- Post 18 September 2008
- Last Updated on 19 September 2008
- By Hilary Ike Ugwu
For the sake of identity concealments, let us name him Mr Az. Some years back, Az had traveled back to the village from the city for Christmas celebration. While in the village, he broke into a full episode of mental illness. Some friends say even while in the city, they have noticed certain bizarre behaviors in Az. He was withdrawing from people and social involvements. He was also often sported speaking by himself and to himself or punching the air as if in fight with an invisible entity. And that prior to the trip to his village, he did also become super-active in spiritual and religious activities. A friend of Az related that once he told him he even hear and seen God severally and that was what prompted his endless church going.
As things later turned out, Az’s parents who are full fledged traditionalist did consult a medium and they were told that the uncle was responsible. Consequently, this led to the wide-spreading of the news in the village. Everyone was certain Az’s uncle is such a bad man. People avoided him like a dreaded leper. He was socially, physically and mentally humiliated and disgraced by the entire village. But ask the villagers how they come to this conclusion, facts remains illusive and geared toward superstitious.
After many years of traditional treatments in the village, the situation remained as it started. Again, suggestion came that Az would be taken back to the city for a proper psychiatric examination and perhaps treatments. At first, the parents were skeptical for they believe mental illness is not medical issue but a traditional issue since they are caused by wicked people. But after prolonged persuasions from AZ’s friends, the parents gave in.
In the city, a psychiatrist diagnosed Az as having schizophrenic mental disorder. Schizophrenic personality disorder is a mental illness characterized by disorganized thinking pattern, hallucination, paranoia, flat affect, deluded thinking, social withdrawal, communicative deficits and low hygiene. These automatically affect personal and social responsibilities, relationships and functions in every ramification. Many psychiatric authorities believe that genetic and prenatal predisposition is a major cause of this psychic disease. But that, social and environmental factors such as traumatic stress, narcotic drugs and brain injury could also create a vulnerable haven for its development.
Victims are periodically or completely disoriented from reality. They may even become disoriented from their own selves and the environments around them. They can also loose touch with their own thoughts and emotions. Thus, many people hear voiced or see non-existent entities and objects. One may see victims speaking to themselves or communicating to certain illusive beings. Their brain chemistries are simply malfunctioning and cannot co-ordinate perceptible reality. They cannot distinguish or separate reality from hallucination either. They may see a cup of water as filled with sands or see red colors where it ought to be white or see ‘aliens or devils or Jesus or God’ speaking to them as the case may be. Yet, the presumed realities they see are very unreal.
The doctor tried all he could to explain to Az’s parents that the uncle did not cause the mental illness but they would not listen. They presume the doctor is ignorant and that they know better as traditionalist. Having seen how hard it is to convince them otherwise, the doctor gave up and allowed them to stick to their belief. They simply lack scientific analysis and explanation of things. In order words, they are ignorant.
Human awareness of the universe and its biochemical, social and physical mechanics is evolutionary in process. The world as we know today, in its scientific explanatory consciousness, did not just happen overnight. While some races of humanity are ascending to the crest of scientific awareness of virtually everything, others are still treading behind.
It is innate and very natural for humans to seek explanatory answers to things and wonders around them. And where pure scientific consciousness is lacking, myth and superstition opines themselves. These two are retrogressive in any human community. One of the challenges confronting African village communities in this 21st century AD is the ability for scientific interpretation of life. Looking back to history, unscientific explanations were highly ingrained in the socio-traditional consciousness of the Africans.
Back in the village, there is this lingering fear of the unknown. People are afraid of witches, wizards, neighbors’ talismans, ancestral hexes, poison (not the laboratory chemical), magic and voodoos as the case may be. The fear of these as far as the village is concern is often chronic and enslaving to the people. Thus so many live their day to day lives mentally bound with imagined unidentifiable forces of evil.
The fear of the unknown had created an atmosphere of mistrust, enmity, backbiting, suspicion and unfriendliness in many Africa village communities. More and more people are accused continuously of using magical means, bewitching and casting evil spells on their neighbors. Some are socially ostracized, treated as outcasts, publicly disgraced, mentally and emotionally enslaved and in some cased excommunicated from the mainstream of social and religious lives. In any human community where the mind is not liberated by the light of education, that same mind would be surely enslaved by ignorant. People accused their neighbors when they fall sick or have misfortune. Forgetting that most of the diseased and illness could be caused by lack of proper sanitization, environmental unkemptness and so son, and lack of adequate hygienic culture. And those other illnesses are just pathogenic organisms lingering as deadly contaminants of the human environs. This is what every informed mind ought to fight to correct.
But, the bitter tragedy is that even the educated Africans are often lured in the same trend of thinking. This is merely because we Africans tend to have inherited certain (unchallenged) belief system that is deeply impressed on our cultural consciousness. And sometimes, education and knowledge finds it had to wrestle negative cultural belief systems. Knowledge lives in the head but belief dwell in the heart and affects ones life from the subconscious level. And that is why changing knowledge is easier than changing beliefs. Many highly placed and educated mind still hold the notion that they would be bewitched whenever they travel to their villages. And thus, lots of people avoid the village (their birth home) completely. How sad is that. They believe that a simple handshake from their poor neighbors who might come to greet them when they return. They believe that their hands are dinted with charms (poison). This kind of thinking does not only discourage genuine human association, interaction and relation but it also reaffirms the gulf between the haves and the have-nots and thus encourages ill-feelings towards others. The have-nots are treated as consisting social naissance. They are the witches, and wizards in the village that should be avoided. How can someone travel from the city to the village and instead of participating in community activities and developments barricades him/herself in the confines of his/her high-fenced-razor-wired homes for fear that the neighbor’s witch-hunting are on the prowl to get him/her. How ignorant and misinformation is that. It is a mental slavery in itself. If the neighbors are diagnosed as having germs and viruses in there hands, it would be a different case study.
Misinformation and superstition affects millions of people in the world like plague. And there is nothing so ridiculous than to act under the podium of half truths and false beliefs. People believe that AIDS, elephantiasis, stroke, blindness, barrenness, business failures, marital breakdowns, infant mortality and numerous other natural disasters are caused by wicked people in their voodoo ingenuities. We are by no means limiting this scope of (mis) belief systems to the rustic villages. It does also exist in cities and creates suspicious atmosphere in apartments where people live together and in business places. Many politicians believe they must be protected by charms against their enemies. And so they flock to medicine-men or women for magical powers. Soldiers believe they are invincible to the bombs and deadly arms and ammunitions simply by wearing talismans around their waist or necks. How stupid are such thinking. Women belief they ought to acquire juju or charms in order to attract likable men to marry them. Some even believe they must kill other humans in a ritual sacrifice to attract huge financial fortunes. How ignorant and dark is the mind to think these ways. We are in the 21st century and Africans ought to transcend such lifestyles.