The Seattle Airplane Suicide is A Barometer of Our Culture

Summary: Many of the social ills disrupting America result from the fragmentation of society (creating more flotsam, people isolated from friends and family) and growing numbers alienated from society. Here’s a look at one scary example.

From "Don Giovanni"
From “Don Giovanni” directed by Peter Sellars.

Seattle Airplane Suicide Is A Barometer of Culture

By Giovanni Dannato at Forward Base B, 16 August 2018.

In a society where most people have lost hope in a worthwhile future, the creep of nihilism gains ground in human hearts.

A mild-mannered airport worker with an affably broey affect commandeered a huge prop plane in a daring last act on earth rather than eke out another four to five decades as a wage slave in a drab and pointless neo-liberal society.

What is most telling about this event is not the actions of a single man, but the overwhelmingly positive public reaction I’ve seen so far on social media. Some are even calling him “Sky King” {like the long-running radio and TV show; sample episode here}.

People often identify with the motives of mass shooters more than they admit but selfishly taking the lives of others dampens any sympathy they may feel. Even in the darkest and angriest periods of my life I was disgusted by the thought of petulantly lashing out against people I didn’t even know. Sky King Rich Russell sets a new precedent by going out in a stoic and affable manner while harming no one.

This may be a natural reaction to incentives as mass shootings are now so common that like car crashes, they cease to be of much note. It now takes some more flair and creativity to get the mass society’s attention and hold it for a news cycle or two as one’s final legacy to the ages. A fleeting reward but still better for a few than to labor a whole lifetime away, appreciated by no one.

Alienation

In this time of constricting internet censorship, this suicide is an important indicator of the culture. The more the system takes away from people, the less they have to lose. Isolated suicidal people and nutjobs are harmless on their own, but the crowds regard the Sky King as almost a Robin Hood kind of figure. He hurt no one else, showing millions a glimpse of real freedom, while putting a dent in some impersonal corporation’s bottom line.

When crowds begin to support this kind of behavior, the real trouble for elites is just beginning. It is a sign that under certain circumstances, certain targets are seen as legitimate by most people.

Very tellingly, Russell was a European-American, especially when most airport workers I see running around are minorities. Suicidal behavior, especially that requiring real initiative and planning is endemic to higher-agency Euros and Asians. The Africans and Indios of this world may groan from time to time under the lash of their overlords but they resign themselves to the grimmest slog of daily life and always manage to push out progeny just the same.

I honestly cannot completely blame the world elite for wanting to replace a troublesome population with more pliant and domesticable strains. If that task were completed, there would be no more airplane thefts and no more flamboyant aerobatic maneuvers born from heightened existential consciousness.

——————————

Another perspective to our situation

A society with large numbers of alienated young men is like a forest loaded with tinder. One small spark and conditions change. This foreshadows a future for America.

“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s**t we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war. …And we’re very, very pissed off.”
— Said by Tyler Durden in Fight Club (1999).

About Giovanni Dannato

“GD is a longtime wanderer who always carries a book. He’s never burdened down by much but enjoys consumable creature comforts like cigars and a nice scotch. He keeps fit with both weights and cardio.”
— From Return of Kings; see his articles there.

He has twitten two “dissident fantasy novellas”: “Apostasy” and “The Warlord” (posted at Logos). See his What I Believe page and some of his favorite sayings. Read the interview with him by Robert Stark at Voice of Reason. A couple of other blogs he has written: 6 Heretic’s Way and Kingdom of Introversion.

He tweets at @GiovanniDannato.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about alienation, and especially these…

  1. Diagnosing the Eagle: Alienation.
  2. The bitter fruits of our alienation from America.
  3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the secret life of many Americans.
  4. Vignettes of men and women in America, alienated from their true selves.
  5. America’s men and women, alienated from our true selves.

A powerful book about fragmented lonely America

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
Available at Amazon.

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

By Robert D. Putnam.

Putnam is a professor of public policy at Harvard (see Wikipedia). From the publisher …

“Once we bowled in leagues, usually after work – but no longer. This seemingly small phenomenon symbolizes a significant social change that Robert Putnam has identified in this brilliant volume, which The Economist hailed as “a prodigious achievement.”

