Tag: suicide

Wealth Creates More Privilege than Race

Nate Galt | United States

Much of the current political discussion surrounds the controversial topic of privilege – many believe that the white race has more privileges than people of color do, and others believe that straight people are better off in society than homosexuals. While those categories may make one privileged at a certain place and time, there is no bigger privilege than wealth. Wealth, universally, gives someone opportunities and offers them more possibilities. If they happen to be a billionaire who is a transgender, lesbian, African-American woman, they are infinitely more privileged than a heterosexual white homeless man. The privilege of wealth trumps any other supposed notion of privilege. 

“White privilege” is a term used by those who label themselves “progressive” or as a crusader for “social justice”, to say that white people have many privileges that non-whites do not have. This phrase can also be combined with “male privilege,” “straight privilege,” or “cisgender privilege.” A popular talking point in their circles is that statistically, being white reduces your risk of being shot by a police officer and being male reduces your chances of being raped. While these statistics are certainly true, minimizing those chances does not indicate privilege. Special programs that encourage gender and racial diversity in the classroom and in the workplace have been created. One such program, Affirmative Action, decreases the chances of a white man getting accepted into college. Men are approximately three times more likely to be homeless than women are, and are at a higher risk of committing suicide. One group is not more privileged than another; each group has its own hardships.

A notable “progressive” description of white privilege appeared as a musical skit on the A.B.C. channel on Australian television. The segment depicts two people trying to cross a stream. One person, who is said to be a straight white man who speaks English and was born in a peaceful nation, waits with a woman who the writers say cannot speak English, has dark skin, and is a refugee. The segment shows the methods that each person uses to cross the rapid. The writers say that since the white man is inherently privileged because of the color of his skin, he uses teleportation to get across. The skit then shows the woman swimming across the stream and then getting sick. The lyrics of the segment say that because she is female, cannot speak English in an English-speaking country, and has brown skin, she has to swim across the stream. As a result, she catches a cold. This description of privilege could be no further from the truth. The justification for the man using teleportation is that he has certain privilege that the woman does not. Not all heterosexual white men have privileges that darker-skinned refugee women do not. The deciding factor of who has or does not have privilege is wealth and/or material possessions. LeBron James, a multimillionaire African-American legendary basketball player, has many more doors open for him than an impoverished white man. Even if James were to become transgender and subsequently come out as a homosexual, he would still have privilege that the aforementioned poor white man would not. 

Phrases such as “white privilege” are extremely divisive rhetoric.  Implying that someone is privileged because of their sex, sexual orientation, or the color of their skin will divide people into several distinct groups at odds with each other. Instead of uniting one another and saying that no matter who we are, we are fellow Americans, some keep pushing identity politics. Our country is already divided into two distinct camps as a result of the congressional duopoly of Democrats and Republicans. Dividing the United States of America any further could cause an inseparable rift. 

Political discourse must move away from “white privilege” or any other category which is not based on wealth. The wealthy, no matter their skin color or their gender, are incredibly more privileged than a poor person of any race. Every group has their hardships that society should work to fix. We, as a community, should combat these struggles together. Preaching identity politics in the name of fighting nonexistent “white privilege” will only drive us farther apart. 


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Richard Russell, Kierkegaard, and the Crisis of Modernity

By Sean Calvert | United States

“The biggest danger, that of losing oneself, can pass off in the world as quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. is bound to be noticed.” – Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

 

On August 10, 2018, a man by the name of Richard Russell stole a passenger plane from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and crashed it into Ketron Island. What is most interesting is that a number of individuals on the internet deemed him, in heroic fashion, the “Sky King”. Many, finding meaning in his suicidal action, see him as the embodiment of the modern condition, the feelings of despair, hopelessness, and lack of purpose that pervade society. Among the thinkers who have addressed the modern condition is the nineteenth century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, whose ideas of despair and the Self are highly relevant to our own time.

“Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose,” is how Russell described himself.

In Kierkegaard’s view, one may be depressed about his current situation, but no matter the severity of the depression, still maintain hope that that his life could be improved. Once hope is lost, however, one plummets into the spiritual affliction known as despair. But what leads an individual down the path to personal desolation?

For Kierkegaard, the Self is a synthesis of opposites, including the finite and the infinite. Entrapment in the realm of the finite negates the possibility of change and deliverance. That is because people do not have full control over their choices. They are dependent on others and perceive their environment as an inescapable prison. One could liken this condition to the feeling of being a cog in a machine. Once lost in the churning wheels of the finite, one becomes “an imitation, a number, a cipher in the crowd.” Lost is any sense of personal agency. 

