05 December 2011

On Debtors' And Veterans' Suicides

Every time I think about them, I find a closer relationship between the phenomenon of students taking out large loans to get degrees that have been losing their value in this economy and the phenomenon of young people signing up for the military during times of wars that aren't being fought on our soil.

The most obvious relationship between the two phenomena is that they're concurrent.  But more to the point, they're both results and symptoms of the state of this country's economy, and of the ways the missions and values of some of this country's most respected institutions have been perverted.

The Armed Forces of this country are ostensibly for the defense of this country.  As I understand it, that is how they were envisioned when they were founded in the early days of this county:  The idea of fighting foreign wars was abhorrent to the "Founding Fathers." 

The idea of a university as an economic engine that helps to drive the financial-political complex would have been equally abhorrent to the founders and early administrators of this country's colleges and universities.  Yet that is exactly what they--particularly in programs like law--have become.  

While pre-World War II universites were undoubtedly elitist, at least in a socio-economic sense, they at least served a purpose of helping to develop the next generation of leaders, thinkers and creators.  Although their role in society and the economy was much smaller than it is now, at least that role was relatively clearly defined, or at least adhered to with some kind of consistency.  

Most important, they didn't present themselves as something they're not:  namely, a passage to a middle-class job. While it's certainly true that most college graduates, then, got good jobs after getting their degrees, the colleges, for the most part, didn't present themselves as ways to one of those jobs. And students didn't have to mortgage the rest of their lives to pay for one of those degrees.  

So many of our recently-returned soldiers, sailors and airmen (and -women) are paying, and will continue to pay, for the time they've spent overseas, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Some have been physically maimed, but many more have been psychologically and spiritually scarred in all sorts of ways.  Given that they were sent to fight in some country that they'd probably never heard of, and couldn't locate on a map, before they were sent there, it's amazing that more of them don't come back more damaged than they are. 

Marriages and other relations break under the strain of long deployments.  So does much else in the fabric of families and communities.  This leads to prolonged depression and, in some cases, suicide.  

The unconscionably high rate of veterans killing themselves has no parallel at any other time in American history.  Nor does the number of hopelessly endebted graduates.  Both of them have their roots in the hijacking of institutions by those whose only interest is the profit they can make from them.  That is how invasions become "defense" and taking out loans for useless degrees becomes an "investment."   As always, the ones who profit are not the ones who pay.  


  1. Pay attention to the news and don't worry, by Summer 2012 the US abd western countries will be at war in Iran that likely "started" in Syria. The real political fear is a re-run of returning Afganistan/Iraq soldiers marching on Washington without jobs like happened during the Bonus Army of the 1930s.

  2. I didn't know how bad it is for recent returning soldiers and Vets.

    Can you e-mail me some links and info?

  3. You are very right in this post.

    Students and veterans are alike in that they were persuaded into trusting two systems that supposedly can help them but in the end do not.

    Kinda strange how the world's superpower thinks it needs to defend itself.