How Do We Heal our Schizophrenic Society?


As the end of 2010 rears its inevitable head, it is time to pause and reflect on what has been a year of 2 halves, with a delicious, squishy middle. I don’t know about you, but for me this has been a somewhat schizophrenic year, with some definite lowlights and highlights. I recall the first half of 2010, still suffering under the hangover of the global economic crunch. The World Cup was coming to SA and we had absolutely no idea of what was actually going to happen. Was it really going to take place? Would the stadiums be ready?  Would anybody come here to watch the tournament after the sensationalist British tabloids ran a headline on “Machete Wielding Gangs” roaming our streets? Life seemed to be on hold, in a surreal sort of limbo. We heard of scary possibilities like our kids being kidnapped by human trafficking syndicates and the supermarkets running out of fresh produce. It was a crazy time, uncertain, unpredictable and stressful, filled with the contradiction of a deep desire for success and a very real possibility of failure

Yet, at some level, something told us it was going to be an awesome, exciting and extraordinary event. Somehow we knew that we would pull it off, albeit in our uniquely schizophrenic SA fashion. And boy did we get it right! The tournament was an unadulterated success, a whirlwind of matches, fan-walks, fan-parks and fanfares. Even our traditionally negative media got on board and blew the vuvuzela with mostly positive reporting. Crime decreased and when it occurred it was dealt with decisively. It was dubbed by FIFA as the most successful world cup ever!

2010 Soccer World Cup

South Africa hosts the 2010 FIFA World Cup – Image Credit Daily Maverick

After the final whistle, the business gears began to move again. Indecision was replaced by positive action and we moved into a more prosperous period. We rode a wave of certainty, fuelled with the pride of achievement and hope for the future. We had finally come to believe in ourselves.

But now the tide has turned again. The SA rollercoaster is moving uphill once more.   The media has turned mostly negative. The schizophrenic pendulum has swung to the other side.

So all this has really got me thinking about schizophrenic SA. I am pondering some difficult questions right now. Like how is it that we can be known as one of the most friendly, warm, hospitable people on earth AND also have one of the highest rates of murder, crime, rape and violence? How can we feel so much pride a few months ago and so quickly slip back into self loathing when a tourist is senselessly murdered in Gugulethu? How can we open our arms to the world yet close our hearts to the suffering of our fellow countrymen? How can we produce a magician like Mandela and a monster like Malema?  Why is it that when something is sent in a car, it’s called shipment, and yet when something is sent in a ship, it’s called cargo? What the heck is a free gift? Aren’t all gifts free? And why can I never stay serious for too long without slipping into sarcasm or dark humour?

I do not have the absolute answers to any of these. However, as a patriotic South African, I will attempt to answer in the only way which makes sense to me. If these answers seem senseless to you, go read the newspapers and get depressed instead. This is a motivational newsletter remember!

We are attempting to heal our violent society. The 25th November saw the commencement of the annual 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. In addition, The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation has done a lot of excellent work since 2007 in attempting to determine the reasons for the endemic violence in schizophrenic SA. In an April 2009 supplementary report, submitted to the minister of safety and security, the centre mentioned contributing factors to violence such as:

  1. The legacy of apartheid and colonialism.
  2. Brutalisation and the culture of violence.
  3. Racism
  4. Firearms
  5. Impunity in township areas.
  6. Inequality and poverty.
  7. State Institutions such as the courts and education system.

This report was well researched and presented, but because it was focused on violent crime and not violence in general, it missed a few vital components. For example it did not mention the effects on thousands of South African Soldiers of being forced to fight an immoral war, on our borders, in the townships and in our neighbouring countries. I believe that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is rife in ex SADF soldiers. I know this firsthand, having served 6 of my 24 months compulsory military service on “the border.”

The report also did not mention the ongoing nightmare faced by members of the South African Police Services (SAPS), many of whom regularly have to face crime, death, violence and disrespect. I believe that a large percentage of them must be affected by PTSD. Consider a policeman, who has witnessed gruesome crime scenes, possibly seen friends and colleagues killed violently, discovered decomposing bodies or been abused by members of their communities. The sad thing is that they are regularly offered counseling services by the SAPS, yet most refuse to go because it will be entered on their files and could affect their chances of promotion up the ranks. As a result they walk around like human time bombs, and some eventually commit crimes against others or even end up killing their loved ones and families in gruesome “familycides.”

I also did not see a mention of the PTSD experienced by the thousands of victims of crime and violence, a self perpetuating cycle of reaction on reaction.

And let’s not forget the impact of domestic violence and abuse, perpetrated against “loved ones.”

