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Suicide Bombers

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Anomic: Whenever an economy is not regulated enough, conditions such as unemployment or iniquitous distribution of wealth arise. Unlike the Neoconservative's preference for Milton Friedman's unbrindled "free market economy," Durkheim believed that it is the role of society to regulate the economy, and he sees a relationship between a society’s suicide rate and the way it performs this important regulative function.


Fatalistic: When society sets economic expectations too high, individuals who fail to meet these standards can lose all sense of self-worth.


Cultural beliefs can directly influence each of these types of suicide. Durkheim’s last three types of suicide seem to apply variously to most any culture, including American society.


Suicide in America


America’s culture and economic system often creates huge financial inequities and hardships leading to suicides. In volume of suicides, the U.S. ranks among the top forty among all countries in the world and 9th among industrialized countries.


Why would the so-called "wealthiest country in the world” rank so high above most third world countries?


The vicissitudes of America’s economy leave a vast majority of individuals to despair from unemployment and iniquitous distribution of wealth. In such situations, individuals are exposed to at least two of Durkheim’s motives for suicide: anomic and fatalistic.


Studies in the U.S. during the 1980’s found that every one percent increase in unemployment related to suicide increases of 360 per year. The U.S. offers hardly any social infrastructure to the unemployed. This often leads to the anomic and fatalistic suicide motives, as well as higher rates of crime and gang activity.


At the same time, consumer advertising promotes the expectations that everyone can take a piece of the pie if they work hard and "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps." When a culture raises expectations high and some individuals do not prosper, hopelessness can overtake even the brightest individual, including the soldiers returning from extended combat missions, struggling to readapt to civilian life.


Sometimes our own political leaders contribute to the feelings of economic disparity. G.W. Bush’s administration recently promoted the U.S. as the beacon of free-market prosperity, a privileged nation, God-chosen to spread democratic wealth.


Bush used this image, as his most frequent among many ploys, to justify the preemptive attack in Iraq. However, compared to the world’s democratic nations, the U.S. currently grows one of the largest gaps between rich and poor: one percent of the population relishes in 40 percent of the wealth while 50 percent of the population struggles with 3 percent of the wealth.


The poor get poorer, the rich, richer. Fatalistic despair and broken expectations increase among those who fall behind, while the winners in the economic cycles sometimes suffer the emptiness of their egotistic drives to success. These economic gaps intensify the social hardships and represent causes for suicide in America, Durkheim’s last three motives: anomic, fatalistic, and egotistic.


Internationally, the U.S. government commands enormous influence over countries whose regimes it protects through military support. We call such countries “client states” such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait...and so on.


In these countries, the U.S. supports autocratic rulers, such as the former shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, the Royal Family of Saud, and even the early years of Saddam Hussein--before he made his fatal decision to nationalize Iraqi oil--among others. These autocratic states maintain much higher levels of economic gaps between the ruling elite and the working classes than those in the U.S.


The tough, autocratic Islamic cultures exacerbate the gap between the wealthy ownership class, such as the Royal Family of Saud, and the poor. They create environments of great social, economic, and political crisis. They push some groups to extreme behavior such as suicide bombing. This explains why 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudi.


This crisis was long in the making through Muslim social and economic failures over generations. The list of humiliations goes on today through American military dominance in Muslim territories and unconditional support for Israel, not to mention decades of European colonization breaking up the Ottoman Empire.

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Mark Biskeborn is a novelist: Mojave Winds, A Sufi's Ghost, Mexican Trade. Short Stories: California & Beyond. Poetry & Essays. For more details: See Mark's stories on or wherever books are (more...)
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