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?
I read the Observer today as I am in Madrid and have no access to the Sunday Crimes. There is a two page article on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. As is always the case with these things, the article is a bit simplistic, but the headline was striking: ¨End of the Rainbow Nationa?¨ Money quote:
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An astounding lack of political delivery surrounds the South African crisis. Neither Mbeki nor his likely successor, Jacob Zuma, have altered their diaries in the past week to visit the displaced or speak to the nation. Instead, ministers, police chiefs and senior civil servants have put their energy into a two-pronged exercise of denial, aimed at proving that the attacks are linked neither to poverty nor to xenophobia. The intention is clearly to deflect any accusations that Mbeki’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ over Zimbabwe has led to an uncontrollable influx of foreigners and, thus, to xenophobia. Neither will the ANC tolerate suggestions that it has neglected its own poor.
Ministers and senior civil servants have gone to extraordinary lengths. National Intelligence Agency director-general Manala Manzini has dusted off struggle rhetoric and claimed that a ‘third force’ – mysterious right-wing ‘elements’ that supported the apartheid regime – is at work with a view to destabilising the 2009 elections.
Others, such as police spokesman Govandsami Mariemuthoo in Gauteng province, insist that ‘copycat criminal elements, not xenophobia’ are at work. As a result, it is now unclear what charges, if any, will be brought against the 400 people police claimed last week had been arrested in connection with the attacks in the Johannesburg area.
The reigning confusion feeds into the foreigners’ widely expressed belief that the attacks have been orchestrated by elements within the ANC – a party that has been deeply divided since Zuma was elected party president against Mbeki’s will last December. Grassroots supporters of the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party, which fought the ANC in the early 1990s, are also being accused of involvement.