointing her index finger to her head. He must be mad. She fails to add, this middle of a minor road is hers as much as his. Our brief run from breaking free of the congestion is halted by a small blue car. It has refuse to move. Overtaking reveals she, its driver, is in the thick of negotiating a purchase of cow meat. The driver of our bus shakes his head from side to side.
Our duty when dealing with others on the road, as we are told by those who mean to imbibe in us proper driving etiquette, is to drive as the highest version of our sane selves. To journey with the expectation that we will come across mad people. The only requirement for driving with this rule is that we be willing to relax about our superior mastery over the art of driving and allow others assume us mad. To drive from this mind frame- that all we will encounter along the road is madness – serves to keep us unshocked, unangered and unsurprised by all the madness we are bound meet in our journey. Our certainty that we are not mad and everyone else must be (and in being so, assume us mad) allows us to drive in sensible ways.
A majority of gay people are susceptible to an illusion reflective of the one that inflicts drivers. Homosexuals in this group hold one idea as valid: that anyone who engages in same-sex sexual behaviour is deviant. The madness of engaging in such behavior is an immutable human feature, and as such they themselves with this feature must be flawed at a fundamental human core. Operating at the heart of the illusion is the saint-like status of everyone else. We, the illusional homosexual reasons, by virtue of our homosexuality, are sinners. All others are saints.
The result of this position is the deployment of behaviour bordering on madness: we defer from speaking about our romantic lives; we concoct stories about heterosexual lives we have never lived; we engage in sexual behaviour deviant from our natural inclinations. Our resolution is that to bring forth the homosexual bit of ourselves to the light is to have others who know no claim to madness lay witness to our madness.
Unlike our driving selves, sure of our right, certain of our driving competence, and sure of our superiority in comparison to all others with whom we share the road, our homosexual selves lives steeped in feelings of inferiority, incapable of equal engagement with those with whom we share the world.
We can borrow from the paradox: As drivers we are sane while everyone else are insane, yet we fail to act like it because we are bad at living by that number one rule of driving. As homosexuals we are sinners while everyone else are saints, yet we fail to live as though we are amongst saints.
Let us take a moment to define who a saint is. Let this definition suffice: a saint is a person full of virtue. Think of any virtue – Love, Kindness, Compassion, – the saint has it in abundance.
Homosexuals are better off adopting a modified version of that number one rule of drivers. One that goes somethings like this: As a homosexual, anyone who isn’t living behind your eyes is a saint. As with the driving code, there is but one requirement for living by this saint rule: that we be willing to lose our morally inferior selves and allow others assume us saints.
This can be a source of difficulty. Again, the reason arises from appearance. The majority of the people we know behave nothing like true saints who star in our lives; they are nothing like Mother Theresa. Watching them its easy to see that they are far from holy. Yet our yardstick for measuring their saint-like purity, how beautifully they fit into tales of normality, serves sufficient for us to place them on moral high-ground. It’s not that we mean to place them on high-ground, its that we are subject to ill-serving illusions: God doesn’t approve of homosexual behaviour; those whom God does not approve cannot be saints; those free of homosexual behaviour are the only ones eligible for saint like status. This is where we put ourselves at a disservice: Others appear to be saints by measure of a yardstick based exclusively on sexuality.
To adopt the saint rule can be liberating. Our place is to bring our homosexual selves in all its “unholiness” to the light. To journey through life with the expectation that we will only come across saints; we will only come across people who will love us, be kind to us and be compassionate towards us. Living from this mind frame- that all we will encounter from others is moral purity – serves to keep us unafraid of the reactions we are bound meet. Our certainty that we are not saints and everyone else must be (and in so being, assume us saints) allows us to live our lives in sensible ways.
It rings with irony, but the crux of paradoxical truths often stem from their absurdity. The defining feature about illusions is they break down upon inspection. Those we encounter as we drive on roads or as we navigate through life aren’t sane, insane, saints or sinners, they are human beings. It is left for us to adopt useful illusions that mirror reality in our battle for a good life. It rests with us to be generous, considerate, and informed about our expectations of those with whom we share the world.
To ensure our safety on roads we take on the illusion that everyone we encounter on the road is mad and we are willing to take on this role of madness in relation to how others perceive us. To ensure the good of our lives we can take on the illusion that everyone we encounter in our journey through life is a saint and be willing to take on this role of sainthood in relation to how others perceive us.
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