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?
If Jacob Zuma is elected President of South Africa sometime next year, some of us will probably bemoan the fact that the voters had entrusted a man facing very serious criminal charges (carrying a 15 year compulsory jail term) with the most important job in the country. The Afro-pessimists will mutter that “only in Africa” this kind of thing can happen.
But that would, of course, be rubbish. After all, Sylvio Berlusconi was re-elected prime Minister of Italy despite his various legal troubles. Even more interesting, I note that it now seems likely (though incredible), that septuple felon Ted Stevens has in fact won his Alaska Senate race against Democrat Mark Begich., Stevens had already been convicted, yet it seems as if he will be re-elected to the US Senate.
This does not make a Zuma Presidency admirable or wise and neither does it validate the outragous decision by the ANC NEC to back Zuma for the Presidency regardless of what happens with his court case. However, it does place it in perspective. After all, although Schabir Shaik has already been convicted of corrupting Zuma, Zuma has not been convicted of any crime – unlike Stevens.
It places South African voters on par with the voters of Alaska – who has elected Sarah Palin as its Governor. This does not flatter South African (or Alaskan) voters, but neither does it signal the end of the world either. Potential or real crooks seem to populate politics all over the world….
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