“Drawing on vast new data that reveal Americans’ changing behavior, Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from one another and how social structures – whether they be PTA, church, or political parties – have disintegrated. Until the publication of this groundbreaking work, no one had so deftly diagnosed the harm that these broken bonds have wreaked on our physical and civic health, nor had anyone exalted their fundamental power in creating a society that is happy, healthy, and safe.

“Like defining works from the past, such as The Lonely Crowd and The Affluent Society, and like the works of C. Wright Mills and Betty Friedan, Putnam’s Bowling Alone has identified a central crisis at the heart of our society and suggests what we can do.”

27 thoughts on “The Seattle Airplane Suicide is A Barometer of Our Culture

    1. The more you start exploring the statistics on drug overdoses and suicides over the past twenty years in the US, the scarier it gets.

      Our response to the opioid crisis is still dominated by the kind of shrill moralism you were decrying above.

      A view from the gun-nutosphere, from mostly LEOs: https://pistol-forum.com/showthread.php?21136-Heroin-Overdose-Epidemic-what-is-your-perspective.

      It’s interesting to see cops ecstatic over the local junkie population switching back to methamphetamine.

  1. The post is an example of truly problematic attitudes that have gained traction in society. They reflect and result in value judgements which are the accepted norm in some, fairly small, sections of society. They are part of the problem, they are not a diagnosis of it.

    rather than eke out another four to five decades as a wage slave in a drab and pointless neo-liberal society.

    This, you see, is how the author contemptuously characterizes holding down a steady job and working conscientiously for a living. In a ‘neo liberal’ society no less. What exactly is that? Who knows? Its just one the author considers to be ‘drab and pointless’.

    There is much wrong with American society and politics, but for generations its given jobs and opportunities to people like the Seattle suicide. What is wrong with it is not that it is drab and boring, or even that it is ‘neo-liberal’, whatever that means. Its that some quite specific policies have greatly damaged it. The most prominent among which are the perpetual wars and the government sponsored debt or credit bubble. There are many historical parallels to imperial overstretch funded by debt. They all end badly, though in some cases the polity purges itself and revives.

    Then he goes on to say

    The more the system takes away from people, the less they have to lose. Isolated suicidal people and nutjobs are harmless on their own, but the crowds regard the Sky King as almost a Robin Hood kind of figure. He hurt no one else, showing millions a glimpse of real freedom, while putting a dent in some impersonal corporation’s bottom line.

    This is the fatal late and post-romantic infuatuation with mental derangement and violence. He did not show anyone a glimpse of real freedom. To call it ‘real freedom’ is to endorse his derangement. He needed to get help for a personal psychological disorder. To class it as a form of political dissent is wrong and silly.

    Where do comments like these come from? From education. We have taught students to agree with Blake, ‘everything that lives is holy’, ‘he who restrains desire does so because his is weak enough to be restrained’. In general, we have taught that gratification of impulse is self-fulfilment, regardless of what that impulse is. We have romanticized and idealized the French and Russian revolutions, along with other 20C episodes of impulsive mass slaughter. We have allowed an elite to ridicule the whole idea of boring work in a boring society in a boring relationship. Maintain the roads and railways, the electric grid….get married…have kids? Boring!

    This trickles down by invisible pathways until it becomes part of the background of our culture, and idiots like Dannato then seize on tragic examples of personal derangement and applaud them as political gestures.

    Read Yvor Winters, In Defence of Reason, the chapter on Hart Crane. Also read Praz, The Romantic Agony, an extended slightly earlier treatment. And they wrote in the early part of the last century. This has been cooking for a long time. In European literature we start with Blake and Keats, move through Rimbaud and the deliberate ‘derangement of the senses’, and finally arrive at the deranged cult of Sylvia Plath.

    Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.

    1. It’s worth noting “Giovvani Dannato” is an extremely far-right neoreactionary: https://colonyofcommodus.wordpress.com/what-i-believe/

      A left-wing critique would recognize a lot of the same symptoms and causes (hopelessness for the future, alienation, social stagnation, etc.) and prescribe something like curtailing the power of immense corporations, social ownership of the means of production, even just fighting for better wages a d working conditions that could allow young men like this to build and lead more fulfilling lives with wallowing in dead-end jobs or being haunted by debt. I suspect Dannato’s cure for our ills is something like going back to feudalism or making Jeff Bezos the hereditary absolute monarch of America or other such anachronistic nonsense.

