What’s Wrong with the World

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#White Lives Matter?

By now, I hope that many of our readers have seen the news about middle-aged white men and women – they are dying in record numbers! Actually, to be more accurate and less sensational (not that this ever stopped the left!) the mortality rates for middle-aged white Americans had risen since 1999, in contrast to the patterns for every other racial group and for residents of virtually every other affluent country. Rising substance abuse, including alcohol-related disease and painkiller overdose, was the main cause of the disturbing trend. This was presented in a research paper by the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Deaton recently just won the Nobel prize) and although there is some controversy over how big the mortality rates are when age groups are broken down into individual cohorts, there is no question“that death rates among middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. slightly increased, even while corresponding death rates in other countries declined by about 30%,”even if those rates started leveling off in 2005 (while the rates for white women continued to climb!)

So why are white, middle-aged men dying at those higher rates than other countries? As mentioned above, Case and Deaton point to substance abuse as the key factor (specifically, they mention “drug and alcohol poisoning, suicides, and liver diseases often associated with drug and alcohol abuse”) and all sorts of analysis from smart conservative writers has followed this fact. Ross Douthat points to an excellent study from a number of different scholars (including the always reliable Brad Wilcox) and comments:

that religious practice has fallen faster recently among less-educated whites than among less-educated blacks and Hispanics, their paper argues that white social institutions, blue-collar as well as white-collar, have long reflected a “bourgeois moral logic” that binds employment, churchgoing, the nuclear family and upward mobility.

But in an era of stagnating wages, family breakdown, and social dislocation, this logic no longer seems to make as much sense. The result is a mounting feeling of what the American Conservative’s Rod Dreher calls white “dispossession” — a sense of promises broken, a feeling that what you were supposed to have has been denied to you. (The Donald Trump phenomenon, Dreher notes, feeds off precisely this anxiety.)

For obvious historical reasons, though, Hispanic and (especially) black communities have cultivated a different set of expectations, a different model of community and family (more extended and matriarchal), a different view of success and the American story writ large.

I think Ross (and Dreher) are on to something important here – but I would also add the wise voice of Victor Davis Hanson and his thoughts on the growing divide between what he calls rural and urban America:

Rural living historically has encouraged independence—and it still does, even in the globalized and wired twenty-first century. Other people aren’t always around to ensure that water gets delivered (and drained), sewage disappears, and snow is removed. For the vast majority of Americans, these and other concerns are the jobs of government bureaucracy and its unionized public workforce. Not so in rural areas, where autonomy and autarky—not narrow specialization—are necessary and fueled by an understanding that machines and tools must be mastered to keep nature in its proper place. Such constant preparedness nurtures skeptical views about the role and size of government, in which the good citizen is defined as someone who can take care of himself.


From Hesiod’s Works and Days to Virgil’s Georgics, the connection between farming and morality was always emphasized as a check on urban decadence and corruption. What was gained by the city’s great universities, monumental edifices, churches, and pageantry was often lost through the baleful effects of being cut off from nature and defining success through intangibles such as transient goods, status, and material luxuries. Physical and mental balance, practicality, a sense of the tragic rather than the therapeutic—all these were birthed by rural life and yet proved essential to the survival of a nation that would inevitably become more mannered, sophisticated, and urban. Jefferson idealized an American as a tough citizen who couldn’t be fooled by sophisticated demagogues, given his own steady hand guiding the plow or digging irrigation ditches. Rural folks didn’t romanticize the city, but rather, like characters in Horace’s Satires or the content rustic mouse of Aesop’s Fables, saw it as a necessary evil. Yet urbanites, though cut off from nature, dependent on government for their sustenance, and embedded within the politics and trends of the day, idealized the farm and pasture—if certainly from a safe distance. [my emphasis]

On a different occasion, Hanson was interviewed about the military/civilian divide and he also talked about the divide using similar language to the rural/urban divide:

PETER ROBINSON: “Now here’s the question. Whereas the leading figures of Greece all understood the military from firsthand experience, American elites, Northeast, Coastal California, can lead their entire lives without brushing up against military culture, let alone military experience. Is this something new in American military history and is this healthy? Is it sustainable?”

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: “We’ve had people who have not had a lot of military – Abraham Lincoln was in the Black Hawk War for a few weeks. FDR was secretary of the Navy. So we’ve had people but what the difference is that this is the first time that we’ve had commanders in chiefs either have not had military experience or they haven’t had anything comparable. What I mean anything comparable, anything from the underbelly of American life, anybody who’s had to take apart an engine, anybody who’s had to build a house.

