Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Does poverty cause suicide?

That it does is the implicit message below.  And it is true that the poor suicide more.  But is the poverty the cause of the suicide?  In the case of the person highlighted below it would seem to be an hereditary depressive illness.  Many close relatives to him had suicided too.

From my reading of the literature, social isolation and loss of important relationships are the main cause of suicide. We need connectedness with others. So how do we explain the correlation with poverty?

I think we need to see poverty not as a cause but as an effect.  many things can lay you low financially, including mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.  And there is also extravagance, monetary incontinence. If you repeatedly blow all your money soon after you get it, you are going to be long-term poor. And extravagance in turn can reflect deficient impulse control, which is again a mental weakness. 

And a major correlate of poverty is IQ.  Some people just cannot cope with modern work requirements.  Jobs have become more complex as time has gone by.  Digging ditches manually was so simple anyone could do it but few jobs are that simple anymore. So the low IQ person is more likely to be unemployed, often for long periods.  And unemployment is depressing in a host of ways.  And it is ultimately a depressive state of mind that leads on to suicide.

So a more measured and detailed look at people at risk of suicide is what is needed for prevention purposes. Just blaming poverty is irresponsibly simplistic and unlikely to help.  The most officialdom is ever likely to provide is anti-psychotic and anxiolytic medication.  The churches will be the major source of social and emotional support. Neither governments nor Leftist organizations have any track-record in that function.

I was standing inside a tacky “instant cash loan” place in main street, Dandenong, I had just applied for a $200 loan.

“Sorry love we can’t help you today,” the Eastern European lady at the loan shop I’ll call CASH NOW EXCITING WOW said.

I was broke and living on a friend’s couch. I went to three other “instant cash loan” places who said no to giving me a loan that day. Plus I’d been into Centrelink and asked for a cash advance — I got rejected for that too.

I also had a bad back and was losing my battle with the insurance company. I’d just borrowed money from a friend earlier that day — she needed it by the next morning for her daughter’s school excursion. CASH NOW EXCITING WOW’s final rejection meant I realised I couldn’t repay her by that night like I promised.

Twelve months earlier I had a well-paying, high-status job; I’d been on TV, the radio, I wrote for magazines — everyone took my call when I was a journalist — most people wanted to be my friend.

After CASH NOW’s rejection I felt disconnected, life seemed pointless; broken beyond repair. I walked for hours plotting ways to die. I eventually followed one street all the way to Dandenong Hospital’s emergency room and told them I wanted to kill myself.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been suicidal. But it was the first time that financial despair had driven me to it.

And the experience turned out to be illuminating in more ways than one — years later, I would start reading and find what is rarely talked about: The link between being on a lower-income and suicide.

Not that long ago terms like “affluenza” and “cashed-up bogans” were freely thrown around. Yes we know that “money doesn’t make you happy”, but being dirt poor can drive you to despair — male suicide in Australia was at the highest in the 1930s Great Depression.

Many studies show the link between unemployment and suicide: unemployed men suicide about 4.62 times the rate of employed men in Australia according the latest research by the University of Melbourne.

The latest available ABS figures show Australia’s annual suicide rate is 12 per 100,000 — the highest in 10 years. We know men are more at risk, so too LGBTI people and the indigenous. But since 2002, ABS data hasn’t recorded occupation or income (currently it looks only at age, race, gender) of those who have taken their own life — when it did it showed the unemployed, tradies and labourers were the ones most likely to suicide.

Contemporary figures showing the link between income, class and suicide proved hard to find. But the suicide rate for trades people is 21 per 100,000 and for labourers it’s an astonishing 34 per 100,000 (nearly triple the national average).

Compare that to the suicide rates of male managers of 7 suicides per 100,000, and middle-class professionals of 13 per 100,000.

There are a few aberrations including veterinarians and those working in the medical profession, who have high suicide rates, but otherwise the trend appears relatively clear.

“The main drivers of suicide are disconnection, and a loss of hope and purpose,” Alan Woodward Director of Lifeline Australia told

“We know financial struggles and personal indebtedness is a factor that can lead people to feel suicidal ... if you are unemployed there is a strong chance your social network will reduce and you may experience some loss of a sense of contributing to the community.”

“Some occupations have some features, less control of the nature of their work, less fulfilment, job satisfaction, possibility to exposure to unsafe areas.

And of course — most of those jobs are male-dominated. “Traditional masculine behaviour and attitudes have been found to relate to reduced and delayed help-seeking for mental health problems,” he said.

When I reflect back on the day my financial crisis led to suicidal ideation, I do think about the lack of meaning in my life right then. I had tried to do everything right: I had been studying law, I’d spent most of my life climbing the socio-economic ladder just as my parents had lifted themselves out of their parents’ poverty. There I was — begging for money.

