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?
Most curious, though, was the reaction of the middle-classes, Malema’s traditional enemies, as his commitment became clear, and the scope of the ANCYL’s protest ambitions became apparent. They didn’t suddenly agree that nationalising mines or expropriating farmland would be a good idea. They did, however, express admiration, even respect – something that would have seemed unlikely in the extreme the day before. .. A little bit of sympathy can be a powerful thing. Where the chattering classes were dismissive, at best, of Malema before, a kernel of doubt has been planted. Could he be worth listening to? Is there perhaps sense to be divined in the mess that is his ideology? It won’t last, probably, but getting people who normally wouldn’t is the point of any protest. Even if Malema is utterly ignored by the government, and the JSE, and the Chamber of Mines, he’s already succeeded in a small way. Mostly, though, Malema has suddenly become an inspirational political figure, somebody who achieved a tangible and difficult goal through sheer determination. There aren’t many others we can say that about, and none who can reach disenchanted young people as Malema does. That, too, is a lever of power. – Phillip de Wet at Daily MaverickBACK TO TOP