Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Suicide Prevention and Gun Control

The Gun Lobby Is Hindering Suicide Prevention:

In August 2006, my father fatally shot himself with a gun he pilfered from a friend’s bedroom. I wanted to do something positive in my mourning, so I went on a suicide-prevention walk organized by a nonprofit organization called the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Santa Monica, Calif.

I was proud of my efforts and of my association with the group. But that changed on Aug. 10, 2016, when the A.F.S.P. national office announced that it was partnering with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade association, in the name of “education.”
Things got weird right away. After the announcement, the A.F.S.P. staff told the board that volunteers who wanted to talk about the documented higher risk for suicide deaths for those who keep firearms in the home had to keep quiet about gun control. I believe in the broader purpose of advancing suicide prevention, so I complied.

Despite what it claims, the A.F.S.P. doesn’t have a neutral stance on guns. It is still excluding groups like the Brady Campaign from donating and participating in its regional walks. And it is concealing the indisputable fact that firearm ownership is linked to a higher risk of suicide.
According to the most recent information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all suicides are by firearm. Guns account for only 6 percent of all suicide attempts annually in the United States, but they result in death 82.5 percent of the time. They are far more lethal than any other means.
While many choose to write off suicide victims as choosing their own fates, the reality is that many make impulsive choices that turned quickly irrevocable. Their deaths would be preventable with exactly the type of insight that the gun lobby is actively trying to suppress.
None of this is new, as I've written and complained about on this blog for over a decade. You can't begin to seriously discuss suicide prevention without discussing gun control, since over half of suicides involve firearms, and the data has shown for years that availability of a gun increases the chance of a suicide/homicide in a gun owner's house that you don't find in a non-gun owning house. This isn't rocket science, and has been known for decades.

But the NRA and other gun lobbies have worked actively for years to stymie the efforts of this kind of research (mainly via congressional funding cuts), conducted by the CDC and universities. You may ask: what does the Centers for Disease Control have to do with guns and violence? Because guns and violence are public health epidemics, and suicide especially, with more than 46,000 annually, has eclipsed car accidents and the flu as one of the biggest killers in the U.S.

We also know from the literature that availability and access to lethal measures increases suicide. As I've  written for years here, the Golden Gate Bridge is the prime example. Once they figured out a way to put safety nets under the bridge, the hundreds of people who jumped to their deaths annually plummeted to zero. And as this famous article/study notes, in interviews with people who jumped and survived, every single one of them said their last thought as they went over the railing was "oh shit, this was a huge mistake."

Suicide is impulsive, it's often spontaneous, and it's always purposeful. And so if you make it more difficult to jump from bridges (by putting in half-circular fencing to prevent climbing) deaths plummet. When England banned coal gas ovens in favor of natural gas ovens to combat the problem of suicide by asphyxiation in the 1970's, suicides plummeted. Tighter controls on stockpiling pharmaceuticals has led to a decrease in suicides by overdose. And so on.

Again, it's not rocket science. You curb access to guns in this country, you'll lower the suicide rate. And when you increase the availability of guns in this country (as we've done the past decade or so via open-carry laws, etc.) you'll see an increase in suicide. And that's exactly what has happened.

The blood of these victims is on the gun lobby's hands. Hide behind your 2A bullshit all you want, but you own the carnage.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Generation Communist Manifesto

Where Millennials Come From:

Imagine, as I often do, that our world were to end tomorrow, and that alien researchers many years in the future were tasked with reconstructing the demise of civilization from the news. If they persevered past the coverage of our President, they would soon identify the curious figure of the millennial as a suspect. A composite image would emerge, of a twitchy and phone-addicted pest who eats away at beloved American institutions the way boll weevils feed on crops. Millennials, according to recent headlines, are killing hotels, department stores, chain restaurants, the car industry, the diamond industry, the napkin industry, homeownership, marriage, doorbells, motorcycles, fabric softener, hotel-loyalty programs, casinos, Goldman Sachs, serendipity, and the McDonald’s McWrap.

The idea that millennials are capriciously wrecking the landscape of American consumption grants quite a bit of power to a group that is still on the younger side. Born in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, millennials are now in their twenties and thirties. But the popular image of this generation—given its name, in 1987, by William Strauss and Neil Howe—has long been connected with the notion of disruptive self-interest.

