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?
[T]he fact of the matter is that we still have a significant proportion of people among the white minority, but by no means everybody who is white, that continues to live in fear of the black, and especially African majority. For this section of our population, that does not “find it too difficult to revert to the accustomed world of fear of the future”, every reported incident of crime communicates the frightening and expected message that – the kaffirs are coming!
Unlike past letters on racism in which President Mbeki made excellent points on racism, only to misuse the insights to attack some of his critics, this letter is mostly free of the sarcasm and tarring of all with the same brush. I was reminded of his notorious letter about the media being “the fishers of corrupt men”, in which he made very valid points about racism, only to use these to argue that when the media exposes corruption it is inevitably based on racism.
Having had the misfortune this week to listen to a few minutes of the phone in programme with Nicky van der Berg on Radio Sonder Grense (don’t ask), the words of our President seem particularly apt. Some among us (as he used to say!) really have not acc epted the humanity of their fellow South Africans.