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Might the number of suicides today have something to do with "the wisdom of the age"?

In our local paper Friday, news of yet another suicide on the campus of William and Mary, the third this year:

A College of William and Mary sophomore was found dead of an apparent suicide Friday morning in the Lake Matoaka area.

The body of Whitney L. Mayer, of Plano, Texas, was found by another student who contacted campus police Friday morning, according to a campus-wide e-mail to students sent by Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler.

Her body was found around 8:30 a.m., said university spokesman Brian Whitson. No details on the circumstances of Mayer's death are being released by the university, Whitson said.

"Whitney was a Sharpe Scholar who had tremendous academic talent," Ambler said in the e-mail. "Her faculty have described her as having a particular passion for biodiversity and for exploring the relationship between the environment and quality of life issues.

"She also had a keen sense of community and gave of herself to others. Although Whitney had yet to declare a major, much of her coursework reflected that commitment to the environment. She was also learning to play the mandolin."

...

Mayer's is the third suicide of a William and Mary student in 2010. Ian Kramer Smith-Christmas, 21, a junior from Stafford County, was found dead inside a vehicle in a Virginia Beach parking lot in April. Dominique T. Chandler, of Portsmouth, was found dead in her on-campus dormitory room in February.

Two days earlier, I'd received an email from Tom Graffagnino, pointing me to his latest post.  He makes a strong case for what leads to despair:

The trajectory of the physical sciences, stripped of all transcendent and spiritual considerations, has painted itself into a nasty metaphysical corner. Like the serpent devouring its own tail (the mythical Ouroboros), Idol Scientism continues to gnaw away, unable...and/or unwilling.... to recognize the self-negating and destructive end-game it has embarked upon. Self-annihilating Nothingness, craftily disguised as "wisdom", hisses temptingly from the darkness.

Indeed, modern Science, chained as it is to unforgiving, self-imposed Materialism and to the unstoppable theoretical "force" of Naturalism, has reached the unsettling conclusion that while there may appear to be some sort of design around us, there is in fact no "Designer". There may appear to be some sort of "plan"about us, but there can be no "Planner". Design and Plan (and Purpose) are simply illusions to be dismissed, foolish, pre-Enlightenment "myths" to be shrugged off and forever done away with.

After all, Scientism tells us, facts are facts and that is that. Consequently, there is no "God".
End of discussion.
No debate allowed.

And so, we, the cudgelled subjects of our post-modern Sovereign, must accept the default position of Idol Scientism's Commandment: that we (and everything else) sprang into existence, quite accidentally, from Nothing at all. We were created, our new and improved "Sovereign" tells us, by Nothing and for Nothing. That metaphysical "bottom line" is conclusively drawn for us simply as a matter of fact. And then,.... just as conclusively and for added emphasis... even that line is "scientifically", matter-of-factly and magically erased.

This is the tragic lesson and legacy we are leaving our children and grandchildren today. This is the 21st century's version of the "wisdom of the age". It is a challenge as old and as persistent as that encountered in the shade of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And just as deadly.

Philosopher and theologian, Francis Schaeffer, put it well when he said that post-modern man has both "feet planted firmly in mid-air."

The tyrannical presuppositions of post-modernist "Science" have brought us face-to-face with the disquieting specter of ultimate Meaninglessness and her naturally morbid stepchild, Despair.

We may never know what drives a young person to end his or her life... but Tom's point is cogently relevant and the timing of this latest local suicide and Tom's piece in my world is hard to overlook.

There are consequences for propagating false hope... and more deadly ones for promoting the idea that hope doesn't exist.

In my view, liberalism promotes both.  Our young people are paying the price.


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Comments (29)

I'd shrink from making poli... (Below threshold)
epador:

I'd shrink from making politics out of a suicide.

I find it crass and stupid. Depression and suicidal ideation occur equally in spiritual and
secular.

The only point I'd make is that too often the failure of social structure to support its members in a responsive and effective manner allows them to successfully act on suicidal ideation without intervention.

I'd shrink from ma... (Below threshold)
ryan a:
I'd shrink from making politics out of a suicide.

Good call, epador. I'll second you on that one.