Over the past decade, that connection has been codified by Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, who writes about those younger than herself with an air of pragmatic evenhandedness and an undercurrent of moral alarm. (An article adapted from her most recent book, “iGen,” about the cohort after millennials, was published in the September issue of The Atlantic with the headline “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” It went viral.) In 2006, Twenge published “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before.” The book’s cover emblazoned the title across a bare midriff, a flamboyant illustration of millennial self-importance, sandwiched between a navel piercing and a pair of low-rise jeans.
Let me pause here to note: this is one of the best articles and analyses of Millennials and generational trends and cycles that I've read in forever. Jia Tolentino is a gem. Carry on.
I was born smack in the middle of the standard millennial range, and Twenge’s description of my generation’s personality strikes me as broadly accurate. Lately, millennial dreams tend less toward global fame and more toward affordable health insurance, but she is correct that my cohort has grown up under the influence of novel and powerful incentives to focus on the self. If for the baby boomers self-actualization was a conscious project, and if for Gen X—born in the sixties and seventies—it was a mandate to be undermined, then for millennials it’s more like an atmospheric condition: inescapable, ordinary, and, perhaps, increasingly toxic. A generation has inherited a world without being able to live in it. How did that happen? And why do so many people insist on blaming them for it?

Malcolm Harris’s anatomizing of his peers begins with the star stickers that, along with grade-school participation trophies, so fascinate Sasse, Twenge, and other writers of generational trend pieces. “You suck, you still get a trophy” is how Twenge puts it, describing contemporary K through five as an endless awards ceremony. Harris, on the other hand, regards elementary school as a capitalist boot camp, in which children perform unpaid labor, learn the importance of year-over-year growth through standardized testing, and get accustomed to constant, quantified, increasingly efficient work. The two descriptions are not as far apart as one might think: assuring kids that they’re super special—and telling them, as Sasse does, that they have a duty to improve themselves through constant enrichment—is a good way to get them to cleave to a culture of around-the-clock labor. And conditioning them to seek rewards in the form of positive feedback—stars and trophies, hearts and likes—is a great way to get them used to performing that labor for free.
This is exactly correct. Maybe all my ranting and raving here on this blog and in class the past 15 years plus is finally paying off. I've said over and over, as I've listened to my fellow Xer's and older Boomers bitch about the "entitled, give 'em a trophy" generation of millennials, that the stickers and trophies had less to do with entitlement and self-esteem, and more to do with social control. That the rat-control psychology which pervades public schools today, with its over-emphasis on standardized test scores, gpa's, benchmarks, and rote memorization, is destroying critical or creative thinking, and setting up a generation of automatons that is conditioned to constantly seek positive feedback (likes, shares, retweets, etc.) while their pockets are picked by older generations and the power-elite. Throw in Big Pharma and the fact that Millennials are the most over-prescribed generation in history, drooling in the corner while they gaze longingly at all their trophies, and you have total and complete social control. A generational control so complete, a reckoning no doubt is a brewing.

But what do I know?

Jia Tolentino makes the point, however, that the economic crises this generation has witnessed in childhood and adolescence (Great Recession, Occupy Wall Street, the housing burst, endless foreign wars) may fundamentally be turning it against capitalism itself. And that eventually the solipsistic technological pacifier everyone seems to be sucking on, which diverts our attention away from said social problems, crises and misery, is eventually going to burst. And social media is going to crumble, and the all those psychotropic meds will be thrown away. And when the shit hits the economic fan and riots break out, it might be the Millennials leading the overthrow of the fat prostate Baby Boomers and their power-elite, once and for all. Read these three paragraphs closely:
Young people have curled around their economic situation “like vines on a trellis,” as Harris puts it. And, when humans learn to think of themselves as assets competing in an unpredictable and punishing market, then millennials—in all their anxious, twitchy, phone-addicted glory—are exactly what you should expect. The disdain that so many people feel for Harris’s and my generation reflects an unease about the forces of deregulation, globalization, and technological acceleration that are transforming everyone’s lives. (It does not seem coincidental that young people would be criticized for being entitled at a time when people are being stripped of their entitlements.) Millennials, in other words, have adjusted too well to the world they grew up in; their perfect synchronization with economic and cultural disruption has been mistaken for the source of the disruption itself.

