It was in front of my friend’s house on a major road in Olodi Apapa which has been turned to a trailer park by “area boys”. I had just gotten down from a commercial motorcycle, the final part of my journey from work. Movement was extremely difficult for everyone – humans and vehicles. I was happy; at least I had concluded my journey home, save for a 10-minutes walk to my house from my friend’s.
My friend and I were standing outside, gisting, when a motorcycle, while trying to make its way through a small path in-between a parked trailer and the gutter, lost control of the 2-wheeled vehicle and landed in the gutter. The driver had a passenger behind, who, as soon as he noticed the driver may lose control, jumped down and was saved from the accident.
As everyone gathered, trying to help the driver, the passenger said, “Thank God oh. Like say I know say him go fall. Na God save me, I just quickly come down.” He went on and on about how if he was on the bike, he’d have been a victim and how he’s grateful he wasn’t involved in the accident.
My friend and I heard him and my friend asked me, “What about the man involved in the accident? Why do people not show empathy when others experience misfortune they would have been a part of if not for a slight difference in time and space? Why do they proceed to talk about how they have been saved as if the victim does not deserve to be saved?”
While these are valid questions, on the flip side are people who think there’s nothing wrong with being grateful for not experiencing a misfortune – it’s not that they are happy that someone else was a victim, they are simply happy they didn’t have to go through that experience.
But why do you need to be grateful because your situation is better than someone else’s? This brings to mind how people find statements such as the following as offensive and lacking empathy: “Some people have legs but cannot walk. Some have mouths but cannot talk. You have legs and mouth and you can walk and talk. You should be grateful.”
Are we saying people should not be happy when they escape something bad? Are we saying they should pretend to be sad because someone else is experiencing the misfortune they probably would have experienced, and not be grateful for their good fortune? Or should they express this gratitude in private? Is there a difference between lacking empathy and just being genuinely grateful for escaping a misfortune that others were a victim of? Or do you think there are no differences?