I stand with epador and rya... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

I stand with epador and ryan a on this.

Politics is about worldview... (Below threshold)
Rick:

Politics is about worldview...

To dismiss worldview as a component of what might lead one to commit suicide is idiocy...

Liberalism is all about the propagating of false hope while negating that which offers true hope...

If you don't see that to connect in some way with those who out of despair see no other recourse than to kill themselves... then in my less than humble view, you're blind... tragically so.

Rick, "To dismiss ... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Rick,

"To dismiss worldview as a component of what might lead one to commit suicide is idiocy..."

If you are going to try to make a causal argument between "liberalism" and suicide, then you better have something a little more substantial than your usual flagrant assumptions. As epador quite clearly stated, suicide occurs in both spiritual and secular populations. Do you actually have some statistical or population data that breaks down the suicide rate according to political leanings and worldview? I doubt it.

Sometimes it's just a good idea to back away from making wild claims that you can't possibly back up. I understand the fact that you have certain political inclinations, but seriously, making these kinds of baseless claims really don't add anything to your cause. Sorry.

It's absurd and deranged to... (Below threshold)
galoob:

It's absurd and deranged to politicize the subject of suicides.

You might remember this theme from the movie M*A*S*H, YouTube here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIIqYqtR1lY

Through early morning fog I see
visions of the things to be
the pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see...

[chorus]:

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

I try to find a way to make
all our little joys relate
without that ever-present hate
but now I know that it's too late, and...

[Chorus]

The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.

[Chorus]

The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
and to another give my seat
for that's the only painless feat.

[Chorus]


The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger...watch it grin, but...

[Chorus]

A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
'is it to be or not to be'
and I replied 'oh why ask me?'

'Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
...and you can do the same thing if you choose.

Rick, thank you for speakin... (Below threshold)
Maddox:

Rick, thank you for speaking my thoughts.

epador, you find it crass and stupid to connect political environment with suicide but go on to blame society for not providing a social structure to intervene. Liberals have demanded that government take control over much of our lives and society. The weakening of private support and the poor quality of government services is the very cause of this failure. Thank you for showing how less government is best in yet another aspect of our lives.

I think the suicides have m... (Below threshold)
glenn:

I think the suicides have more to do with a bunch of 22 going on 7 children of perfection who grew up in a world where every whim was a command for somebody suddenly confronting the real world. An instructor who doesn't grade on the curve and gives you a "B" instead of the "A+" you so richly deserve. Or not getting the new BMW because Dad lost his job. Or something us old folks dealt with and learned to accept long ago. It's not a perfect world and you don't always get what you want.

"We may never know what dri... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

"We may never know what drives a young person to end his or her life... but Tom's point is cogently relevant and the timing of this latest local suicide and Tom's piece in my world is hard to overlook."

It's true that we might never know what causes a person to end his/her life. It's true that Mr Graffagnino's piece might be thought provoking. But to say because of some fortuitous timing it serves as a cogent statement on why people commit suicide is just weird logic.

Rick also ignores the facts... (Below threshold)
galoob:

Rick also ignores the facts so they won't get in the way of his insane religious fanatic theories.

The suicide rate in the USA has not risen significantly over the last 60 years, since the USA was a more religious country, in fact it's gone down:

http://www.suicide.org/suicide-statistics.html#death-rates

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-the-us-statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml

U.S. Suicide Rates, 1950-2003
(per 100,000 population)

1950 13.2
1960 13.2
1970 13.2
1980 13.2
1990 12.5
1995 11.8
2000 10.4
2001 10.7
2002 10.9
2003 10.8
2005 11.0
2007 11.3

Galoob's link has interesti... (Below threshold)
Rick:

Galoob's link has interesting data showing that the suicide rate has climbed for younger people... and decreased for older people... since 1950...

So rather than rebut what I'm saying, Galoob's data seems to be supporting it...

Younger people are killing themselves more often today than they did years ago...

A by-product in my view of the rise of liberalism and secularism...

Rick, how does the current ... (Below threshold)
galoob:

Rick, how does the current and increasing Army and Marine suicide rates of 22 and 24 per 100000 fit into your little theory?

This is significantly higher than the general population.

