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 people have experienced some kind of recourse to instant tradition, whether from insecure teachers or peremptory bosses seeking to assert an unearned authority. Much of South African history might be summed up in that thoughtless and condescending attitude. For more than 350 years, the self-righteous, largely unquestioned trinity of culture, custom and tradition was stridently employed to justify not only rapacious European conquest, but white supremacy, which culminated in legislated white lordship. Many whites have still not grown out of this racial delusion. That tradition, of whatever hue or culture, is routinely invoked to sanctify power. Pallo Jordan pointed out on these pages that this year marks the centenary of the Natives Land Act. It was not only the infamous culmination of statutory robbery, but a triumph of invented “tradition”: white sovereignty wilfully destroying a long tradition of thriving peasant farming. – Bryan Rostron in Business DayBACK TO TOP