Of vanity and madness

Schizophrenia. Ugly, difficult to pronounce and quite a mouthful, and rarely spoken except in medical circles. Just as well because it is not a very nice word. That would be fine if it remained just that – an unpleasant word best kept out of memory and speech.

Schizophrenia. Ugly, difficult to pronounce and quite a mouthful, and rarely spoken except in medical circles. Just as well because it is not a very nice word. That would be fine if it remained just that – an unpleasant word best kept out of memory and speech.

But it isn’t like that. The awful word keeps coming up and demanding to be noticed. Or more precisely, schizophrenics keep appearing and forcing themselves on us.

There is a fellow (he doesn’t deserve to be named) – calls himself an opposition politician belonging to a four-person organisation – whose sanity is increasingly doubtful. He made me think of schizophrenia. Now, this fearsome word conjures up in my mind images of lunatics running around aimlessly, but violently wreaking havoc wherever they pass.

You will forgive me, but my earliest images of lunatics as they were then called, before the era of political correctness, were of uncontrollably violent creatures running around and scaring the hell out of even the strongest men. Indeed another Kinyarwanda expression for madness is “running around”.

This self-anointed spokesman of a mirage political opposition speaks on every subject, especially if it has anything to do with Rwanda, and more specifically with President Paul Kagame. Then he will pour out vitriol and venom. It doesn’t matter what the subject is – he will have an opinion, usually a contrary view. You may call him a contrarian.

I used to think that he simply loved taking a contrary view. But I am now beginning to think it is worse than that. Skipping from one topic to another and commenting on each has an uncanny connection to the Kinyarwanda definition of madness, don’t you think?

The lunatics of my youth (pardon me. I grew up when things were still called by their proper names) were also given to vitriol and unspeakable obscenities. You see they enjoyed a certain licence that freed them from moral injunctions ordinary people were subjected to.

Today, that licence is what lawyers, psychologists and human rights activists call “diminished responsibility”, usually as a plea for abnormal behaviour.

I am not a lawyer, human rights crusader or trained sorcerer. So I won’t ascribe diminished responsibility to anyone.
The awful word – schizophrenia – is in the air again. The same fellow can’t keep away from listening to himself – you see he has this narcissistic streak. Now that there is very little about Rwanda that he can contradict, he started dabbling in religion and mysticism.

Now, narcissism, fantasy and mysticism are closely related. All are refracted views of reality. You can give them another name if you wish. It is also dangerous to dabble in any of them.

When people who have not been known to be religious turn very spiritual and begin dropping biblical verses at every turn and mixing them with hate, anger (at what?) and vindictiveness, and yet Holy Writ is about love, tolerance and forgiveness, there is cause for concern.
First of all, drastic change may be physically and spiritually damaging. It is like coming up from the bottom of a deep sea to the surface without time for decompression at different depths. The sheer speed can cause irreparable damage.

Secondly, the change, whether out of conviction or fashion, reveals a troubled and unsettled mind and soul (for those with one).

It also indicates a person without anchor, who hopes that his flailing arms will hit at something that he can then hold on to for support. In one word, the man is lost. He has lost his bearings. He has lost his past and future and is in real danger of losing himself for good. And in this loss he is trying to rediscover his relevance in a world where he no longer matters.

Not content with desecrating Holy Scripture, our man has now turned to mysticism. He is actually beginning a descent into deeper narcissism that gives the illusion of elevation to a semi-divine status.

In a recent post on his facebook, he wrote: “Peace and quiet are becoming scarce and precious commodities. And lack of them is causing us to lose our ability to solve problems creatively” Do you detect a road to madness?
Loss of peace and quiet:  Wouldn’t you say: “Just desserts. You reap what you sow”, or as we say in Kinyarwanda, “urwishigishiye ararusoma”?

He then goes on to say that the absence of peace and quiet has blocked “the nurturing of wisdom and compassion that deepen the relationship with self, others and the Divine Mystery”.

When a person turns to mysticism, he is abandoning the real world – because he does not understand it any more, or it has rejected him, or he has lost the power to think. For comfort, he descends into another world of mystery and fantasy where he can freely indulge his vanity and create endless floating images of grandeur and his role and place in it.
Schizophrenia – scary word, but all too real.


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