The Herald are copying Stuff by running big current affairs campaigns. This week Stuff is looking at cannabis reform and the Herald are attempting to talk about suicide.
Stuff has done a pretty good job of laying out the issues over cannabis reform, but are shying away from the influence of booze and tobacco that dominates our political agenda, the racism of cannabis laws and the total political cowardice from our Politicians to be adults about prohibition.
The Herald’s suicide expose equally misses the point.
We are in total denial about our suicide culture because the why would unravel the thin veneer of the neoliberal cultural mythology we cling to and demand far too many questions we wish to ignore.
We can’t even agree on exactly how many NZers kill themselves, and critics have suggested our suicide rate may actually be 3 times higher than officially acknowledged.
The horror of our suicide rate gives us a glimpse behind the ‘she’ll be right’ facade of our culture and the dark torment of an alpha male macho mental landscape that is terribly fragile.
Our under funded social infrastructure, our ‘me first’ consumerism, our 30 years of neoliberal mythology, our disconnection from one another, our untreated pain, our lack of hope from grinding poverty in a first world country, our toxic masculinity, our unspoken rape culture, our inability to express emotion beyond anger – all of this demands questions we don’t want to hear as a society and the shame of suicide continues to hide and smother any healing.
In a society that has no religious faith and all the cultural maturity of a can of coke, the bonds which keep us attached are frail and disconnected. In our fetishisation of individualism we have lost the central part of the human condition – connection.
We have traded in our interwoven threads of whanau, friendship and kin for a race where no one wins.
Talking with those at the frontline of the suicide tsunami they say that screening for mental health isn’t enough, that many are turning up dead without ever having a history of mental illness. They suggest there is something more damaged at work here.
The reason we can’t talk about suicide is because we can’t stand to talk about the dark treacle of self hate and loneliness at the core of consumer culture. We don’t dare confront the hollowness of our existence on these far flung crags of rock for fear of what we will reveal about ourselves.
Damaged individuals competing for a self identity too fragile for the storms and tempests of life.
Thanks to neoliberalism, we are further from each other than ever before.
We huddle frightened on these lonely rocks at the end of the world and slowly one by one slip off into the swallowing dark. Until we are prepared to confront many of the individualism-over-all myths and rebuild our tattered communities, our suicide rate will remain reminding us of our whispered deceptions.
There is something broken within us as a culture that denial won’t ever fix.