My Dad is on a disability support pension after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder 10 years ago. He has attempted suicide a few times. His Dad had schizophrenia and suicided. My Dad’s brother also took his own life, so did my cousin.

Back at Dandenong hospital the day I was completely broke and suicidal, I ended up speaking with a great psychiatric nurse, who gave me a very good counselling session, an antipsychotic and a bed for the night.

While it didn’t solve my problem, it did help me deal with these issues with a clearer head the next day.

And while mental health is clearly not just all about the individual, I did need to get my head together initially to work out how to solve my problem.

I’m extremely grateful for the help and cherish the fact I have gone to live another seven fulfilling years.


The new faith is very oppressive

Leftist orthodoxy is the new dominant religion of the Western world and it is every bit as bigoted and oppressive as Christianity was at its worst

In July, a 28-year-old engineer at Google broke the Internet—and lost his job—when he circulated an internal memo calling for a more open dialogue about gender parity at the company. In Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber: How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion, the author, James Damore, spoke out about Google’s unwillingness to allow a diversity of perspectives.

Some of the ensuing commentary claimed he misinterpreted the science he cited, but the majority insisted that, for the most part, though he may have overstated the relevance of some, his data were correct. Far more important than the memo’s contents, however, was the reaction to it, which revealed the limits of science to inspire reason and tolerance.

In the world of psychometrics, the Thematic Apperception Test is a projective measure that uncovers attitudes, thinking patterns and emotional responses by showing the subject a series of drawings and having them tell a story they imagine the drawing tells. The Google memo can be thought of as a similar test. After reading the memo, some described it as an effort to promote diversity and combat groupthink. Others described it as anti-diversity, and a “diatribe against women in tech.” How the reader reacted to the memo is a function of the reader’s story, not the content of the memo.

Welcome to the world of post-rational discourse.

To scientists, for whom data has no moral content, the firestorm that ensued appeared to be the result of not understanding the data. As a result, much has been written about the science Damore cited. To the authors of articles defending the science in the memo, the negative emotional reaction to Google’s gadfly was beyond preposterous, leading women in science to declare that “sexism isn’t the result of knowing facts” and “truth isn't oppressive.”

Today, however, for what seems to be an increasing proportion of the educated left, even the mere willingness to discuss certain kinds of facts is “harmful.” The data in the memo wasn’t necessarily misunderstood. It was beside the point. Or perhaps more accurately said, the fact that he was willing to cite it was the problem. As one person tweeted at me, “speaking in averages degrades people.” The online magazine, Quillette, even suffered a cyberattack as a result of posting four scientists’ mostly supportive replies to the memo.

As John McWhorter has rightly pointed out, “[c]ertain questions are not to be asked.” And when they are, they are received “with indignation that one would even ask them.” Even more pernicious, however, they inevitably lead to the implication that not only is asking these questions a symptom of the problem, but the presence of the asker is, too.

How does this happen? To those seeking truth through science, facts are amoral. When using this scientific thinking, things are either true or untrue, not morally right or wrong. As Sam Harris points out in The End of Faith, Moses either parted the Red Sea or he didn't. Jesus was either born of a virgin or he wasn't. Mohammed either flew to heaven on a winged horse or he didn't. That there is scientific evidence that none of these things are possible given what we know about physics and biology does not deter people from their faith. That's definitional for articles of faith. The problem arises, however, when members of a faith choose to silence or punish nonbelievers and those who have too little faith. For Harris, there is no moral issue with questioning the historicity of the religious claims mentioned above—because he is not a believer. To true believers, however, questioning claims of faith is heresy.

In faith, there is certainty. Whatever contravenes faith or allows for uncertainty is, by faith’s definition, wrong. Faith requires being “right.” Science, on the other hand, requires uncertainty and the freedom to be wrong. And therein lies a conflict. Among true believers, those who are “wrong” are heretics, blasphemers and demons. Among true scientists, those who are wrong are merely—well, wrong. Being wrong in the scientific search for truth is acceptable and expected. One must be willing to be wrong in order to search for truth. Being wrong regarding faith’s claim of truth, however, is unacceptable and may even be unforgivable—it is the work of a devil. “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God,” wrote philosopher Eric Hoffer. “But never without the belief in a devil.” 

