Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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When People Break

Recently I found some good articles about when people break and what problems that causes. Everyone has a breaking point, although some people stash theirs in a nonstandard location. For most folks, if they are shut out of the economy -- denied a job, a place to live, a way of obtaining food, the ability to support their family, etc. -- for a significant period of time, there is a high chance that they will break. People can break inward (suicide) or outward (murder and other violence). If you buy a rope, it generally has a little tag telling its lift strength and its shock strength, so you know that if you put more weight on it than that it'll be your fault when the rope breaks. Unfortunately people don't come with tags like that, so we have to extrapolate.

So we use statistics to measure people breaking. Suicide and murder statistics are fairly useful, although it can be hard to gather all the relevant data. What we can see in the articles below is that these signs of human breakage are rising at alarming rates. We can also see indicators of what types of stress causes people to break in these ways.

Yana Kunichoff | Army Suicide Rates Hit Record and May Continue to Rise
Yana Kunichoff, Truthout: "Suicides among veterans and soldiers have reached a record high this year and are set to continue rising, a Pentagon press conference confirmed Tuesday. The announcement, coming on the day that the suicide rate for 2009 reached the record number of 2008, leaves advocates worrying about the troop escalation of the Obama administration and the measures the Army has in place to deal with the combat scars which leave no physical trace."

Nick Turse | Violent Deaths Are Now Following Evictions, Foreclosures and Job Losses
Nick Turse, AlterNet: "In 2007, Jason Rodriguez was fired from his position at an Orlando, Florida engineering firm and ended up taking a job as a 'sandwich artist' at a Subway restaurant. His salary was cut nearly in half and his debts mounted until, last May, he filed for bankruptcy, listing his assets at just over $4,600 and his liabilities at nearly $90,000. Although he lived only 30 minutes away, according to his former mother-in-law, America Holloway, Rodriguez barely saw his son. When the boy asked why his father didn't visit, Holloway said Rodriguez told him: 'Because I don't have any money. I don't have a job. I don't have anything to eat. When things get better, I'll come see you.' "

A responsible society tries to make life reasonably safe, comfortable, and productive for its members. That is the point of having a society in the first place, to make life better than living alone. So a good society tries not to break the people in it, and when the breakage rate is rising, looks for causes and takes action to stop those from causing such bad problems.

A suicide sends a message such as...
"You win; I fold. I can't keep playing this game. I have nothing left to play with."
"I quit. You suck, you're cheating, and I am leaving."

A murder sends a message such as...
"I have run out of energy to control my base nature."
"I have run out of desire to control my base nature, since nobody else seems to bother to control theirs."
"I have decided to leave, so I have no reason not to express my extreme displeasure toward certain individuals and/or society at large."

A familicide sends a message such as...
"Not only am I leaving, I'm taking my family with me, because I don't know what else to do."
"Not only am I leaving, I'm taking my family with me, because your society sucks so bad it is literally a FATE WORSE THAN DEATH."
And the idea of someone killing themselves and their entire family isn't unthinkable in America today: so many people are thinking of it and doing it that it now has its very own word in the English language. It's important enough to encode. That's appalling.

Now let's look at the wider implications. Maybe someone doesn't care about other folks committing murder or suicide; they're just failures, after all, and important people are competent enough not to get into that situation. So then, look at the collateral damage. Every soldier who dies on American soil is a soldier not available for deployment in combat or other service gratifying to the citizens. Every murder and violent crime makes America a little less safe for everyone -- you have to leave your home some time and breakage-inspired shooting sprees don't confine themselves to ghettos. Every murder, suicide, and other violent crime has a severe negative impact multiplied by the number of people who knew the victim(s) and in some cases extending to affect an entire town. In that fashion, someone else's breakage can lash back to cause grief for people who don't think they are connected and don't think they need to care -- maybe they have a friend or relative who lives near there or knew the person and is wondering, "Is this my fault? Did I miss some kind of clue?" forever. People so impacted thus have less energy, attention, and mental resilience to apply to their own challenges and that can make life harder for the people around them, so it keeps spreading. There are even more obscure effects: murders and suicides tend to be messy. Somebody has to clean that up, somebody who will likely be unsettled by it and in any case will not be available for other duties while mopping brains off the floor. And who's going to want to buy or rent a place where a murder or suicide happened? That's hard on the landowner.

It doesn't matter if you think the broken people are horrible for doing what they do. They are doing it, and we-all are paying the price. If we want that to stop, we are going to have to arrange things so that our society does not break people then step on the broken shards and hop around going "Ow! Ow! Ow! Why did you do that to me, you useless turd?"
Tags: community, news

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