It's not like war stress and financial stress could have anything to do with this, only "liberalism."


You serious Galoob?<p... (Below threshold)
Rick:

You serious Galoob?

You think a liberal mindset that has downplayed the importance of the war on terror at every turn doesn't in any way impact the mind of our fighting men and women?

You think a liberal mindset that rather than set a goal of victory for the military instead sets end-dates and in essence communicates to our enemies that their persistence will be rewarded doesn't have an impact on our men and women in uniform?

You think a liberal mindset that paints the military as oppressors and occupiers has little impact on our men and women?

Really?

God offers hope - the world... (Below threshold)
Don L:

God offers hope - the world offers illusion.

Another interesting bit fro... (Below threshold)
Karl:

Another interesting bit from galoob's first link is that the suicide rate in the 20-24 year age bracket jumps during the 1960s or 1970s. At about that time, going to college seems to have become the default expectation.

From ages 15-19, we see an increase until the 1990s, and then a decrease.

I'm not sure one single variable is going to be enough to explain these trends.

Rick, you're just flailing ... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Rick, you're just flailing around with this one.

I would LOVE to see you attempt to prove a positive causal correlation between suicide rates and the "liberal mindset."

It would be fascinating just to see you try to define your key variables with this one. Good luck.

You think a liberal mind... (Below threshold)
galoob:

You think a liberal mindset that rather than set a goal of victory for the military instead sets end-dates and in essence communicates to our enemies that their persistence will be rewarded doesn't have an impact on our men and women in uniform?

No, I think repeated tours in these insane wars propping up corrupt governments like Karzai's have the impact.

Being away from family and having your wife or girlfriend leave you for "Jody" have the impact.

Get real.

"God offers hope - the worl... (Below threshold)
914:

"God offers hope - the world offers illusion."

Galoob offers nothing.

Maybe I hang out with milit... (Below threshold)
Rick:

Maybe I hang out with military types far different than the ones you hang out with galoob... those I know, those I read on the mil-blogs, were for the mission... that is until our muslim appeasing, leftist-in-chief took over and started doing that which did little to support the mission...

And Ryan, let's go back to what I said in the original post:

We may never know what drives a young person to end his or her life... but Tom's point is cogently relevant and the timing of this latest local suicide and Tom's piece in my world is hard to overlook.

There are consequences for propagating false hope... and more deadly ones for promoting the idea that hope doesn't exist.

In my view, liberalism promotes both. Our young people are paying the price.

Your responses attempt to make the case that I'm isolated on this mindset, that I'm on the fringe, that indeed, I'm flailing.

I join with Pope John Paul in that flailing... gladly.

I join with Pope Benedict in that flailing... gladly.

Clearly Ryan, I'm not alone in making flagrant assumptions... but then again, aren't you joining me in making them? Only who is it that you're linking arms with as you do so Ryan?

Rick, you and Tom G are sim... (Below threshold)
epador:

Rick, you and Tom G are simply citing an observation ( youth suicides potentially increasing at colleges - and ignoring the fact that there is often a grouping of suicides as after one publicized event, there are others who follow through on ideation in close chronology ) and then providing a conclusion that fits your argument without a shred of connecting evidence, only supposition. One could mention that the trend also parallels the availability of birth control, use of drugs and alcohol, or the price of gold relative to they buying power of the dollar. This is a similar argument technique that you enjoy taking down trolls for. However, the inappropriate use of such a tragedy to make fallacious arguments about politics is indeed crass and stupid.

Suicides and age rates: Unfortunately causes of death are poorly determined in our current system, and an unexpected death is more likely to have suicide as a possible cause in a younger person than an older one. There are studies that suggest that the suicide rate in older people is under-reported.

Suicide in the military is not exactly a separate phenomena, but there are aspects that are relatively unique, some touched on above, yet the barriers to prevention remain similar.

Maddox:
Bad logic and argumentation.
I DO NOT blame "society", but the more local social network (or the lack thereof). I make no calls for more societal controls, only the exercise of responsibility within social groups to support members and be responsive. Many suicides are preceded by standard clues, not necessarily offered to the closest family members, and passed off by more distant acquaintances who choose not to recognize or intervene.

