I love conspiracy theories.

The stories often have a smidgen of truth in them, but are amplified until they become larger.

So we are now reading lots of news stories about the genitalia stealing witches in Africa and that mobs are going around killing the witches in Africa.

Actually, the problem, called Koro, is a world wide phenomenum.

Usually it starts with a single man, who has potency problems (perhaps shrinkage due to malnutrition or disease) and then he decides it is a witchcraft.

Stealing men’s potency…or making the genitalia shrivel away, is a common delusion not only in Africa, but Asia...

the press has a fieldday ridiculing these primitive people, but as the link explains, the basis is an even more sinister practice: Killing for body parts.

When I lived in Liberia, they’d find bodies with parts missing, and everyone knew that someone was building a store, and that the body parts would be placed in the foundation.

The problem with paranoid delusions, whether it be body part stealers to UFO’s to the Zionist conspiracy to Reverend Wright’s HIV conspiracy is that there is a smidgen of truth behind the original story

There are Jeffrey Dahmers and those who kill and mutilate children. There are strange lights in the sky. And alas, HIV spread because of dirty syringes, sometimes even in government run hospitals, in places as different as Africa, Russia and Libya.

But for the paranoid, there is a need to project self hatred to another. So he hears about a few incidents, and then a paranoid puts the rare incident as the center of his delusion, and builds a complicated construct around the rare incidents, projecting his feelings of hatred for being harmed on another person or group.

When the suspicion is mild, or most people see the suspicion for what it is, a minor fact of a complicated story, then there is no problem.

The problem comes when the paranoid person’s delusional system is spread to others who also have a need to project their own problem elsewhere…and you end up with mobs and mass hysteria.

So a Nigerian, living in a land of corruption and little chance for wealth, feels he is being cheated. One day, his vitamin B deficiency results in neuropathic impotency, and he panics.

He knows about the stories of witches stealing body parts, and decides his problem is witchcraft. There is a neighbor he dislikes, and suddenly he has the reason for his problem…so burn down that neighbor’s house or worse.

In the West, we see a similar paranoia, but few people will go along with the complete 9/11 “truther” conspiray: it is a bit nutty to hate ordinary bureaucrats so much to imagine thousands of them would help kill their friends and neighbors. (For that matter, few Americans follow Islamophobes who can blame one billion Muslims for the incident. )

Luckily for the world, common sense usually wins in the long run.

Few “truthers” will go and burn down city hall, Pakistani motels thrive despite an occasional Islamophobic sermon even in the Bible Belt, and despite the evil rants of Rush Limbaugh, few dittoheads are planning to take their clothes off and riot when Hillary or Obama comes to town…

Common sense is one way to stop mass hysteria.

Ironically, religion is another way.

Luckily, like most societies, African religion has a more benign way out of it: a witchdoctor holds a curing ceremony.

I’m not ridiculing the healer by calling him a witchdoctor, because shamans can curse people, but it is the witchdoctor who diagnosis the witchcraft (hence the name). In some tribal cultures, illness is a punishment from God or is from a witch’s curse. But a ceremony will remove the curse and be the equivalent of Catholic penance if you are being punished for committing sin.

Catholics similarly have confession and penance, exorcism, and blessing “haunted” houses.

The Navajo will hold a sing so that the one full of fear and hatred will find himself back in harmony with the whole.

But what does one do with a Reverend Wright sees HIV as an evil conspiracy of an evil white government and an evil country full of millions of white devils?

Right now, probably nothing.

Obama and others overlooked his paranoid views because most of his preaching was otherwise, and the paranoia was only a small part of his belief system, Now that Wright has decided to emphasize the paranoid part of his beliefs, Obama and many who defended the Reverend, have rightly distanced themselves from his delusions.

The real danger of the Reverend Wrights in our midst is if they go around spreading their paranoia tand hatred to others.

And the real danger is if such paranoid anger results in a return of the race riots of 1968 if Obama is not elected.

———————————

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines

Be Sociable, Share!