What happened at Google is part of an illiberal orthodoxy that is intensifying on college campuses across the country. Last school year alone, incidents ranged from the tame to the violent. At Wellesley College, feminist Laura Kipnis, who spoke out for “grown-up feminism,” was the subject of a letter written by members of the faculty who claimed she “imposed on the liberty” of students, and her presence caused them “injury” and “distress.” Students called her out as anti-feminist. At the Evergreen State College, vigilante students called out evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein for speaking out against celebrating a day without white people. They vandalized property, held administrators and others hostage, and intimidated the professor, his students, and even police until eventually the police could not keep the professor or his family safe on campus. At Reed College, students called out assistant professor Lucia Martinez Valdivia, who identifies as mixed-race and queer for being a “race traitor,” “anti-black,” and “ableist.” They accused her of “gaslighting” students because she spoke out about questioning feelings of oppression. “I am scared to teach courses on race, gender or sexuality or even texts that bring these issues up in any way,” she said. “I’m at a loss as to how to begin to address it, especially since many of these students don’t believe in historicity or objective facts (they denounce the latter as being a tool of the white cisheteropatriarchy).”

Perhaps what makes the Google scenario stand out from even the most astounding campus reactions is that Google is not a college campus, but a company. And not just any company, but one responsible for much of the scientific, historical and objective facts that many, if not most of us find online.

Although Google’s CEO admitted that “much of what was in that memo is fair to debate,” Damore’s views were not, in the end, debated, as he had hoped they would be. At least not at Google.

Google has joined the callout culture.

Who will be next?



Corbyn Monoxide: why does the British Left get away with anti-Tory hate?

It’s supposed to be a joke, of course, and we’re all supposed to laugh. But imagine – just try to imagine – if these students had written such vile comments about Muslims or gays; or if a group of young Tories had written such things about any of Corbyn’s “kinder, gentler” disciples; or (worse) if Kippers had written such comments about… well, anyone really; for everything a Kipper utters is hate, and any comments they hurl at anyone for holding an opposing political opinion is… um, ‘bigotry’.

Conservative-inclined youngsters are routinely pilloried (if not formally investigated and disciplined) for their casual racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., etc. (for putting “minority students at risk and in a state of panic and fear“). But left-wingers seem to get away with it: none of these students is likely to be hauled before a disciplinary committee and threatened with expulsion for putting young Tories in a state of panic and fear. No, that sort of retribution is reserved for Christians and Conservatives who dare to utter Christian and conservative things on Facebook or Twitter, joke or not.

We live in an age where the police prioritise investigations of social media ‘hate’ campaigns (actually, it doesn’t have to be a campaign: a single lighthearted comment will suffice), unless the targets are Conservatives and/or Christians, and then it’s ‘fair comment’ (or fair game). And then the left-wing “sexists, anti-Semites and other scumbags” spout their bile by the hogshead; the left-hand of terror pours out onto the streets, terrorising Tories with demands for their “heads on sticks“, illustrated with Theresa May’s head impaled on a bloodied spike. ‘Defy Tory rule‘ they cry. ‘Police and fascists‘ may be legitimately attacked, they insist (and for ‘fascists’, read Tories). It is perhaps unsurprising that Conservative MPs receive threats to life and limb every single day: if the left is persuaded that Tories are evil, the world would obviously be a better place without them – ‘Tories scum, kill 4 fun‘, and then they can burn in hell.

As Julie Burchill notes, there’s something reminiscent of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four ‘Two Minutes Hate’ about it:

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within 30 seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.

O, but it’s only a joke, you say. Yes, indeed, one of the peddlers of that anti-Tory hate has since been gripped by sincere remorse and guilt, and has issued a humble, heartfelt apology:

What a charmer. No doubt he’d be first in the queue to lampoon the Tory student who insisted that his/her racist/homophobic/islamophobic comments had been a joke: if Tories aren’t quite evil enough to gas, poison or burn, they’re certainly sufficiently f***ing idiotic to treat with absolute contempt by defecating in their beds.

Or is that a joke, too? Hard to tell: it’s not the crying-with-laughter emoji. Still, having your bed used as a toilet is preferable to being assassinated. Or was that a joke, too? Hard to tell: John McDonnell didn’t use any emojis at all.

Conservatives Party members are literally being driven into hiding; Conservative students are bullied, shunned and shamed into silence: “I don’t want to be friends with racists, sexists, or homophobes. And I don’t want to be friends with Conservatives either,” writes Rebecca Roache on Oxford University’s Practical Ethics website. Petronella Wyatt explains what’s going on:

…recent reports suggest that a new generation of Right-of-centre students are suffering a similar persecution. Such is the institutionalised and increasing hatred of Tory students at Oxford that last week a group of them demanded the same equal-rights protection as gays, disabled people and ethnic minorities.

Conservative members of Corpus Christi College’s junior common room (JCR) claim they are “often actively isolated, personally attacked and made to feel unwelcome” because of their political views.

