Road Rage

Scotts_2016 Posted by Keith and Lyn Scott on Tue, 05 Dec 2017 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

A long time ago there was a movie called “The Gumball Rally” a rather daft movie about a race across the USA. One of the characters throws his rear-view mirror out of the car saying: “what’s behind is not important”. Driving in Zambia is a bit like that, except that one needs to add “and neither is what’s in front of me”. This is especially true around Lusaka, Zambia’s capital and largest city.

We drove to Lusaka recently. The Chinese were busy constructing a new dual carriage over the last stretch into Lusaka, which will one day stretch the entire 400 odd kilometres to Kitwe. The road under reconstruction is called the “Great North Road” and essentially runs right through the city, indeed the whole country, from North to South. Linking South Africa with Zambia, Congo Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya it carries the heavy goods traffic of half a continent.

At one point along the stretch plagued by road works there is a junction. Traffic tries to cross from the main road to go down one of the feeder roads. This means crossing the construction site which is the other carriage way, currently infested with Chinese built heavy machinery. The road works, which have removed the tarred surface of the road, have turned what is at the very best of times, a busy and complicated junction once controlled by traffic lights and filter lanes, into an anarchic chaos. Inevitably people try cutting up the inside or outside the “main” flow of traffic.

This is made even more interesting because there is a line of shops and businesses (Handy Tyre Mending and Restaurant is one which sticks firmly to the memory) set back from the road and vehicles are trying to get in and out of what is essentially a local shopping area. This results in at least innumerable “lanes” of traffic, no two vehicles pointing in the same direction and nothing really resembling lanes, more what a traffic jam might look like if it had been poured out of a very large jam jar. One could call it grid-lock but it bears no resemblance to anything as orderly as a grid. None of the drivers seem to be taking any notice of the member of the construction gang tasked with waving his flag in a vain attempt to organise and control the junction. In fact, one driver seems to have stepped out of his car to have a genteel debate with him. Arms are waving and voices are raised, which is beginning to attract the attention of several of the other members of the pick and shovel wielding workforce.

Inevitably I begin to sink into frustration and rage. There’s no order, no sense of cooperation with one another for the sake of all in the chaos. It is an anarchic mayhem in which the biggest or most aggressive wins just a little more space, inches just a little bit further up the road, playground bullying with multi-tonne vehicles.

Of course, there will be no “winners”, the chaos simply makes the struggle to get out of the city even more frustrating and the delay even longer. This is part of my anger and frustration, I can see it happening and just want to put it right and make it all easier for everyone. Road rage is not far away.
The junction has become a place of friction filled encounter with strangers one has never seen before and never will see again. It’s a point of deeply consequential decision. Who or what will I be? Will I allow myself to be made into the image of that friction filled encounter?

In any conflicted situation, it’s easy enough for us to be sucked in, sometimes on the seemingly laudable grounds of imposing order and justice on anarchy, oppression and injustice, a desperate desire to make it better, drain the swamp, take control.

This has only one disastrous end. There is an alternative, another junction. The one where God joins into our world in incarnation, There the friction filled encounter, the rage and frustration of a disordered people is met with silence, with self-emptying, with the cross which both exposes and absorbs our rage and offers an invitation to give it all up and follow along the pilgrims’ way.

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