Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Suicide, Libertarianism, and Religion -or- Why “No man is an island.”

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, April 15, 2013

Las Vegas has the highest metropolitan suicide rate in the U.S.

“I’ll add that there’s one more feature here, of Las Vegas, which I think bears mentioning. And that is what I kinda’ think of as a sort of “frontier culture” mentality among residents, and I think, even among visitors.

“That Las Vegas is this sort of place of place of total license. You know… its the ‘Wild West,’ it’s an open frontier for all kinds of immorality and exploration of vice, and… the entire self-branding of Las Vegas as this place where that is not only tolerated, but actually sanctioned.

“You know, the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” kind of mentality – produces, I think, a kind of… sort of libertarian ethos of ‘go it alone, do it yourself.’ And help seeking in this sort of framework is perhaps not accepted or valorized the way it is other parts of the country.

“These kind of cultural arguments are always very hard to make. They always sound deeply unscientific. But, in a lot ways, I think that’s exactly where a lot of the explanatory power comes from… is in this understanding the culture and values underlying people’s behavioral sense.”

Matt Wray, sociologist, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, and co-author of a 2008 paper entitled Leaving Las Vegas: Exposure to Las Vegas and Risk of Suicide” / excerpted from Freakonomics Radio, episode #92 “Gambling With Your Life,” released April 27, 2011

Of late, attention has been increasingly given to the suicide rate of veterans returning home from the horrors of war in the Middle East, specifically, from their numerous extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While in retrospect, many acknowledge that the rush to war and the American invasion of Iraq during the George W. Bush administration was an unprecedented critical error and of unprecedented historical significance, few have found fault with the eventual outcome of the “Global War On Terror” initiated during his administration – which was the death of Osama bin Laden, wrought by SEAL Team Six during the first term of the Obama administration.

Ironically, however, those hawks who vigorously beat the drums of war, and increased spending to untold Billion$, even Trillion$ of American Tax Dollar$ on unbudgeted items have taken a decidedly different turn, and employed an oblique tone of voice calling for – among other things – extreme cuts to all sorts of spending they don’t like (including eliminating the use of so-called ‘drones’ in war efforts and social spending at home), all in the hopes for a balanced budget.

And yet, this entry is not about war, nor is it about Democrats, or Republicans… or even – as the title suggests – Libertarians.

No, this entry is about thinking and behaving, because as we think, we behave. It would seem, therefore, that sober and rational thinking would be the most important thing to do. However – and I write this with much regret – it appears as if sane and sober thinking has taken a temporary and partial leave of absence. Notwithstanding, I shall persevere and opine in the hope that rational and reasonable dialogue could ensue from partisans, all whom could agree upon a rationally reasonable course of action.

While there often seems as if there’s little consensus in the halls of government in Washington, D.C., and that the elected officials who occupy those often palatial digs at taxpayer expense often forget that they were elected to serve, rather than be served, I remain convinced that there is hope for this nation. I do not, nor have I ever felt hopeless for this nation – regardless of how many teevee talking heads spew viciously venomous vitriol.

No, my friends, the sky is NOT falling, nor has it ever. But, I digress.

What I wish to address is a remark made by Professor Wray.

Specifically, it is this phrase about which I wish to comment:

“You know, the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” kind of mentality – produces, I think, a kind of… sort of libertarian ethos of ‘go it alone, do it yourself.’ And help seeking in this sort of framework is perhaps not accepted or valorized the way it is other parts of the country.”

The phrases “libertarian ethos” and “‘go it alone, do it yourself'” are themselves idioms that do not lend themselves well to the notion of helping one another, or caring for one another. They are deeply selfish, self-centered and wholly opposed to government and governance… even to cooperation of any kind with anyone, for any reason. It’s a “my way or the highway” type of thinking that underlies, supports and strengthens such ideology.

Imagine a parent refusing to impart words of wisdom, or advice of any kind and instead saying to their child, “You got yourself into that mess, and now, you’re gonna’ have to get yourself out.” It’s unimaginable. And frankly, I would think that many would consider such behavior not merely crude or rude, but immensely emotionally unhealthy, even to the point of psychosis. The reason why, is because at it’s core, that behavior (represented by the statement) is a type of emotional and psychological abandonment.

Abandonment. Quitting. Stopping. Failure.

Ensconced within each of those words – particularly “abandonment” – is an underlying sense that there formerly existed a relationship, itself a commitment, to an ideal, but not merely to an ideal, but to another human being. It’s akin to a man’s abandonment of the woman he impregnated, knowing that not just she, but the child to be born of their union will need help – and not merely monetary assistance – but emotional encouragement and direction, as well as food, clothing and shelter.

Humans are unique in the world, and contrasted to brute beasts because their young are from birth, almost totally helpless, and incapable of any type of defense or self-support. After hatching, venomous snakes have venom. Crocodile young have teeth. Gazelles can run. Apes can climb. But Humans? Good luck!

No, we don’t wish children good-bye and good luck. Instead, we raise and train them for very nearly 20 years, or so, and only then assist them on their way. The entire term of their youth is preparatory for independence. And yet, it is not an entire independence, it is an interdependence. For not only while they are growing are they learning to do things for themselves, they are learning how to get along and cooperate with other people. They are learning what are termed as “social skills.”

No, the “libertarian ethos of ‘go it alone, do it alone'” has never really worked, for even those adventurers who explored the American West did not do so alone, but in groups. Even today, if one really has a death wish, simply set out alone in any of the wilderness areas of California or Nevada. It won’t be too long before one succumbs to the elements.

Late 16th century poet John Donne recognized as much when he wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…

Knowing then, that we are interconnected and interdependent, why, oh why do some think and act as if they are “an island, entire of itself”? Should not our laws reflect such high ideals and notions? Should they not strengthen our sense of connectedness? Should they not serve to encourage our ability to share concern, increase empathy and empower the powerless? Should they not exist to punish those who extort the weak and vulnerable, and prey upon the feeble, the elderly, and the downtrodden? Why give more power to the powerful? Do not the weak need strengthening? Do not the mute need a voice? Who then shall speak, and go and do?

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