Wednesday, January 20, 2016

About Older White Guys Choosing Suicide Over Growing OId

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In his 1950s best seller (reprinted in 1989) 'Old Age Is Not For Sissies', Art Linkletter uses humor to defuse the slings and arrows attendant on old age, of which most of us long past 60 are well aware. Against this context of elder vulnerability Linkletter also defines seven rights of senior Americans, including the rights to respect and dignity, freedom from abuse, good nutrition, and travel. It's as well he has such offerings, since getting older is brutal not only on the body - but on the ego and mind. Especially if one doesn't seek to temper the former and keep the latter disciplined and well-honed.

All of this is background to the recent research published by Colorado State University psychology professor Silvia Sara Canetto in the journal 'Men and Masculinities' (Denver Post, p. 6B, Jan. 17) which purports to show that suicide is accepted as a "masculine" solution to elder life problems, mainly by older white men in the sense that "real men kill themselves rather than put up with aging".

Seriously? You're going to call yourself a "real man" and take an easy out because your fragile ego or body is too battered to go on? You can't bear the young Turks (and chicks) ignoring you, or being given short shrift in the field in which you used to be a star boy? And now you can hardly exercise because of the acute arthritic pain in your joints, not to mention gout and sciatica- so hey. let me reach for the nearest .44?

Sorry, but you need to get the fuck over yourself and grow up. No one said getting old was easy, but blowing your head off to escape aging - like Hunter S. Thompson did at age 67-  is a sign of a true weakling, not a real man. Real men don't blow their heads off because they're growing old and have a few extra gray hairs, aches and pains as well as brain farts. This,  despite Thompson once "promising himself and others that he'd die before getting old". (Ibid.)

Sheesh! And I used to have a ton of respect for Thompson. But I lost it all when I read that. And let me make it clear Thompson was suffering from no horrific disease  - say like a malignant brain tumor or Alzheimer's which would at least make it reasonable to off oneself. No, he was perfectly ok, he just hated the thought of getting old!
Thompson in 1989
Hunter Thompson just before he offed himself to not get old.

According to the biographer of another old age white man wimp (Kodak founder George Eastman), he killed himself in 1932 at age 77 "because he was unprepared and unwilling to face the indignities of old age'. Aw....bwahahahaha, cry me a river, boo, hoo hoo. How about the indignities of the millions in sub-Saharan Africa who don't even have fresh water to drink or bathe in and barely enough food to eat? And who can get horrific parasitical diseases if they just get bit by a mosquito or other insect?

In the same way, friends of Thompson repeatedly described him as "beating the indignities of aging" (ibid) but all it really showed was an entitled wimp who didn't have the courage to live if everything didn't go exactly as he wanted. Including getting his latest work published.  In his later years Hunter was more or less relegated to publishing the occasional small piece in an Aspen Independent paper, as opposed to The Rolling Stone. But like many of us, he needed to learn to rein in his ego with some grace as opposed to fighting to preserve  an elusive fame.

This despite the fact that  "older white men tend to end their lives despite bearing fewer of the burdens that come with aging. For instance, they are less likely to experience widowhood and have better physical health and fewer disabilities than older women. They also have more economic resources than older ethnic minority men.".

In other words, all these older white wimps who pick up guns are pathetic weaklings and losers.

But maybe they just can't adapt and adjust to lower thresholds of life quality because they're too "brittle". This brittleness makes them more likely to snuff themselves out, given the stats show white men over 65 have 3 times the suicide rate of any other group and eight times the rate of women over 65. (Ibid.) According to the Post piece:

"White older men may be less psychologically able to deal with the normal. challenges of aging because of their privilege up until late adulthood" according to Prof.Canetto.

She added (ibid/):

"This psychological brittleness and vulnerability to suicide make them vulnerable to a masculine outlook that implicitly justifies and even glorifies suicide among men".

However, I would just say it isn't a "masculine" outlook but that of a coward and wimp. Or a "sissy",  to use the parlance of Linkletter. In other words, these tough guys just can't handle a thing like getting old - which even women can handle!

Personally, rather than elaborating this chicken shit attitude with dime store psychology to justify suicide, I believe a simpler explanation is at work: all these guys are the victims of a false, cultural machismo. This uniquely American disorder (ok it's in some Latin countries too)  falsely correlates using a gun to ending a problem - real or imagined- as a "manly, courageous and powerful choice". What we need to do whenever these events surface is make it clear it's no such thing. It's the act of an entitled wimp, who chose an easy solution more befitting of a weakling and coward than a real man.

What do all these older white guys need who are contemplating suicide because they just got out of bed with a new backache or gray hairs in their ears?  Well, at least an attitude adjustment....or maybe something along the lines of Paxil and Zoloft.

What might be interesting, if Prof. Canetto has time, is to ascertain the political affiliations-leanings of these "tough guys". I will bet nearly all are conservatives or Republicans!

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