“So there are approximate experiences, not the same but there’s a tragic sort of notion that you’re in a dead end job, you have to work with muscular strength, there’s no good and bad choices, bad and worse choices.
All of that tragic view is necessary to understand what war is but yeah, I’m afraid that in a very sophisticated technological society we are certifying excellence and this is a larger topic, expertise based on basically an Ivy League credential which is not commensurate with real experience in the real world. It doesn’t tell us really what somebody in Fallujah is really thinking about.

“What saves the United States when it goes to war is that we have a subset of the population for a variety of reasons enlisted in officer corps that are 19th century in mentality. They live according to the protocols of the 19th century. What do I mean? They’re more likely to believe in a transcendent religion. They’re more likely to believe in nationalism. They’re more likely to believe in a tragic view that you can be good without having to be perfect. So they don’t become depressed or inordinately give us because of an error. They are more likely to have had experience with muscular matters and so military really hasn’t changed since the 19th century. The people who are ordering it and organizing it and auditing it have changed greatly. But so far it’s sort of like it’s stuck in amber and they’ve been a great salvation to the United States.”

Now, in this interview he’s talking about the military as the last refuge for those young men (many of whom are presumably white) that still have the tragic sense he was talking about above and are “more likely to believe in a transcendent religion.” In the article about the rural/urban divide, he is lamenting the loss of that sense in many men who have fled to the cities and have lost their ability to work with their hands and experience the independence and tragedy that comes with taking apart an engine, building a machine, fixing mechanical things.

I suspect, although I can’t be sure and neither can any of us pontificating on this issue, that many of these men who used to be part of communities where they could experience the tragic – through their families (nothing like waking up with a screaming baby at 3:00 AM in the morning to disabuse you of your ego and sentimentality), their blue-collar jobs, their church (where the ultimate source of transcendence and the notion of life in this “vale of tears” is inculcated at an early age) -- that it was through these institutions (family, work, church) these men could learn to grow up and deal with the vicissitudes of life.
Without any of these around, these white men turned instead to drink and drugs to cope with life; they wanted something to help them deal with brokenness and pain and were unfamiliar with getting down on their knees in prayer to God, unfamiliar with asking their wives for help (or any sort of extended family or community) or soldiering on for their children during a rough patch (because they didn’t have a wife or children), unfamiliar with learning how to solve problems and get up every morning to earn an honest living at a job they’ve never had (or only had sporadically.) Much easier to use a drink or a drug to numb the pain and cope with the disappointments and problems in their life.

What these men (and women) need more than anything is Christ – what they probably don’t even realize is their hearts are restless like Saint Augustine and they will only come to rest in the Lord. I just saw this item from St. Ignatius of Loyola Press about a new book by the Catholic priest and author Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. called The Soul's Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason:

There are many signs of the widespread loss of confidence in our ability to soar upward, and these have been noted by thinkers as diverse as Carl Jung (psychiatrist), Mircea Eliade (historian of religion), Gabriel Marcel (philosopher), and authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Their observations were validated by a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that linked the absence of religion with a marked increase in suicide, meaninglessness, substance abuse, separation from family members, and other psychological problems.

Thus, the loss of transcendence is negatively affecting an entire society. It is stealing from countless individuals their sense of happiness, dignity, ideals, virtues, and destiny.Ironically, the evidence for transcendence is greater today than in any other period in history. The problem is, this evidence has not been compiled and made widely available—a challenge Father Spitzer aspires to meet with this book.

Let us all help these men and women regain their sense of transcendence and bring to them the joy of the Gospel. Who knows, you may even save a life or two in the process.

Comments (14)

You can also add in the cost to the men of getting sent through the family law courts if they're part of the large statistical minority that gets divorced. Most of the boomers I've met have been divorced at least once, and the price the men pay is pretty steep in many cases on their well being. The whole system is increasingly geared toward screwing men. Heck, you can't swing a dead cat in Silicon Valley, DC and many other regions without hitting a recruiter that prefers to hire a woman and give her copious advancement options over hiring a man. It's been a while, but Sage posted a comment or two observing how common it is in DC to pass over young men for a female on positions where the man could have started to become a worker capable of supporting a wife and child or two. The institutions of our society are increasingly hostile to men, so it's no wonder why the more vulnerable men are increasingly falling apart.

It may be relevant at this place and hopefully in line with the topic of the main post to mention that my Facebook newsfeed (having quite a few philosophers therein) was full of quite a bit of snark and indignation about Marco Rubio's comment that we need more welders and fewer philosophers. Now, I admit, I didn't watch the debate, so I don't have the full context of the comment. But by itself, it seems to me unobjectionable, especially in the context of a discussion of the economy. And (to connect this to the main post) many lower-middle-class and lower-class young men have been ill-served by an educational system that assumes that being a welder or (God forbid) a plumber is unworthy and that everybody should go to four-year college. I think the failure to train and track people into the trades has contributed to that sense of promises unkept and an economic dead-end.

