Imagine you are driving a car on a busy, major road.
Apart from several vehicles to the rear and in front, you are equally aware of pedestrians and cyclists on both sides. Carefully observing speed limits, your panorama is spot on; you are in harmony with your surroundings. As time goes on you become distinctly conscious of a particular motorist right behind. You can even tell the colour of his shirt, his facial features and the anxious, restless attitude through your rear view mirror. This is an impatient driver. And edgy, impatient motorists must be noticed (precaution for accidents) as we operate and steer these expensive, dangerous machines.
Unexpectedly, without warning, a speeding car materialises from the small side road to your right. The vehicle takes over your space but since you are experienced enough, you slow down and adjust accordingly. Roads provide all kinds of tests and hazards. Driving is an activity that requires alertness and awareness every single second.
Now the wayward driver has stopped without warning or indication. You blow your horn lightly to warn the danger posed then overtake. Nothing more.
However, from the back, our anxious motorist is quite annoyed. Not with the careless driver. Passing by, he blasts his horns very sharply, shouts and wags a finger in an insulting manner. In his opinion, sight, view and conviction, you are the culprit. There is no way, time, occasion, platform to explain to him. He has already made up his mind.
He drives off. Furious. Accusing. Seething. Vexed...
Reader. Ever experienced this?
Many drivers do that. All they see is one single entity, one individual object, one thing; one car ahead or behind them. They barely care for the broader picture. An English idiom calls it “not seeing beyond one’s nose.” It means being blind, unmindful, heedless, selfish, careless, inattentive.
Take another scenario.
You are standing in a queue inside a huge busy shop. The long line bends and meanders and is blocking the path of other shoppers who happen to be wandering around and perusing through prospective items to buy. After a few seconds, a man comes from the left side. He wants to walk through. Says politely, “Excuse me, please...”
Just as he is about to manoeuvre through the tiny space, you feel three elderly women behind also keen to be let through. They have just entered the shop and are intending to go through your right, rear side. It is obviously difficult to let these four people pass at the same time. Rush, rush, rush. Should you make a speech to explain that you are not a spider with eight legs? Is this the time?
Let us assume that both trespassers (if this word befits the circumstances) would comprehend, discern, and realize, the general situation. We all know how crowded public spaces require quick instinctive, thinking.
This particular scenario takes less than three seconds. You let the man on the left go first. Then you step forward to let the three women through. However, they are not satisfied. You can see from their body language that they are slightly annoyed to have been “kept waiting” and as they flash past, throw you irritated glances.
“This city is filled with so many selfish people. What does it take to let someone pass?” One complains.
It is astonishing how most of us do not see beyond our own noses. All we are concerned with (like the impatient motorist) are immediate needs. Resembling little kids keen to have a sweet or toy, we want it now, now, now, regardless. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. Adults behaving like big babies. I want this; I want that. NOW. Give me or I shall cry. Fry. Dry. Die.
What should we call it?
The “me-me-me-only” syndrome? Or should we look at it from a military point of view where a silently matching patrol was ambushed because of lacking peripheral vision? Did not do enough research, gather information and sufficient reconnaissance. Forewarned is forearmed.
Political leaders are divided into those with a broader mind; those who recognise the full picture and those who do not care beyond their own noses and toes.
Search the landscape. Peruse and scratch histories of nations where a selfish leader only thought and cared for instant, egoistic interests. Having grabbed whatever was available, filled the stomach, ballooned the bodies of close supporters, cronies and sycophants; stole and stashed millions of cash overseas, killed the opposition, stifled media and human right activists; years later citizens suffer, citizens roast, citizens in distress, citizens in misery.
We know them. They are in action, as we speak. Leaders who cheat, plunder, and cause our African nations to continue bleeding for decades after they have died, gone, buried and forgotten.
Also published in Citizen Tanzania, June 2015.