My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
But the unpredictable behavior of Brazilian voters can also lead to more baffling outcomes. In 1959, for example, Cacareco, a placid, middle-aged rhinoceros at the São Paulo zoo, was voted onto the city council, having won over 100,000 votes—and this is only the most famous case in Brazil’s long history of “protest votes.” Cacerco has been succeeded by other non-existent candidates, along with candidates from outside the sphere of professional politics, such as soccer players, fashion designers, Lilia M. Schwarcz in the New York Review of Books, writing on Brazilian democracystars, brash pop singers, faded ex-models, and various C-list celebrities with zero knowledge or experience of political life. – BACK TO TOP