…At other universities, Conservative students say they are being treated as “scapegoats” for the introduction of higher tuition fees. Luke Black, 20, vice-president of Nottingham University Conservative Association, told a Sunday newspaper that “there is a growing Left-wing bias at universities. People assume we are like the Bullingdon Club without meeting us.”

Samuel Roberts, 21, a history student at Corpus Christi, who proposed the motion for greater protection, says such a climate is “uncomfortable”, while Stephanie Cherill, 19, president elect of OUCA, says there has been a deterioration in the attitude of JCR members towards people who are Right of centre. “This poses a threat to the atmosphere of intellectual discussion, as well as to the welfare of members,” she says.

And what do Oxford University’s proctors do about it?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Right-wing students – Conservative or Christian – are simply ‘fair game’. You can joke about poisoning them, gassing them, or burning them alive because, unlike Muslims, gays and the disabled, they basically have no feelings.

Or at least no feelings about which the Left is remotely troubled.


Racist homosexual supporters in Australia

The fight for marriage equality is important. But there’s no room in it for racism, writes Anisha Gautam

Growing up in Australia with a hyphenated migrant identity is a unique experience, and yet it would be fair to say that most migrant Australians, particular those with visible differences, will at some point in their lives face at least two, very common racist sentiments. The first one is the ubiquitous question “Where do you come from?” as though, despite our multicultural make up, it is impossible to believe that a person with brown skin, say, might just “be” from Australia.

The second is a statement, that old chestnut: “Go back to where you come from.”

As a somewhat outspoken advocate for minority rights, I cannot count the number of times I have had that sentiment hurled at me with the utmost contempt and hatred. It is a sentiment that is most often expressed when a migrant Australian is deemed to be insufficiently ‘grateful’ to the nation as, for example, when a migrant Australian dares to criticise an unjust government policy.

It is also expressed when a migrant Australian simply dares to express an opinion that the xenophobic right simply doesn’t agree with.

I was very disappointed, however, when I recently found the same sentiment being expressed by advocates of same-sex marriage under an article about the ‘No’ campaigner Dr Pansy Lai. “If she doesn’t like our modern secular society with western values of equality,” one commentator write, “maybe she should leave.” Another commentator suggested that perhaps Dr Lai “would be more comfortable practicing back in China where SSM is illegal”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do not agree with Dr Lai. Her opinions on same-sex marriage are, as far as I’m concerned, wrong, and her contribution to the ‘No’ campaign ad was both absurd and harmful. Dr Lai’s organization – the Australian Chinese for Families Association – is also doing the nation a great disservice in advocating against the Safe Schools Program, which aims to protect the most vulnerable of the nation’s children. Moreover, if true, it is abhorrent that the organisation advocates the dangerous and discredited conversation therapy as a “cure” for same-sex attraction.

As far as I am concerned, Dr Lai, in coming forward as a public advocate against same-sex marriage has left herself open to many things. She is currently facing, I would argue rightly, the contempt and scorn of those of us fighting to legalize same-sex marriage as a matter of human rights and human dignity.

What she should not face, however, no matter how abhorrent her opinions, are calls to “go back to where you come from.” Because when you say it to her, you say it to me, and to every other migrant who considers himself or herself Australian. Because when you tell one migrant Australian that they are not welcome in the country because their opinion is unacceptable, you tell every one of us that our welcome, too, is contingent in saying and doing the ‘right’ thing, whatever the issue may be. Because it is racist.

If you think my argument is unfair, take a moment to read the comments under articles on Cella White, the white woman in the same video for the No campaign who claimed that her son’s school encouraged him to wear a dress. Not once will you see any calls for her to leave the country because while her argument is called out as absurd and her stance bigoted, being white, her “Australianness,” her right to continue to live in Australia, is never called into question.

The fact is, migrant Australians are not all the same. We do not think in the same way, we do not vote for the same parties. Some of us are progressives and willing to fight for a more just world, and others are willing to fight to keep the status quo. As sad as it makes me to say it, just as I have the right to be progressive, so Dr Lai has the right to be bigoted. When we accept others into our national fabric, we need to do so wholeheartedly, accepting that they are Australian unconditionally, for good or for bad.

Most of us have been put in a situation we did not want, having to participate in what is essentially a national survey on whether or not our LGBTIQ allies should have the same rights that the rest of us have had for centuries.

This campaign has been exactly what the government promised it would not be: hateful, cruel and divisive. It is important that we continue to fight the misinformation published by the ‘No’ campaign but we must do without compromising our ideals as agents of social progress.

Resorting to racism is not a strategy we should engage, if we want to win the bigger war against all injustice.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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