Philip K Dick tells us “it is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane”.
We live in a society where it is not only unrealistic but also luxurious to be sane. So, whoever gets shocked by our madness can’t be in his right senses. Do we need to be reminded by Akira Kurosawa that ‘in a mad world, only the mad are sane’?
We need billboards at all our border points and airport reminding visitors: remain sane at your own risk. Look around you and give me reasons why you would expect us to be sane. We are surrounded by all calibres of masquerading madmen and women, and in all walks of life. Start right from those whom we choose (or not) to lead us; you will find madness in its boldest and most malignant form!
Which sane person leads a country with a state of (dis)services and a level of (under)development like ours yet is ready to honorifically identify themselves as the leader of such a sham? It reminds me of a man whose teeth were so maliciously invaded by cavities yet ever laughing with mouth wide open like a makeshift village bathroom, as though nothing was wrong!
You would expect that when the leaders of such incompetent and gluttonous governments are asked to stand up for recognition at international events, they would hide themselves below their chairs.
But alas, they shoot up with their belly exhibits in anticipation of a hero’s applause! Now you psychiatrists from Butabika, after testing Stella Nyanzi, come and also explain to us what the above mental condition is called.
Our leaders ironically fail to understand our madness, much of which is their making! Such is the bizarre structure of our society that although many of us are insane, the calamitous madness of the powerful always finds exemption while that of the powerless is condemned.
When we celebrate madness, we are only helplessly laying out our pain and sending out a desperate call for redemption. The Baganda say: Woddiza omulalu mu kyaama, nga atunula obulungi gwolaba? Loosely translated, would one court/seduce a mad person if they had a better choice? Shall we forgive you for pushing us into falling in love with vulgar ammunition!
If Dr Nyanzi is truly mad, as they say her brazen vulgarity suggests, then what does that say about those of decent speak in power when thousands of people prefer her to them? Where I was raised, the kind of language used by Nyanzi is strictly taboo, especially in public spaces.
Not even a nalongo (mother of twins) like her has open license to scatter such midnight vocabulary. I would imagine this applies to many other Ugandan cultural settings, hence the state’s shock (if genuine) that Dr Nyanzi is nevertheless revered by many.
What they fail or refuse to understand is that a drowning man is not bothered by rain, just like someone being chased by a lion will climb up a thorny tree without hesitation.
When what is at stake is life, all else tends to make less sense. Does it shock anyone that such a person doesn’t prioritise the comparative harm from thorns? At such moments, sanity and madness are forced into a relationship. Here is where George Santayana quips that “sanity is madness put to good uses”.
Nyanzi’s could be only but one kind of the several shades of madness our situation has pushed us into. However much we don’t like it, a nauseated person is likely to throw up. Focusing on the puke may make us lose sight of the source of the nausea.
With the rising levels of unemployment, frustration, anger, and other attendant pains, the use of drugs and other forms of intoxicating palliatives is on the increase. Why then do we pretend to be shocked by madness?
In adapting to the situation, some of the sufferers are now finding psychological relief in use of verbal weaponry – the weapons of the weak. Just visit Facebook pages of Ugandans and you will appreciate how we have really advanced in the art of insult.
Some stranger once threw an insult at me and I developed a stomach upset. It is a chaotic virtual madhouse where everyone who can type finds space for emptying themselves of both joys and rage. That is how they are able to afford an alternative smile in this Babylon.
And since when did madness become of concern to us? We have always known that only a madman keeps collecting and accumulating stuff (even without the owners’ permission), including what he will not use.
Don’t we have enough of these in high places? It is the mad that will steal (take) from you and then threaten you for trying to claim back your stuff. Is this new to us? What happened after February 18, 2016?
Isn’t it psychos that will laugh and giggle even at the sight of flies in their food? And aren’t we fed to such lunatic scenes every day when we hear them laugh despite the mess and rot that they reside upon? Where is the sanity? Don’t we know that it is mad men that draw fun from beating up innocent people? Our police, I am not backbiting you.
In a country where pedestrians have to wait until all cars have passed to be able to cross at a zebra crossing, what is sanity? If those who have been implicated in corruption and massacre scandals are, instead, promoted, isn’t madness the new normal?
We are tragically getting to the point where whoever still acts sane in the circumstances should be admitted straight to Butabika. Madness is the norm; even if one is not insane now, at least they are mad about something.
The author works with the Center for African Studies at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.