This idea runs parallel, in some ways, to the assessments of Twenge and Sasse and other conservative commentators. But Harris’s conclusions are precisely the opposite of theirs: instead of accommodating the situation even further, he argues, kids should revolt. “Either we continue the trends we’ve been given and enact the bad future, or we refuse it and cut the knot of trend lines that defines our collectivity. We become fascists or revolutionaries, one or the other.” It’s a near-apocalyptic vision. But the polarization that permeates American politics—stemming, in part, from a sense that extreme measures are necessary to render our world livable—is especially evident among millennials, some disaffected portion of whom form much of the racist alt-right, while a larger swath has adopted the leftist politics shared by Harris. In the 2016 Presidential primaries, Bernie Sanders won more young votes than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined.

“The newfound popularity of socialism among millennials is an alarming trend,” Sasse writes in “The Vanishing American Adult.” He provides a syllabus that he hopes will steer people away from such thinking, and toward an intellectually mature adulthood, and he dutifully includes “The Communist Manifesto,” so that his hypothetical pupils can properly grasp how wrong it is. It seems more likely that a young person who opened “The Communist Manifesto” tomorrow would underline the part about personal worth being reduced to exchange value and go off to join the Democratic Socialists of America, which has grown fivefold in the last year. One of its members, a Marine Corps veteran named Lee Carter, was elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates in November. He was born in 1987. “Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” the critic and theorist Fredric Jameson wrote, fourteen years ago. These days, the kids find it easy enough to imagine both.
Word. As a Gen Xer...someone whose childhood and adolescent memories are of an Evil Empire of Communism coming to take over the world (which no longer exists), of drop and cover drills in school for nuclear annihilation (so we'd be curled up in little balls when vaporized), and of our forebears' Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll lifestyle, replaced with sex that can kill you just as we hit adolescence...all I can say to Ms. Tolentino, Mr. Harris, and other millennial thinkers, is welcome to the terror dome.

Your enemy is the title of this blog, and its stranglehold over your generation (mine, my kids' iGen, etc.) is owed a reckoning.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Generation Grumpy

Generation Grumpy (1962-1971): Why You May By Unhappy If You're Around 50.

As people get older, they tend to become more at peace with their finances, survey research shows. But not the current crop of middle-aged Americans.
Let’s call them the Grumpy Middle.
They are unhappier than previous generations. And they’ve been this way for years.
Typically, people 45 to 54 are more likely than others to say they are “pretty well satisfied” with their financial situation, according to the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey. Then the generation born between 1962 and 1971 started to reach their current age range — and bring their longstanding economic dissatisfaction with them.
This is essentially the older half of Generation X (1961-1980) and completely unsurprising. This is my demographic, and these are literally the attitudes of almost everyone I know in my cohort.
Following the Grumpy Middle over time in the survey reveals that they have been less happy than other respondents as far back as the early 1990s, when most of them were in their 20s.
Americans in their 20s and 30s have always expressed a higher degree of anxiety, but this is the first time in the survey that the dissatisfaction has crept so far up into middle age. The General Social Survey does not dig deeper on this and ask why. And other variables that touch on personal happiness don’t suggest people born between these years are more unhappy over all.
No, but as they note, we were this way when we were in our 20's in the 1990's and experiencing the the first real generational shift away from the Boomers in terms of economic future and attitudes. I can remember (though can't find at the moment) a survey in the early 90's that showed we were the first generation in history to say we wouldn't do as well as our parents, and how shocking that was to the clueless Boomers who were busy then (and still are) raiding the economic pantry and leaving scraps for everyone else. E.g. this latest tax re-write scam, pushed mainly by aging Boomers, will leave my kids' generation (iGen 2001-2020) trillions of dollars in debt.

I guess we were too busy being ironic slackers and listening to grunge or whatever, but the economic insecurity signposts were certainly there more than 25 years ago. And we are now the classic middle child, sandwiched in between the Boomers (1943-1960) and Millennials (1982-2000).
Back in 1994, when the baby boom generation was filling in the 45-54 age group, a male full-time worker made $1.29 for every dollar made by other male full-time workers. Women in this age group were also the top earners, although female pay was not as disparate; they made $1.13 for every dollar made by other female colleagues.
The Grumpy Middle got to college around the time the drinking age was raised to 21 and were too young to enjoy all of the benefits of the booming 1980s economy, but old enough to have worked with older colleagues who could regale them with tales of how great things were for white-collar workers in the 1980s.
And now they’ve reached their peak earning years, only to find they are no longer peak earning years.
Glad to know it's not just me. I mean, I do know a few people in my generation that are living large and would find this article to be completely foreign. But for most people I know and have grown up with and am still friends with, generationally-speaking? This is us. 

Thanks Obama (or Nixon, whatever).