The Voices That Americans Hear in Their Heads



The majority of people who suffer from schizophrenia are not violent. However, schizophrenics do use more violence than the average person, and it is not uncommon that they are encouraged by voices. With no idea where they come from, it is intriguing to investigate the difference between “schizophrenic voices” in different countries, and what they say about those countries.

Stanford University in the U.S. has researched this by comparing a group of 20 patients from India with 20 patients from the United States. The result, according to anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann, is that the voices patients hear in India are considerably less violent that those in the United States. “An American matter-of-factly explained, ‘usually it’s like torturing people to take their eyes out with a fork, or cutting off someone’s head and drink the blood, that kind of stuff.’”

The Indians heard other commands; They had to do unpleasant domestic chores, sometimes also unpleasant sexual things, but not the brutal violence that the Americans described. “It is a sobering thought that the greater violence in the voices of Americans with schizophrenia may have something to do with those of us without schizophrenia,” concludes Luhrmann.

‘Something Rotten’

Indeed, it is sheer madness how violent America is. The friendliest people live there, people who have made an art of treating each other as kindly as possible, but people who can also get out their gun at the drop of a hat.

Look at the political violence of the past few weeks. It wasn’t just about race, but it was also about the ease with which officers shoot. Why does the arrest of a 12-year-old boy, playing with a fake pistol in Cleveland, immediately have to end in his death? The same goes for a man in Staten Island who was illegally selling cigarettes, or a boy in Ferguson — also not a hardened criminal.

There is something rotten in the state of America, and that is the culture of violence that is embraced by the whole society: from the entertainment industry to politics, from sports to family life. When my daughter lived in St. Louis for a year, she immediately had to take shooting lessons.


Of course, the worst in a country emerges when it is attacked by a terrorist group, such as al-Qaida, and we don’t delude ourselves about our own noble character, but in such circumstances, the Americans can very easily return to their hard-fisted traditions. The CIA practices after 9/11 didn’t fall from the sky, and it’s irritating that American politicians wallow in self-congratulation — “No other country investigates its own wrong-doings like we do,”* claimed Vice-President Biden — instead of digging a little deeper.

One day after the publication of the Senate report on the CIA, a report was published in Brazil this week by the commission that investigated the torture of prisoners during the right-wing dictatorship — 1964-1984. It turned out that the Brazilian interrogators had been trained in the United States, in the School of the Americas in Georgia, where their techniques were taught as “torture, execution, blackmail and the arrest of suspects’ family members.”

At the time, it was the Communists that the Americans were afraid of; now, it’s the Islamic terrorists. Tomorrow, there will be yet another danger, but the Americans should also be a little afraid of themselves and wonder where those voices in their heads are coming from.

*Editor’s note: The original quotation, while accurately translated, could not be verified.

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