@ Lydia: Rubio's comments weren't anything controversial or silly as the chattering class made it to be. The snark towards the sentiment in favor of trades over the university tells more about the those that show vexation than any perceived nonsense of the thought (and reality) itself. In the earlier GOP debate the advocacy for blue-collar jobs was even more pronounced than the main debate.

Philosophy is an easy target because it has no aggrieved classes that would take offense, and there are a lot of bad philosophers and works. It didn't take any courage to go after Philosophy as opposed to Gender Studies or Chicano Studies. Heck, Political Science and Sociology would have been better targets because they're "even more useless" than Philosophy.

I think this about sums it up with the situation millennials are facing:

You won’t be negotiating with an individual man or even a band of men “on strike”, but with a culture. And even worse, by the time women want to marry at 30ish, a large portion of the men they are looking to as husbands and providers will have coasted for a decade or more. These “Peter Pan” men can’t go back and dedicate their teens and twenties to education and career advancement any more than their would be brides can go back and undo the ravages of time, their student loan/cc debt, and a decade and a half of slutting around before looking for a husband.

Over-educated (in majors that are neither good for careers nor good for preparation as wives as mothers) women, that were career-oriented and loose with their sexuality colliding toward the end of their desirability as marriage and mother material with men who were raised without ambition and systematically discriminated against and indoctrinated by left-wing institutions. This is going to make us really competitive in the global economy and ensure all sorts of marital bliss for decades. (It's only a question of who will be more miserable when society realizes what has happened...)

I look at what's coming up behind these middle aged men and just don't see any reason for this trend to really reverse.

@ Mike T: Sociology and Political Science (or Government, if the institution has it) aren't as useless once it's delved into seriously and respectfully. Then again I'm a bit biased since I majored in Sociology and Philosophy. Two of the GOP candidates (Rubio, Christie) majored in Political Science on a quick google search; Cruz in Public Policy.

Philosophy, English and History are staples in the liberals arts so even though they do not have immediate applications like STEM or accounting or nursing, they're still vital. Depending on who conducts the research and their integrity, social sciences can either enter The Twilight Zone or the research can add to the literate (see: Mark Regenerus, Annette Lareau). There are far more prominent sociologists that have helped make Sociology what it is and many that make it a joke.

Like the modern university, Sociology has almost turned completely sour, but not as sour as "_____" Studies. I believe the ringleader of the Mizzou's recent student activism (not the rich black student who went on a hunger strike) majored in Leadership Studies at DePaul and is currently pursuing a masters in Education. Now, Education at the graduate level, that's another social science (?) that's been very popular to enter for The Left aka Cultural Marxists.

Is there any evidence that the death rate has not increased in communities where they could experience the tragic?
As a urbanite all my life, I would dispute that urban living is any kind of soft or one would not experience the tragic in the cities.

experience the independence and tragedy that comes with taking apart an engine, building a machine, fixing mechanical things.

Why the tragedy?

There are plenty of cities in the world (particularly in the third world) where one needs to be as independent and self-reliant as any American countryman. You could not trust the Govt to deliver water, electricity, and remove sewage.
I suppose that is why death rate is not increasing there. But what about Europe? The Govt does everything, there is little faith in God, then why aren't death rates not increasing?

From the New York Times:

The analysis by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case may offer the most rigorous evidence to date of both the causes and implications of a development that has been puzzling demographers in recent years: the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites. In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case found.
The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

So, it is the middle-aged white proles that are dying faster. Are these the persons that are not getting to experience the tragic? John Derbyshire comments:

These are the casualties of the Cold Civil War. Middle-aged white proles are mostly badwhites, with an outlook, opinions, and habits scorned and despised by the goodwhite elites who own the commanding heights of our culture — and whose death rates, the Times tells us, are declining along with all other death rates, except for this one group.

Nobody stands up for middle-aged white proles. The Democratic Party, which used to, is now owned by Goldman Sachs, the anti-white race lobbies, and the man-hating, marriage-hating feminists. The Republican Party is a front for billionaire donors and the Chambers of Commerce.

These middle-aged badwhites have no representation and no prospects. Attitudes towards them from the rest of society range from indifference to hot hatred. They have no social refuges: the factory bowling leagues and Elks Clubs are long gone — Robert Putnam has documented all that. Nobody's going to pay them a decent working wage, not when there's cheap foreign labor in abundance via liberal immigration policies.

