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?
A few things are going on here. Thing one: hubris. But why dwell on it; who doesn’t when they have the chance? Thing two: nostalgia. When you grew up in a country like this, on the oppressor side of the frontier lines, nostalgia can feel a tad morally problematic. What’s that you miss? The eighties? Oh you liked those, did you? I think part of the recent Rodriguez high around here has been about this condoned nostalgia for an older white generation. Suddenly you can reminisce about which suburb you grew up in, which dances you went to, what music you were listening to, and not really have to mention apartheid. “I grew up in Linden!” “I grew up in Emmarentia!” “We danced at the Lemon Squeezer!” And maybe that’s okay. I’m not intent on having my say on the matter here, one way or the other. Nostalgia is an issue. But not the issue. – Anna Hartford, on attending a Rodriguez concert in Cape TownBACK TO TOP