Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Things fall apart

Several analyses both here and in Europe have been reporting a disturbing trend especially affecting white lower-class males. From The Washington Post:
A large segment of white middle-aged Americans has suffered a startling rise in its death rate since 1999, according to a review of statistics published Monday that shows a sharp reversal in decades of progress toward longer lives.

The mortality rate for white men and women ages 45-54 with less than a college education increased markedly between 1999 and 2013, most likely because of problems with legal and illegal drugs, alcohol and suicide, the researchers concluded. Before then, death rates for that group dropped steadily, and at a faster pace.

An increase in the mortality rate for any large demographic group in an advanced nation has been virtually unheard of in recent decades, with the exception of Russian men after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ....

...[T]hey found that mortality rates for this group had risen an average of a half percent per year since 1999, after falling an average of 2 percent annually for the 20 years before that. If mortality rates group had stayed on their steady downward course, a half-million more people would be alive today, they determined. [more]
And this while "U.S. death rate for all causes declined 43 percent between 1969 and 2013, from about 1,279 per 100,000 people to about 730."

R.R. Reno believes he knows at least part of the reason:
.... For the last few decades, cultural leaders have been waging a war on the weak. Their goal is to dismantle traditional norms and rules for family life. They push to dismantle gender roles and other foundational categories that ordinary people use to orient themselves and make sense out of their lives. They advocate for drug legalization and doctor-assisted suicide as well. The upshot: reliable guides toward a normal life are removed, and potentially destructive behaviors that rich people either avoid or discretely manage are normalized. The most vulnerable pay the cost. ....

Well-educated adepts know how to use today’s multicultural patois to navigate in our brave new world of officially mandated gender blindness. They can affirm the progressive orthodoxies in words, while conveying to their children in their deeds a plastic but nevertheless gender-differentiated approach to life. Meanwhile, kids and young adults from poorly educated households are deprived of a functional language to talk about what it means to be a man or woman. Without such a language, they can’t see themselves as successfully being men or women. And so they are deprived of a baseline adult achievement that come-of-age rituals in traditional cultures have always celebrated.

.... Two generations ago, a working class man was often poor or nearly poor, but he could be respected in his neighborhood as a provider for his family, father to his children, law-abiding citizen, coach of a Little League team, and usher in church. The culture that made such a life possible has disintegrated, partly due to large-scale trends in our post-industrial society, but also because of a sustained and ongoing ideological assault on the basic norms for family and community. Death rates are likely to continue to rise for poor Americans. I see no signs that the war on the weak will abate. [more]