Sunday, January 26, 2020

Suicide in Northern Canada: A Sociological Perspective

Suicide in Northern Canada: A Sociological Perspective Suicide in Northern Canada: A Sociological Perspective from Two Contrasting Views Joel Ontiveros I. Introduction A growing suicide problem has plagued an indigenous community in northern Canada. Different indigenous communities have had a spike in suicide and attempted suicide due to many social and economic issues. In this essay, I aim to contrast two sociological perspectives of Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx in relation to how and why the native population in northern Canada is having a suicide crisis. II. Suicide in Northern Canada In the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Canada there have been six deaths from suicide within the first months of 2016. In addition to these there have been one hundred and forty attempted suicides within the same indigenous community. According to the New York Times article, [a] Wave of Indigenous Suicides Leaves Canadian Town Appealing for Help, author Liam Stack claims that this wave of suicides is attributed to a faulty relationship between the Canadian government and the native community. The area residents live in extreme poverty and have an unemployment rate of eighty-five percent. Moreover, the native communities poverty leads to a sense of alienation from the non-native southern Canadians who live a more comfortable life. The community and other native communities in northern Canada receive no government investments and do not have access to employment. In addition, there are no hospitals and mental health institutions for hundreds of miles away from the communities. The community, only [has one] fill-time mental health worker [who] has no medical or psychological training, just a bachelors degree in social work.[1] Stack claims that the lack of government cooperation with the communities and trauma from colonialism is what led up to this epidemic. In retrospect, the natives were forced into an alien culture and were stripped of their ancient culture. III. Solidarity and Anomic Suicide From a historical point of view, Emile Durkheim would argue that the spike in suicides in northern Canada is a result of the historical transformation from a more primitive mechanical society to [a] more organic society.[2] Durkheim claimed that a mechanical society is attached together by the common duty that everybody merely does the same type of things. In a mechanical society, all individuals would have a job to fulfill, such as hunting or gathering. This mechanical solidarity would result in individuals having a place in society and feeling a sense of belonging. It is evident that before the Americas were colonized, the natives lived in a mechanical solidarity system that consisted in every individual having a role. These determined roles focused on the collective and did not emphasize individualism. In contrast, once a society has a larger amount of people with more interaction, what Durkheim termed dynamic density, then that society will convert to an organic solidarity, Addit ionally, a division of labor is a factor in this social paradigm. The society becomes more efficient in production because the division of labor demands that the majority of individuals become specialized at a certain task. He believed that anomie happens in an organic society, which is defined as A sense associated with organic solidarity, of not knowing what one is expected to do; of being adrift in society without any clear and secure moorings.[3] Indeed, the native population in northern Canada has become a victim of organic solidarity. The lack of government resources and jobs leads individuals to feel alienated. These individuals do not have a place in modern society because of the lack of jobs and the improper assimilation that was inhumane in the first place, and did not fully incorporate the natives into the European Canadian society. In Durkheims book Suicide, he argued that people a more likely to kill themselves when they do not know what is expected of them.[4] He created categories of suicide that explain why suicide happens. One of his four types of suicide is termed anomic suicide, which he defined as: People are more likely to kill themselves when they do not know what is expected of them, where regulation is low, and they are largely free to run wild. This mad pursuit is likely to prove unsatisfying and, as a result, a higher percentage of people in such a situation are apt to commit this type of suicide.[5] It is evident that the general suicides in northern Canada can be linked to anomic suicide. The individuals do not have access to jobs or resources and live in a society that constantly promotes individualism. The lack of not knowing what to do with oneself, could lead to many existential dilemmas that repressed societies must confront. IV. Class Conflict In a contrasting sociological view, one could link a spike of suicides in northern Canada to the alienation of individuals from class conflict. Karl Marx argued that under capitalism, individuals become alienated from their family, friends, and coworkers, because of a constant conflict between the workers and capitalists. The workers or proletariat have a subsistent wage that merely lets them survive, the majority of natives living in northern Canada do not even have jobs because of an 85% unemployment rate. The natives could be labeled as the lumpenproletariat, or individuals that are below the workers, who may be constantly unemployed. While the lumpenproletariat is below the workers, they still are affected by the clash between the proletariat and bourgeoisie. The capitalists are constantly seeking ways to take advantage of surplus wages, which causes a conflict between the workers. The exploitation of surplus value leads to less resources for communities such as the northern nati ve Canadians. The lack of resources due to exploitation can be compounded with Durkheims organic solidarity, and anomic suicide to highlight the spike in suicides. Additionally, bourgeoisie dominant ideology dictates what norms/mores are to be assimilated by a community. These assimilations have created a cultural genocide for the indigenous population. V. Conclusion The indigenous of northern Canada have seen a spike in suicide because of anomic suicide and the sense of not belonging or knowing what to do in an organic solidarity paradigm. The rise in suicide can also be linked to the class conflict between the capitalists and the workers. Although, the majority of the natives are unemployed, they still are affected by the dominant ideology which dictates the norms that they were forced to assimilate. [1] Cite article pg 2 [2] Book pg 15 [3] Book pg 20 [4] Pg 22 [5] Pg 22

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