I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Old NFO put up a post recently about the rate of suicides among my generation. I know this is a little out of style for this blog, but being part of my generation, I think I may be able to contribute some to the discussion. Please read his post first, here.

I think the points he brought up are all valid, but I think there's more to it. All are facets of the same problem, in a way. I don't know that it's so much that my generation hasn't been allowed to fail that is the primary issue than it is that we have nothing worth risking failure for. I've known some people who've attempted suicide and far more who have contemplated, though thankfully none succeeded, and they've all commented something to the effect of "What's the point of living" usually with some particular personal problem or crisis as catalyst.

There's a distinct cultural ennui among a great many of my peers. We live in a time when a great many things are in really rough shape and we are constantly reminded of many of the worst bits. Wars, tragedies, and depravities that in a former age were distant are now blared across the front pages of Google and Facebook. We're all aware of terrible things, and many feel powerless to combat them.

I see it as a sort of burnout. There’s always some new crisis, some new tragedy, and the expectation is that you should feel something. Indeed, most do, for a while. When the issues keep coming and nothing is changing, it gets harder and harder to feel anything. This leads to a mental picture of the world as being pointless, since terrible things happen so often and nothing changes, so how can there be rhyme or reason? In short, the world doesn’t seem worth much.

On a separate note, it seems strange how the interconnected nature of the internet has managed to isolate people so much. While true, people can keep up with other people’s lives, they can only see what others choose to share. Similarly, others know only what they post in their statuses and such. Everyone has these masks of social acceptability and propriety that are rather harder to maintain the same way with people you actually see and spend time with. Everyone has this face, but so often it isn’t representative of their own identity.

Emile Durkheim started the field of sociology with the study of suicides, and he found that this anomie or namelessness seemed to be the defining character to the huge suicide rates in the growing urban centers. People find that they really know no one, and no one knows them, and what does it matter anymore? In the post Vietnam era NFO mentioned, our men came home to find themselves named something far outside their own reality and identity. They went through hard times, far harder than most, and they came back to a society that hated them for it. Drafted into service in a hard war they didn’t choose and reviled for their participation, they were left alone when they most needed the help.

Suicide is a hard thing to look at through history, since it was so often hushed up as shameful. All the same, my sense of the thing has been that in generations past, those who committed suicide were generally not surprising to those around them. Today, I hear so often “I had no idea” “they seemed so happy” or “no one saw this coming.” People have cloistered themselves up in their own heads, putting on the face that they see as necessary for the circumstance, and many are sure that everyone else is doing the same.

Relatedly, people my age are craving the genuine, in a world progressively more seen as fake and hollow. I think one of the strongest examples of this is in Buzzfeed and its ilk. People are longing for the “two minutes that will totally change your worldview” and “cutest puppy ever reunited with owner” because they think that they actually might feel better about the world if they remember that there’s still happy stuff. Puppies are wonderful in fact, and there are great things to learn of and experience.

That being said, I personally think that this has a tendency to backfire a bit. People seek these out hoping to find some meaning, and when they don’t find it, it reinforces this notion of meaningless. Happiness is fleeting and cheap, and the drudge of existence is neither.

Looking back on my own educational experiences, we were always taught the sanitized, easy history. We were never taught that the world could be rough, and as such many have no coping mechanisms at all. They turn to their peers, and find that they too have no mechanisms. Combined with the difficulties of life (no more substantial, indeed less so, than those of past generations) that blindside people, the sense of hopelessness is essentially complete.

If I might bring in one societal evil that is contributing, it’s the notion that everyone should go to college. People go through 4-6 years of difficulty, accumulating massive debt and struggling with the educational basics more often than not, all while being told “this is the best time in your life” until they exit the academic bubble with nothing but a piece of paper saying “BA in Cinematography” or some such and no real world context, experience, or marketable skills. Instead of getting the head start in life that is expected, they’ve set themselves back a lot for no apparent gain.

There are lots of other factors, particularly the hateful rhetoric so common between various labels and subcultures, but they all seem to be subsets of this primary sense. Some people just can’t quite take what the world has become and what the world asks them to be. Without meaning, intimacy, and with a strong sense of awareness towards many ills in the world, it is hardly surprising that so many despair.

I’m sure most of what I’ve talked about is unconscious for most people. It’s just the growing fester in the back of the mind that says “This isn’t worth it.”

For me, I have found the meaning I need in life. I have found ways to be genuine with people. I’ve managed to find the answers I needed. I’m sure others can do the same.

Obviously, I’m not a psychologist or sociologist. I’m just a college senior going into marine biology. I can just say what I’ve seen, what I have experienced and what I think explains it. I may be wrong on every meaningful level, and if so, I hope you will forgive me that.

And for anyone who may find this who are considering taking your own life, I can only say this. I don’t know what answers you might find that can help you through this. I don’t know that I understand your situation or your position. I’m sure I don’t know the whole story. I do know however that there are answers out there. There are people far better qualified than I to help you look for them. Please, find someone you can talk to. Things can be better.


  1. Well done! I'm linking this, thanks for stepping up and giving us a generational perspective.

  2. Interesting perspective . Ill have to think on it a bit and re read a time or two , but i suspect it still comes down to the fact that its a hell of a lot harder to discover that the world isn't all about ME at age 20 than age 2 .

  3. Well written. Expectations versus reality can be a real shocker, be it combat vet to civilian or student to work force.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful commentary and insight.

  5. Does not have to be just your generation, but the feeling of lonely, disrepair, and not worth waking up to... happens in many ages. The constant impersonal noise doesn't muffle the need to be oneself engaged with others and always in love with them and the adventure of life.

  6. Well said Sir. Much of what you said can affect anyone though. My Father in Law was having problems with depression and thoughts of suicide in him late 70's and turning off the 24 hour news channel was a large part of his recovery.

  7. My father's dad took his own life when my dad was just seven. It was during the depression and there were some family troubles, including a separation.
    Times were tough but "Grandpa" (I never knew him, obviously) had been relativity successful in a modest way. He was British and had immigrated to the USA by jumping off a ship in Vancouver harbor and swimming ashore. He had been a lumber-mill worker after the SF Earthquake, and then worked in a ship-yard, then had his own tobacconist-shop and later had a house-painter/paperhanger business - and he had patented a couple inventions .
    My dad was told by a neighborhood kid-bully-asshole that he had shot himself; "I heard the shot!"
    For years and years that was his Standard Anti-Gun position, but recently it was discover to be a lie. His Anti-Gun position still stands... The main takeaway was that as a seven year-old he recognized and believed that his dad didn't love him enough to stay around for him - which caused him to be very independent and self-reliant - he was the youngest boy to become an Eagle Scout in his County in the mid 1930's.
    His mom re-married and his Step-Father was a really great guy who helped guide him further, but there are still scars from that early event in his childhood that guided and affected him still - the ripple effect also affected his children...


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