People have been killing themselves for a number of reasons that have not changed for millennia. You might as well cite Global Warming or Cooling as a cause.

Rick,Your... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Rick,

Your responses attempt to make the case that I'm isolated on this mindset, that I'm on the fringe, that indeed, I'm flailing.

I'm not arguing that you're on the fringe, or that you're isolated. I have no idea how many people agree with you. I AM arguing that your attempt to link this particular suicide to "liberalism" or modern science is pure nonsense.

Here's one of the main problems with your overextended argument: suicide is pretty common across the board, so attempting to label "modern liberalism" as the cause in this case is completely baseless. Especially since attempting to attribute cause in these cases would require a consideration of multiple lines of evidence, personal histories, context, etc. You see, both religious and secular people commit suicide year in and year out, so your little thesis doesn't really hold up. You're basically using this case as a means to back up your own opinions and worldview. That's fine, but don't get upset when people call you out for making baseless, of not callous, claims.

I think epador put it quite well in the first paragraph of comment #20 above.

I join with Pope John Paul in that flailing... gladly.

I join with Pope Benedict in that flailing... gladly.

Nice try. While both John Paul and Benedict are critical of western philosophy/ideology, neither of them are making the dumb argument that you are putting forth here. You have taken this college suicide and made all sorts of assumptions about cause and motive because the girl was purported environmentalist--and you are doing this purely because of your ideological position. You take no account of the actual case, or all of the possible factors that may have contributed to this loss of life--all to make some lame point about "liberalism". Hardly an argument to respect.

Clearly Ryan, I'm not alone in making flagrant assumptions... but then again, aren't you joining me in making them? Only who is it that you're linking arms with as you do so Ryan?

Please feel free to tell me where I am making assumptions, Rick.

And as far as who I am joining arms with--how do you have any idea? You don't. Your argument is just as ridiculous as anyone who goes around blaming "religion" for the problems that the world faces (and there are people who make such arguments). You're just arguing the other side of the coin. You know who I join with? People who realize that making massive, unsubstantiated generalizations about Others for political reasons isn't a positive road to head down. I'll go ahead and join with those folks who realize that respect is a two way street, and that the US is a pretty complex society that happens to be built upon a combination of religious AND secular ideas.

Ryan,Perhaps you c... (Below threshold)
Rick:

Ryan,

Perhaps you can set aside your smugness and arrogance for just a moment, climb down off of that high horse, and point out to all of us where exactly it is in the initial post and my follow-on comments that I've made the specific and particular connection between my stated position (that I continue to hold to) and this particular suicide... you're the dude making assumptions here that in fact, I speak directly to when I state in the initial post that we may never know what drives a person to suicide...

In essence Ryan... you're accusing me of doing exactly what you're doing... you're the one making assumptions about specific claims I've allegedly made when in fact the record shows that I've not done so.

I'll reiterate again that it is my opinion that liberal and secular mindsets diminishing and ridiculing the divine and all that this enatils contributes to the despair and the mental condition leading to some suicides.

If you folks are wanting to suggest that I was making a universal claim that all suicides can be tied to liberalism, then go right ahead... but understand (again) that this would mean that you folks are engaging in the very behavior you're so smugly and arrogantly accusing me of engaging in...

I took the occasion of this one local suicide to address the rash of suicides that seem to be taking place at an increasingly alarming rate for young people (and Galoob's data seems to provide evidence for that increase)...

The rest of what has ensued seems to me to be nothing more than the manifestation of the bias and the negativity some hold toward people of faith, especially if people draw conclusions from the tenets of that faith... unless of course they're Muslim...

Rick, "Perhaps you... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Rick,

"Perhaps you can set aside your smugness and arrogance for just a moment, climb down off of that high horse, and point out to all of us where exactly it is in the initial post and my follow-on comments that I've made the specific and particular connection between my stated position (that I continue to hold to) and this particular suicide..."

Well, maybe it's the title of your post and then the link to the W&M college student who committed suicide, hmmm? Don't play dumb here Rick. Clearly you were trying to make some sort of implicit connection there--unless you are going to argue that you just happened to add the link to this girl's suicide by accident.