@ Mike T: Sociology and Political Science (or Government, if the institution has it) aren't as useless once it's delved into seriously and respectfully. Then again I'm a bit biased since I majored in Sociology and Philosophy. Two of the GOP candidates (Rubio, Christie) majored in Political Science on a quick google search; Cruz in Public Policy.

That's the rub, aint' it? The "delved into seriously" bit. I don't think you'd get any seriousness out of either of them until you limit the size of the major by policy to 50-100 students so that the departments can demand only the best students. I've personally never understood the value of the "education major." It was the butt of many jokes in my major (CS) because a 4.0 there was widely considered the equivalent of a 2.5 in CS and probably a 1.5 in Physics.

I've personally never understood the value of the "education major.

I think, Mike, that it was always a charade to bolster the notions for a Big Government role in education, instead of leaving the decisions at the intimate local level. State-run bureaucracies controlling education dollars and education curricula and standards can mandate that "qualified" teachers means people who have been brainwashed in "education" degrees, instead of just subject matter experts with 2 or 3 extra classes on "how to teach". It's all part of the vast left-wing conspiracy against common sense, the common sense which says that "education" isn't what a teacher needs to major in, it's what a teacher needs to be accomplishing in the classroom when teaching her students the subject she is an expert in. The great Catholic school system turned out 2 generations - from 1900 to 1950 - of educated kids with nary a teacher having an 'education" degree - how did that happen? (And, by the way, without multi-million dollar labs, playing fields, or extensive "campuses").


You ask a good question and raise an interesting issue:

(1) "But what about Europe?" -- this is a great mystery. One of the problems with attributing the problems of the middle-aged white working class (a term I prefer, rather than 'proles') to economics is that in America we could easily point to unemployment and economic hardship in Black and Hispanic communities that is 10X as bad and yet the death rates for middle-aged working class Blacks and Hispanics have not increased (they've gone down like every other middle-aged demographic.)

Likewise, Europe -- they have experienced economic hardship and yet no corresponding increase in death rates. One could point to the social welfare states in Europe as a source of comfort and aid for all those middle-aged whites who need help (although not a source of spiritual help!!!) But again, that doesn't explain why the whites in American are dying versus Black and Hispanics -- we all have the same social welfare support in America yet are experiencing difference outcomes.

(2) "These middle-aged badwhites have no representation and no prospects." -- again, this doesn't seem to explain the difference in death rates between whites and Blacks/Hispanics. In America, this is the great mystery that begs for an explanation. If you review my links, it is suggested that Black/Hispanic religiosity remains stronger and more cohesive than middle-aged white religious practice and this has helped Black/Hispanic middle-aged folks whether the economic storm. Blacks and Hispanic may have also been (ironically) benefiting from their extended family structures -- even though they experience high levels of out-of-wedlock births and experience divorce (like whites), they have stronger communal bonds between aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. to rally around family members who need help.

The key to thinking about this issue is the contrast between whites and Blacks/Hispanics in America -- why are we different in middle-age when it comes to what is killing our men and women???

and yet the death rates for middle-aged working class Blacks and Hispanics have not increased

But would I be correct in surmising that the death rate is higher in absolute terms for blacks and/or hispanics than for caucasians of middle age? Notice that what we're talking about here is a decrease or increase in the *rate* of deaths, not a difference in absolute numbers. It might be that middle-aged blacks, for example, have a much higher death rate than whites, that various programs or improvements in public health (or who knows what) have somewhat improved those dismal numbers but didn't happen to target the causes of white middle-aged death.


You are partially correct -- higher for Blacks, but not Hispanics. Here is what the original article about the paper said:

In contrast, the death rate for middle-aged blacks and Hispanics continued to decline during the same period, as did death rates for younger and older people of all races and ethnic groups.

Middle-aged blacks still have a higher mortality rate than whites — 581 per 100,000, compared with 415 for whites — but the gap is closing, and the rate for middle-aged Hispanics is far lower than for middle-aged whites at 262 per 100,000.

WRT federal stats on Hispanics, bear this in mind. In general, when the stats are favorable to Hispanics, they tend to be put into a separate category. When they're not, they tend to be lumped under whites. That's at least the case with hate crime stats from the FBI. A large portion of Hispanics are actually white and Hispanic culture has a different outlook on life from mainstream white and black culture. Now what would be interesting is to break the stat down by Hispanics of various types. I would guess that Tejanos, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and immigrants from South America do much better than the ones from Central America and Mexico on the life expectancy and crime stats (some of the Central American societies have a very serious violent crime problem, some of the worst in the world).

I don't have an email address...and I value my privacy. I stumbled onto this page.....proles...you all have a rather high opinion of yourselves almost like you think you are god.
I, self diagnosed, am what you speak of on this site..........
do you want to know why we are dropping dead?

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