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?
My comment on Robert McBride last week elicited quite harsh comment from some readers. I bemoaned the fact that McBride was not being held accountable as one would expect in a democracy but some readers took issue with this on the ground that we do not live in a democracy.
That, of course, was before the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that McBride is to be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, defeating the ends of justice and fraud. Nevertheless, the comments of the readers was perplexing because it seems rather obvious to me that we live in a relatively healthy democracy.
Really, the Economist (not a left wing or PC magazine by any strech of the imagination) placed South Africa 29th out of 165 countries on its democracy Index in 2007. (
There are perhaps three interrelated reasons why some people are so dissatisfied with what is happening in
Second, some people have a “look-at-Zimbabwe” attitude and see signs everywhere of the imminent demise of
Lastly, people are just plain uninformed, perhaps because they believe the things that bigots whine on about on talk radio. Thus a reader rails against the
Thing is, the wonder of a democracy is that we do not always (or ever!) have to agree with the government or with the judgments of the
Of course, democratic governments should adhere to some basic principles and we the people should make sure they do (because give even the most democratic government half a chance and they will cut corners). This is why I criticized McBride for failure to be held accountable.
But today I am very happy that the NPA has done the right thing and has affirmed the respect that everyone is equal before the law by charging McBride. I am eagerly looking forward to the cross examination because Mr. McBride looks like a guy who is going to make Schabir Shaik look believable and coherent under cross examination.
Such are the joys of living in a democracy under the Rule of Law.BACK TO TOP