Quote of the week

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?

Nathaniel P.Morris
Scientific American
1 July 2007

On colonialism and Ronald Suresh Roberts

It is the most disconcerting experience to be reading Ronald Suresh Roberts´book on Thabo Mbeki while also reading the Rough Guide to Peru. Roberts talks at lenghth about the way Western discourse has infected our world view and at times he is actually quite interesting.

I like the fact that he is trying to create an alternative intellectual universe in which Thabo Mbeki always makes perfect sense and is really an intellectual hero. When he talks about the ways in which what we see as normal is really situated, he is rather good.

The problem is that he often argues like a little boy. For example he points out that Tony Leon (not his favourite man!) quotes Lord Acton. He then argues that Lord Acton was a dreadful man. Then this must inevitably mean in his book that Leon is also a terrible racist pig. Nee what, this is lazy reasoning of the worst kind.

The book also gives the impression of a rush job. It is not clear whether this is because he knocked it off in the past few months when the sponsors started asking questions about the million Rand they gave for the project or whether it is because he has such a busy mind that he cannot fix on one thing for long enough to actually build a sustained and coherent argument.

In any case, to read Suresh Roberts and then the guidebook makes the colonial mindset of the guidebook jump out at you. White people from Europe invariably ¨discovered¨all the great tourist attracions – as if locals did not live here and actually built the very same attractions. It is deeply irritating and almost puts me off travel.

The guidebook us aklso deeply patronising about local culture and politics. When pointing out some problem with Macchu Picchu they add that the authorities are aware of the problema nd claim to be doing something about it. The guidebook would surelñy not say the Italians are aware of the fact that the tower of Pisa is falling over.

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