This all happened freaking years ago (2008), but finding existing content about bipolar disorder in South Africa is, as I’m sure you know very well by now, a bit of a needle in the haystack scenario. The way this post started, was the fact that I vaguely remembered Koos Kombuis using the word bipolêr in a song and the idea that he was actually diagnosed with it. Beyond those two things, it’s no secret that he has bipolar friends as well (Amanda Strydom, for example). I released the bloodhounds of Google to find out more. On the top of the pile was controversy.
I am gatvol of people with bipolar. I do not think shrinks know what they are doing when they diagnose and give people a prescription. I’ve had enough of self seekers who need to be handled with kid gloves because they have ‘bipolar’ or a borderline personality.” Koos Kombuis, LitNet (retracted)
In the original quote, although “self seekers” is a perfectly legit translation, what he said was “selfsugtig”, which means selfish. Just plain selfish, to give it its full context. (“Ek is gatvol vir ouens wat plein selfsugtig is en met handskoentjies aan behandel moet word omdat hulle kwansuis bipolêr is of ’n borderline personality het.” source)
He says all they need is a long holiday on a Boland farm to rise early in the morning, take long barefoot walks in the dirt and learn to milk cows. source
The original quote says “beesmis”, which is cattle manure, not dirt.
It stirred up a lot of emotions at the time, and rightly so, and it was taken as far as the Human Rights Commission, to determine whether or not it constituted hate speech. more
If you’re still shaking your head at the idea of a bipolar person shitting all over bipolar people, his answer to that question was that he himself was diagnosed “from schizophrenia to manic depressive” and so he feels strongly about it. source
He wrote an open letter to John Qwelane in 2010, reflecting on the whole thing:
A couple of years ago, I published a virulent attack on people with bipolar disorder. In a blog entry I claimed, with utter sincerity, and without mincing my words, that al hierdie so-called bipolar mense should all just go off and spend some time on a Bolandse plaas, where they should walk around barefoot in the beesmis until they felt better.
Oepsie. Big mistake. A complaint was laid before the South African Human Rights Commission. Though they did not take the complaint very seriously, I realised that I had caused real hurt, Jon, and I felt compelled to issue a public apology and withdrew that blog entry completely. The long and the short of it, Jon, was that I realised I had made a first-class ass-hole of myself.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find it online, but he wrote a song called Equilibrium met Lithium. The title reads wonderfully in English, but that “met” is Afrikaans and it means with. He was, or so they say, on lithium for a long time himself. It’s a dark song, I wish I could show you.
As for my own feelings about it all, I honestly don’t give a shit. He shouldn’t have said it, obviously, and it’s good that he apologised, but he’s always been motormouthed and quite often in very proactive and useful ways, in terms of politics (all the way from pre-apartheid onwards) and socially (heheh, I’m thinking of the Fokkol song). I also wonder (if he is indeed bipolar), whether he just barfed up insults and impatience without thinking, while in a mixed episode or something. We’ve all done it. That doesn’t make it right, but obviously it’s history anyway. And besides, I like Koos a lot and getting permanently offended would mean I’d have to get grumpy and boycott his music and, well, fuck that.
Since I can’t find Equilibrium met Lithium to share with you, please enjoy the song with the most fuck alls ever. *proudly South African lol*