"If you folks are wanting to suggest that I was making a universal claim that all suicides can be tied to liberalism, then go right ahead... but understand (again) that this would mean that you folks are engaging in the very behavior you're so smugly and arrogantly accusing me of engaging in..."

Are you serious? Read THE DAMN TITLE OF YOUR POST. Are you going to argue that you didn't actually write that? And then, read your concluding lines. You are clearly trying to link suicide with liberalism--that's the whole point of your post.

"I'll reiterate again that it is my opinion that liberal and secular mindsets diminishing and ridiculing the divine and all that this enatils contributes to the despair and the mental condition leading to some suicides."

Ya, that's basically your half-baked contention, I agree. And I will argue that this claim is based upon little more than your personal opinion, that you can't prove it, and that you are clearly grasping at straws in trying to make this argument. Additionally, your argument is so infused with your own political bias that your overall rationale has some serious evidential gaps. But, no matter. Who needs evidence? We should all just make wild claims about our supposed ideological enemies just for the hell of it. Ya, that's productive.

"The rest of what has ensued seems to me to be nothing more than the manifestation of the bias and the negativity some hold toward people of faith..."

What? Where on earth did you get that from? This has nothing to do with any bias against people of faith, and everything to do with countering your ridiculous assertions. If someone used your logical and substituted "faith" with "liberalism" I would make the same counter-argument. I am not a fan of unsubstantiated claims based upon little more than severe political bias. Sorry Rick. But your contentions here are complete nonsense, and you're only backing them because of your politics.

Last point: your use of the young girl's suicide as a lead-in for this discussion was, and still is, incredibly crass.

Chucking all suicides into ... (Below threshold)
stu:

Chucking all suicides into a basket and counting them is Psuedo-Psychology. Wouldn't you say Gay people are a sub-set? Farmers and ranchers? Hawaiians or Alaskans? Alcholic City dwellers living alone? Each would face their own set of lifes obstacles and,I'm sure, would have different rates of ending their lives. Then there are the elderly Chinese in San Francisco who never die, not as long as the Social Security checks keep arriving in the mail.

What a travesty to use a yo... (Below threshold)
William and Mary Class of 2011:

What a travesty to use a young woman's suicide to prove your own point. You should be ashamed of yourself.

I think that you are quite ... (Below threshold)
Lolah:

I think that you are quite right. Even as young as the age of ten I have lost sleep and drove myself crazy thinking about the above mentioned ideas in his writings.I am an atheist as well. Maybe those that believe in something have the right idea. Even if it is God. I however cannot force myself to believe such ridiculious things.(Not trying to offend. Just my opinion.)

"We were created, our new and improved "Sovereign" tells us, by Nothing and for Nothing."

This concept is very hard to swallow when you don't have faith in something. I have found that the book "The Tao of Pooh" is great for those that think that way.

It's hard to accept things that occur in life when you find it purposeless.It's difficult to grasp the idea that maybe the point of life is that there is no point,

I think that some of you should be more open-minded and consider that maybe there is a link. Also for those of you that believe in God. Adam and Eve is a perfect example. The eating of the apple from the tree of knowledge brought on pain and suffering.

I have always believed that ignorance is bliss. Going back to my mentioning of "The Tao of Pooh", it isn't Rabbit or Owl, the smart ones, that are the happiest. It isn't Piglet the worrisome one either. It's Pooh Bear who is the most content. Most would view him as stupid because of his naive.

It's no coinsidence that we miss the innocense of childhood and it's with good reason.

Oh also in regards to above... (Below threshold)
Lolah:

Oh also in regards to above comments...If you are saying there is a link to something you aren't saying that's the only cause.

Many people that abuse their children were abused by there parents. That's a link. It's a general statement. Doesn't mean everyone that abuses their child were abused by their parents.

Worldwide suicide rates hav... (Below threshold)
Lolah:

Worldwide suicide rates have increased by 60% in the past 50 years, mainly in the developing countries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide

Glenn. You should be asham... (Below threshold)
J Mayer:

Glenn. You should be ashamed. If you knew Whitney, you would know how absurd and insensitive your comments are. You could not possibly be any further from the truth about the death of my daughter.

Jeff




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