Kierkegaard posited the idea of leveling, a social process by which an individual loses his individuality and therefore cannot assert anything meaningful in life. Instead, he aligns with the abstraction known as the Public. Fully adapting to society’s system of norms reduces the individual to a member of the herd. Whereas the path to selfhood is “venturesome,” the effort “to be like the others” is convenient and easy. Kierkegaard points out that within all human beings there is dread of loneliness, of being overlooked and forgotten by society. By submerging himself in the finite, a person abandons the responsibility of becoming a fully-realized individual.  

It is easy for a person’s despair to turn into anger. If he or she cannot, or refuses, to see a way forward beyond the prison of his or her environment, they may engage in suicide, mass murder, or terrorism. As psychologist Jordan Peterson puts it, people may act out their anger by making “a display of their hatred for Being by massacring the innocent”, and then doing away with themselves. Peterson makes the point that individuals who display violent discontent with existence often believe that it is better to be notorious than to be ignored. Instead of looking inward and bearing their responsibility, they target that which they hold in contempt.

For Kierkegaard, most people living in modern society are in despair, whether they know it or not. They have the illusion of freedom, but in fact their lives are severely circumscribed. Once the individual’s social purpose is fulfilled, he or she is discarded, and another takes his or her place. This absence of meaning is compensated by the immediate satisfaction of our desires. By relating oneself solely to the external world, the individual deceives himself by masking the lack of individuality. When the finite world fails the individual, he descends into despair, thinking that the loss of external validation is the reason for this emptiness.

As Kierkegaard states. “You work yourself into the tightest group, see to it, if possible, to get yourself shoved up over the others so that you come to be above them, and as soon as you are up there you make yourself as comfortable as possible, and in this way you let yourself be carried through life. But when the crowd is gone, when the event is over, the person again stands on the street corner and looks at the world.”  By moving from one satisfaction to the next, one drifts through life without clear direction or purpose. Although a person exists, he or she does not necessarily live.

The despair of Russell, the aircraft hijacker, is precisely the crisis of the modern condition. Pervasive feelings of insignificance and alienation can lead an individual to take drastic action. In this case, Russell felt that his only solution was to escape existence entirely. Moreover, the manner he chose his escape represents, metaphorically speaking, a break from the modern machine; an attempt to regain individuality.  This is the solution to the modern crisis: a rebellion of the individual against the destruction of the Self, brought on by modernity.

It is highly ironic that modern society, with its technological advancements and unparalleled comforts, has done nothing to soothe the quandaries of existence. In some cases, it has made life far worse. Kierkegaard believed the balance between the syntheses gives rise to freedom which, in turn, is the grounded Self. Thus, one can then say, in his act of defiance, Russell took the first step towards selfhood by, in a sense, finding his way out the confines of the finite. For once, he lived. 


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Your Child is an Addict

By Mason Mohon | USA

Welcome to the glorious new world. We have an absurd amount of computer processing power and information in our pockets, at all times. We all carry around our phones with us all the time, constantly checking and looking for new information. The information age is kind of great. I can pull out my phone and text my friend in Sweden, look up an academic paper, or watch whatever episode of The Office that my heart desires. What isn’t to love?

Studies show that there isn’t much not to love. As The Economist recently reported, teens are backing off from what is usually considered “bad behavior.” That is, we are consuming fewer drugs, having less procreative sex, and beating each other up less. All across the developed world, this trend is repeated, with the average age of first consumption of alcohol increasing by two years in Australia since 1998. The pub and nightclub industry has lost the interest of young people in Britain. In the U.S., the teen birth rate has fallen down by two-thirds. In the U.K., about 3000 youngsters were in convicted custody when ‘07 rolled around. In 2016, that number has fallen below one thousand. Clearly, things are getting better. There is so much less to fear when teenagers aren’t going out and having abusive drunk sex.

Shoko Yoneyama, an expert on Japanese teenagers at the University of Adelaide, has gone as far to call it “kind of boring.” Everyone is a nerd now.

But this is coming at a cost. We are turning into really, really sad people. When I say that, I don’t mean that we are becoming sad as in lame (although the argument can clearly be made in favor of that), but rather we are becoming literally sad. We are frowning more, getting stressed more, and shockingly, we are killing ourselves more. The Wall Street Journal reported that depression is up 400% since 1990, and this seems to be more or less linked to our increased usage of life-easing tech. Dr. Ilardi, the author of the article, said the following:

Excessive screen time lulls us ever deeper into habitual inactivity, overstimulates the nervous system and increases production of the stress hormone cortisol. In the short term, cortisol helps us react to high-pressure situations, but when chronically activated, it triggers the brain’s toxic runaway stress response, which researchers have identified as an ultimate driver of depressive illness.

