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 in townships and shack settlements, there are very real threats to freedom of speech — the pressure to conform comes not from the fear of ridicule but from the use of force by local power-holders. One feature of democracy here about which we rarely talk is the extent to which our residential areas are dominated by particular parties. The problem is not as great as it was in 1994, when parties won more than 90% of the vote in many areas, but it has not disappeared. For several reasons, this is far more of a problem in areas where the poor live: often political bosses hold sway and they do not take kindly to competition. They also often have links to local police. And so challenging power-holders in the areas where most citizens live is likely to bring far worse consequences than ridicule — it may mean a threat of violence, in some cases from the police. In these areas, criticising the government is indeed brave and independent. – Steven Friedman in Business DayBACK TO TOP