The reports made a number of suggestions to address the issues. All have merit and could go a long way towards solving the problem. I hope from the bottom of my heart that they will be implemented and achieve the result we all want. We are already seeing improvements, for example the murder rate fell substantially during 2010.

I am no expert in the field of crime and violence. My passion is for inspiration, motivation and, most importantly, TRANSFORMATION. So for what it is worth, I will attempt to put forward some additional suggestions to add to what is already on the table.

We are a desperately under psychologised society. Our egos and conditioning (cowboys don’t cry) cause us to believe that we can deal with emotional issues ourselves. We believe that we do not need assistance or counseling to assist us in dealing with grief, anger, depression, violence, relationship issues, substance abuse and PTSD. The truth and reconciliation commission was a brave and worthy attempt to heal the past. Yet the scars remain, like festering wounds in our collective psyche. We are a society that will visit a doctor or traditional healer without blinking an eye and swallow unquestioningly the potions they prescribe. Yet mention to your average South African the alternative options such as psychology, counseling or spiritual healing and they run a mile! Most men (statistically the main perpetrators of violence) are petrified to go near any of these. So they will drown their sorrows in alcohol and drugs, both legal and illegal, rather than take alternative steps to work through their stuff. Their fears, ego’s and our judgemental society will simply not allow them to open up and become vulnerable, which is an essential prerequisite for healing.

To heal our society, we urgently need to find ways to get these people to seek help. Real help, not temporary band aids which mask the symptoms yet do not address the cause. The people who love them should try every means possible to get them to an alternative healing option as soon as possible. They may not realise it, but the options for real healing are vast.

As mentioned, I am an ex soldier who was brainwashed and conditioned and trained to kill others with a huge variety of scary weapons. Over the last 25 years I have chosen to face my fears and take the steps necessary to heal myself. I have tried most of the options suggested below, believing that somehow in combination they would help me to heal. And they have. My life now overflows with peace, joy and gratitude and I see beauty and miracles all around me, every day.

It is my deepest wish that life could be experienced this way for many more of my fellow South Africans.

Therefore I will briefly list a few of the possible healing options below and you can use google to find more detailed information:

  1. Attend any one of the available Transformational Group Trainings available in SA, such as: ALIVE by World Alive, Landmark Forum by Landmark Education, Master 1 by Consciousness Coaching, More to Life Weekend by More to Life, I am forum by Pat Grove, New Warrior Training Adventure by Mankind Project, and Turning Point by Centre of Light. These are just some of the powerful options out there which can offer significant growth, healing and lasting transformation.
  2. Qualified Counselors: Just ask around and you will find them everywhere.
  3. Social Workers can also be helpful in many instances.
  4. Psychologists: For some a shrink or “kop dokter” could provide the solution.
  5. Spiritual Healers and Sangomas are growing in popularity.
  6. Homeopaths, Acupuncturists, Reiki Therapists and Kinesiologists.
  7. Yoga, Tai Chi and Meditation Practitioners.
  8. Other Alternative Healers.

There is literally a veritable buffet of options available. The immediate results I have seen achieved by these practitioners are astounding. Who you choose will depend upon the personality of the person requiring the help. The dichotomy is that the very deep issues which require the healing will keep many from seeking any help at all. The deep fears underlying their violence will actually sabotage their chances for redemption.

Unless those closest to them have the courage to lead them across the bridge. Before they fall off. Before the time bomb explodes.

This is our schizophrenic society. So full of hope and possibility, yet painfully hamstrung by our past. So capable of love, compassion and Ubuntu, yet wrestling our individual and collective demons. Desperately wanting lasting inner peace, yet not knowing how to take the proper steps to heal the turmoil within.

The biggest problem in our country is not violence and violent crime. That is the symptom of the problem. The main problem is the denial of the need for healing by thousands of sufferers of PTSD and their resistance to seek help. Their “tough guy” conditioning prevents them from becoming vulnerable and surrendering to expert healing.

The good news is that HELP IS ALL AROUND! I have a growing network of incredible healing practitioners and am more than happy to refer the brave few who are willing to ask me. All you need to do is drop me an email.

I deeply love this country and all of her people. I believe that we will overcome these challenges, because we have the collective will and capability to do so. I am passionately committed to doing whatever it takes to help us become as magnificent as we are destined to be. And I am privileged to see the miraculous transformation of individuals who take the leap of faith.

So as we prepare to bid farewell to 2010 and prepare for the festive season, I wish you healing and peace and joy and celebration with your loved ones.

For 2011, I wish you everything that you wish for.

Remember, happiness is an inside job.

Do whatever it takes to find it. Do it now.

Heal yourself and you will help to heal our nation.

With Love


Mark Berger