Stockholm Syndrome

Last night, over a particularly curious variety of Jamaican beer, I was diagnosed as suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Not knowing exactly what this was, and erroneously presuming that it had something to do with seal-clubbing, I bashfully had to ask. A subsequent search on the Internet produced this explanation.


As far as I could make out, Stockholm Syndrome was pretty much the same as going native. I had, my drinking comrade was informing me, become far too Sudanese.


We were discussing my bravery – or foolhardiness – of basing myself for a year in Khartoum to write about a tyrannical government bent on eradicating large suathes of the Sudanese population. Apparently, I should count myself quite lucky that I didn’t draw more attention to myself, heralding in my swift removal from the country.


It is almost impossible to resist, at times like this, the urge to defend what the Sudanese government is doing. I don’t mean to. I really don’t. And I do think the government is way out of order on so many things. But I feel oddly affronted when those with an in-depth knowledge of the south (one might hark back to my previous critical comments about the Nairobi press pack) want to lay all blame at the hands of the northern Islamic government.


We were talking particularly about journalists that have got into trouble in Sudan in the past, to which I voiced a hypothesis that this was more because they were loud, arrogant and failed to understand the Sudanese psychology. It is not difficult to avoid getting thrown out of the country if you know how, and maintain at least a couple of friends in high places.


I know it is crazy to be siding with the government in this blog, when Khartoum clearly is the villain in the play, but hear me out a moment. I fully accept that, unlike most other hacks and many Sudanese experts, I have approached Sudan via the north and am now drifting southwards. Many others Westerners, perhaps because of the heady pleasures of discovering the true tribal Africa, approach the country using a bottom-up methodology, if you will forgive some geeky computer terminology. So it is probably true, therefore, that I have certain sympathies with the Khartoum government, whilst others might sympathise with the southerners.


However, all of this is missing the point and preventing a lasting solution from being found to the country’s current woes. Sudan should really be seen in a holistic way – and one must make an effort to understand the north as well as the south, and I sometimes fear that southern sympathisers are also inclined to Stockholm Syndrome, just from a different perspective.


I have no doubt that I am indeed suffering from this ailment, which should perhaps be more aptly renamed Khartoum Syndrome. The trouble is that many others are suffering from Juba Syndrome. I haven’t yet decided which is worse.


Next year, I plan to spend a large amount of time exploring the south in more detail and maybe my sympathies will shift. Hopefully that will be just the medicine I need.


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One Response to “Stockholm Syndrome”

  1. How to Operate in Sudan « South of West Says:

    […] Blake Evans-Pritchard reckons that journalists only have themselves to blame: We were talking particularly about […]

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