Trauma Inflicted Upon Journalists in Country of my Skull

“We sleep between one and two hours a night. We live on chocolate and potato chips. After five years without cigarettes, I start smoking again” (Krog, 51).

This quote written by Krog is seen in chapter three of Country of my Skull as she explains the emotional conflict that journalists like her are forced to deal with throughout their careers reporting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The film, Long Night’s Journey Into Day did not address the emotional burden brought upon the reporters. This was something I had thought about; how it must be extremely difficult to put one’s emotions aside while having to film and interview innocent people who are experiencing a very painful level of grief. I was so glad that Krog touched upon this in Country of my Skull because it was something that really interested me. I am a particularly sensitive and empathetic person, so I do not see myself as fit for the role that Krog is able to fulfil, although she does struggle.

There is a sense of strength that such journalists are required to possess in order to perform their jobs efficiently. Krog was affected by the stories in such an extreme way that she was drawn to return to a past addiction portrays the severe emotional trauma that comes with being a journalist. Krog shows that the amount of emotional strength it takes to quit an addiction like smoking cigarettes can be easily lost when an emotional trauma of equal or greater force interferes.

Krog continues to write, “we develop techniques to lessen the impact. We no longer go into the halls where the hearings take place, because of the accumulated grief. We watch on the monitors provided. The moment someone starts crying, we start writing/scribbling/doodling” (Krog, 51). She shows readers that they are forced to come up with ways to deal with the trauma inflicted upon them. I thought it was very interesting that she also wrote that the journalists are, in a way, each other’s therapists; as they are going through the same thing, they are there for each other to ease the intense emotional burden.

The emotional burden of being a journalist and having to report on such sensitive cases is something I have not thought about prior to watching Long Night’s Journey Into Day and reading Country of my Skull. Learning about this actually gave me a much better appreciation for the work that these journalists do. Their careers are not just reciting information about cases; they are often faced with hardships and are forced to find their own ways of putting their emotions aside to lessen their own agony.

Emotional Vacancy

I went into this film not knowing what to expect and not really wanting to watch it. However, that quickly changed after the first 15 minutes of watching. All four of the stories caught my interest, but the last story really piqued my interest. There is one situation that I was able to pick out from the last story. This is how Mbelo was able to deal with killing the young men in the “Guguletu 7” and not feel anything afterwards.

Constable Mbelo was one of the 25+ officers, and one of the 3 black officers that were involved in this murder. This was interesting in two ways, one being the fact that there were 3 black men involved, and two being the fact that he was the only of the 3 to come forward and ask for amnesty. My first thought was, “Why would you kill your own people?” This was the same question one of the mothers asked him. From the mothers’ point of view, he had no answer. But, from his jobs point of view, he was able to give an answer that was very unempathetic for the mothers to hear.

Mbelo mentions that he and Bellingan were not there on the same mission, and this was very true. He has to be able to face his brothers and sisters after killing their children. He says that he was following orders and what he did was not a personal matter. But how can you set up, and aid in the killing of 7 young men who are also black? Yes, I understand that he had an order, and was obligated to fulfill it, but how were you able to do this deed, or kill people period, with no type of emotion? I was not shocked that he was granted amnesty, but I still can help but wonder if deep down, he still has no emotion for what he did.