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Friday, August 24, 2007

Atheism and suicide

Concerning suicide rates, this is the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations. According to the 2003 World Health Organization’s report on international male suicides rates (which compared 100 countries), of the top ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, all but one (Sri Lanka) are strongly irreligious nations with high levels of atheism. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top remaining nine nations leading the world in male suicide rates, all are former Soviet/Communist nations, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia( viii ). Of the bottom ten nations with the lowest male suicide rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism.


Very good read, by the way.

My comment:

I think this is a simple problem. Suicide rates are correlated to autopsy rates. If you autopsy people who have died under unclear circumstances you are going to discover a lot of suicide that will otherwise be missed. The "top ten nations" above autopsy a lot of people and find a lot of suicides. They also don't lie about it frequently enough to depress the numbers. Also, clinical practices have a big impact - if you classify acute or chronic alcohol poisoning as suicide (which is not too far-fetched if you ask me) it's going to have a huge impact on suicide rates in "former Soviet/Communist nations". I believe this is often the case.

On the other hand, not much of a fuss is made about people killing themselves in places where everyone is living on less than $1 a day AND open suicide is a religious big deal. The best example of this is India where suicide is commonplace in rural areas and most of it gets quickly swept under the rug. The Sri Lankans are anomalously honest about it, I don't know why.


Everyone should reflect about displacement. In other words, we should think frequently and honestly about what it would feel like to be forced out of a familiar home environment and forced into a survival situation which is alien, chaotic, defective and frightening.

Photo: Marko Georgiev for The New York Times

How many Iraqis have been driven out of their neighborhoods and homes since the United States invaded Iraq and completely destabilized the country through stupid incompetence? Many hundreds of thousands. Since the latest US military "surge" began in February 2007 the number of "internally displaced" Iraqis has approximately doubled. It is far too easy, when thinking about this awful fact, to relapse into some kind of strategic bird's-eye view: "Well, that will probably make partition of Iraq more likely" or some similar Olympian hogwash.

Let's keep it simple: how would you react if you and your family were told to leave your home quickly and also told in no uncertain terms that if you stayed or came back you would be shot on sight? Enough to get you mad? Enough to go looking for somebody to blame? What kind of sleep would you be getting at night? What do you tell your kids?

Photo: Marko Georgiev for The New York Times

I imagine that this is an anguish that could make ordinary, normal people insane. And cause them to strike out at their opponents - real and imagined - with murderous rage. This is what we are accomplishing in Iraq.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

US Responsibility

Hubert Van Es/United Press International/Corbis Bettmann

The United States Congress should immediately begin formulating legislation to eliminate quotas for Iraqi refugees. It's the least the US can do for the people who have been victimized by the stupidest foreign policy in US history. The invasion of Iraq is the brainchild of people who understand as much about modern US history as George W. Bush:

"The enemy who attacked us despises freedom, and harbors resentment at the slights he believes America and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region. And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up the fight.

If this story sounds familiar, it is -- except for one thing. The enemy I have just described is not al Qaeda, and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden. Instead, what I've described is the war machine of Imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout East Asia."

This idiotic comparison is so defective that it lands off the chart. The Administration will stop at nothing to try to salvage something, anything, out of the wreck they have made of Iraq. No deceit is too outrageous. So now the chaos and total corruption that have intensified every month since the Spring of 2003 are to be equated with Imperial Japan and Pearl Harbor. Amnesia is a wonderful resource for demagogues.

The goal of current US policy in the Middle East is very simple: delay the bloodiest consequences of the invasion of Iraq until after January 2009. At that point the Young Republicans and the Evangelists can leave the Green Zone (see illustration above) and the people who thought up this debacle can blame the whole catastrophe on their successors.