What does the Mandalay Massacre say about us?
That we are unhappy?
The night after the Mandalay Massacre I bolted wide awake at 3 am with this thought screaming in my mind:
What if a significant percentage people on earth decided at the same time to act on their own private reality because life no longer had any commonly shared meanings for them?
Free will allows this view; and the social boundaries that could moderate this view seem to be melting away in the #FrictionLessSociety. So it could happen, I reasoned in my foggy state.
I was reminded of an event that happened many years ago when I was shopping with my teenage son during Christmas in a very busy mall with shoppers rushing by shoulder to shoulder when my son tugged on my sleeve with a little fear in his eyes and said, “Dad, all these people have free will; they could do anything at any moment.” I reassured him that the crowd was safe because everyone was just trying to finish their holiday shopping, just like us.
I now felt like I was him with no sleeve to tug on; so I set out to get some facts starting with “happiness.” My simple starting thought was ‘happy people don’t choose to die, do they?’ Comedian Robin Williams came to mind; He committed suicide at age 63.
Maybe he made other people happy when he really felt trapped, for whatever reasons. I started thinking about statistics. How do deaths from vehicle accidents and suicides compare?
Suicide and Accident Statistics
Note that the highest suicide rates in this chart per 100,000 people are for men (21.5) and middle aged of 45 – 64 years (19.6)—the bottom of the U-shaped happiness curve above. Note also that men commit suicide at over three times the rate of women.
Suicides are intentional while deaths from vehicles are accidental, yet they are comparable with current vehicle death rates per 100,000 at 11% compared to suicides at 13.8% in the USA. Can we consider suicides as “accidents” of nature—a kind of risk factor that comes with the gift of free-will?
The problem with this view is that it gives up the idea of ever being able to reduce the rate of suicides like we have done with vehicle deaths. Before safety seat belts were introduced in the early 1970s vehicle deaths per 100,000 people in the USA were about 24. Safety belts, improvements in car safety, and the greater number of more robust SUVs on the road reduced the accidental death rate by more than half to today’s rate of 11 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, suicide rates are slowly on the rise.
Can we please invent “mental seatbelts” that help prevent suicides?
Finally, what do we know about people like Paddock who turned suicide into an act of murder at his Mandalay Massacre? According to suicidology.org, such acts are rare accounting for 2% to 5% of all suicides. This low probability should be consoling but any consolation is quickly neutralized and swamped by its 24×7 amplification through days of mass media coverage on TV and via Internet of a rare event like Mandalay.
The #FrictionLessSociety is a powerful distortion lens on our experienced reality that we will eventually have to deal with on many levels to maintain our sanity throughout the world. It is worth noting that America has dropped from its #3 rank for happiness in 2005 to #14 rank in 2017. Unhappy people do bad things to others.