It is like we are playing a slot machine. We are constantly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram in search of satisfaction. We hope the next post to slide by will amaze us, and that’s the science of it. Dan Sanchez described experiments where both rats and humans would relentlessly press a lever that activated pleasurable feelings in their mind. He quotes Kelly McGonigal,  who says the following: “When the brain recognizes an opportunity for reward, it releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine tells the rest of the brain what to pay attention to and what to get our greedy little hands on. A dopamine rush doesn’t create happiness itself — the feeling is more like arousal”

Our phones aren’t making us happy, they are merely arousing us to the potential of an award, and this has become extremely addicting for us. The aforementioned WSJ article said the following in relation to a group of 1000 students who pledged to give up screens for a day: “Most students dropped out of the study in a matter of hours, and many reported symptoms of withdrawal associated with substance addiction.” We have traded addiction to alcohol for addiction to phones and other kinds of tech. The results are extremely detrimental. Although evidence that the two are causally related is lacking, suicides in the U.S. increased by 24% in a period between 1999 and 2014.

Even though studies haven’t conclusively shown it, the link is clear. Face to face human interaction is important for us to have. We are engineered to pick up context clues from another human standing or sitting across from us while conversing. Taking that away and putting it into the world of phones makes even the most intimate conversations completely impersonal. It is clearly taking a toll, and it is a problem we need to fix.

But how do we fix this? Surely, it would only throw gasoline on top of the fire to ask the state to sweep in and solve things. What the solution has to be in personal responsibility. We need to both take care of our own minds and bodies by being careful in the amount that we consume, and we need to band together with families and friend groups to work together and keep each other accountable. There need to be support groups for screen usage just like we have for addictions of other kinds.

There is a lot that you can do in your own life, too. If you’re eating or getting coffee with someone, don’t check your phone. Don’t even set it on the table. See if you can go an hour or two throughout the day without it. We seem to be more addicted to our phones, using them every ten to fifteen minutes, than just about any other drug.

This is a problem we all need to work together to fix. Practice responsibility, and practice limiting yourself. When it gets down to it, we are dying for face to face human interaction and dying without it.

What it is Like to do Nothing?

The Thought

“What I like doing best is Nothing.”
“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.
“Well, It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

– A. A. Milne (Author of Winnie the Pooh)

The real world is not deep in the hundred-acre-wood, but we all know someone like Eeyore, Winnie-the-Pooh, Rabbit and all those wonderful characters. More and more, however, people find themselves in the predicament of knowing and even becoming a Christopher Robin.

Traditionally one does not see Christopher Robin as anything but a fun loving boy in the imagination forest who is perfect for a five-year-old to aspire to and for the older adult to look on fondly and even enjoy.  Christopher Robin should not, however, inspire today’s adult population. Christopher Robin is lazy, he takes pride in laziness. That’s a good thing. After all, a five-year-old boy shouldn’t be expected to be totally about work or understand what the consequences are of just doing nothing. To top that off his nothing is actually a quality time of imagination, exploration, and idea pondering. His time listening to all the things one can’t, and not bothering, seems to actually be a healthy mental exercise for such a young lad.

Christopher Robin should not, however, inspire today’s adult population. If one has ever caught oneself lying in bed, drawing shapes on one’s popcorn ceiling, does one ever wonder to oneself: “Have you just done nothing?” Technically? No. Conceptually? Yes. One must ask themselves, is this just boredom or something deeper? While this used to be an easy answer it’s turned into a bit of a conundrum. It used to be okay to be bored for a brief stretch. That turned in a little stretch, then a long stretch. Then it became almost all the time. We chose tasks, ideas, things with end results, and we skip them.

Christopher Robin inspires this generation of people who wish to accomplish it all doing the least possible. This generation of people with all the imagination and ability to accomplish the wild imaginings of their youths, but with none of the initiative to accomplish that. Like Christopher Robin, we don’t want to grow up in the big world of dark adult life.

Christopher is to me an irreplaceable symbol of childhood. Someone to grow up with, a mirror of the growth you experience as you blossom. I won’t be able to relive my childhood, no one can. It is far better to have lived your childhood while you had it than to go find it after it has passed and this is what I fear has happened. Perhaps you say, ‘sure, laziness is bad, lack of initiative is bad, procrastination is bad, but to say it’s a societal pitfall to enjoy Nothing is a gross overstatement.’ I would say those of you believe this counter-claim are wrong. If you accomplish less you feel less content, it results in complacency.

With the number of people participating in labor force falling this make sense. With the suicide rates climbing and with every suicide, ninety attempts to occur with it, this makes even more sense. People are learning so much more about the world than they knew before and that knowledge will only increase as time goes on. The only problem is that we aren’t doing anything with it, or we’re doing the wrong things with it.

Winnie the Pooh is the tale of a child who is lost. It should not be the majority of an adult’s thoughts. Even more so, that boredom should not lead you to become a burden on society, on your parents. Yet it does. Where ambition and goals used to drive the common man, fear of goals and ambition now drive us.

“Listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering,” is a phrase meant for five-year-olds, not an adult. It’s National Winnie the Pooh day, not a lifetime.