    2. ch1kpee,

      “It’s worth noting “Giovvani Dannato” is an extremely far-right neoreactionary: ”

      Yes, indeed. The active principle here is that new insights are usually found on the fringes. Hence my search. Some posts are by the far left Black Agenda Report, some from the far Right.

      People tend to see the world with blinders on. Self-imposed blinders. This guy is from the other side, so I will close my eyes and ears. It’s one of the many aspects of modern America that make us easy to rule.

      “A left-wing critique would …”

      See Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, described at the end of this post.

      “curtailing the power of immense corporations, social ownership of the means of production, even just fighting for better wages and working conditions ”

      A common element of Left and Right is all they see is money money money. There is more to life than money. I doubt any of those things would help much. Again, see Putnam’s book about the collapse of our social institutions:

      “I …prescribe something like curtailing the power of immense corporations, social ownership of the means of production, even just fighting for better wages a d working conditions that could allow young men like this to build and lead more fulfilling lives with wallowing in dead-end jobs or being haunted by debt.”

    3. There are some on the Left that do perceive our declining institutions and social cohesion, and they see it as a direct result of global capital destroying the livelihood of rural communities and factory towns, imposing ever more hours for ever less pay on those left, leaving time for little else but work (and certainly not for politics activity)

      Some on the Religious Right (particularly Catholics, at least in my observations) also recognize the corrosive effects of globalization on communities and religiosity.

      Mainstream Left and Right totally lose the picture though, with their solutions seeming to range from technocratic “we’ll make an app so you can find a fourth part-time job quicker!” pablum on the Left to let-them-eat-cake “why don’t they just move to where the jobs?” non-solutions on the Right.

    4. ch1kpee,

      “There are some on the Left that do perceive our declining institutions and social cohesion”

      Exactly. See Robert Putnam’s book.

      “and they see it as a direct result of global capital destroying the livelihood of rural communities and factory towns, ”

      That’s the Marxist legacy. Money money money. That’s all they see. A monomania, or (to be generous) one dimensional thinking. It’s one of the things in common on both Left and Right.

      The example you give is easily disproved, because even prosperous communities in America have high levels of alienation and social fragmentation.

      “Some on the Religious Right (particularly Catholics, at least in my observations) also recognize the corrosive effects of globalization on communities and religiosity.”

      As I said, both Left and Right…

    5. Larry Kummer, you’re off base when you say “That’s the Marxist legacy. Money money money”. Alienation is a key part of Marx’s critique of capitalism. If anything, social relations and human nature are a part of Marxist thought far more than they are in, say, Classical Economics.

      I think you hit on something Ch1kpee when you say the Left totally loses the picture when it proposes “technocratic “we’ll make an app so you can find a fourth part-time job quicker!” pablum” I think this is the core difference between liberalism/centrism and leftism. Liberalism does not aim to change the power structure of society — in a lot of ways it’s a political project aimed at preserving and obscuring those power relations. This is why liberals often fall for silly things like pretending some app will save the world. That type of thinking precludes acknowledging the vast imbalance of power that causes so much of the present misery and dysfunction.

    6. Blyad,

      You are, of course, correct that Marx wrote much about alienation. BUt it was all about economics. For example, see his The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (see Wikipedia). The proletariat is alienated from their process of production, from the products they produced, from their essence as workers, and each from their fellow workers.

      I oversimplified by saying Marx was all about money. It’s more than that, but “It’s all about power and the unassailable might of money.” This narrow focus dooms the societies that adopt it as their mainspring.

      Adam Smith was smarter. In 1759 he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments (see Wikipedia. He later wrote The Wealth of Nations on that foundation.

    7. I’ve never heard that quote but it’s not half bad. I wouldn’t say “unassailable” though to describe Marx – it’s kind of contrary to his whole point that the power to change the system lies in the collective struggle of working people since they comprise the vast majority of society.

      But yeah, it *is* about power. What else would it be about? Understanding how power works, who has it, and how it’s maintained are the central questions of politics. The tiny group of people who sit on corporate boards, own the majority of capital, and have control over huge domains of economic activity understand it’s about power. It reminds me of that Warren Buffet quote about how there’s class warfare, but it’s his class that’s waging it, and winning. The elite’s laser-like focus on power has never seemed to doom them in the way you suggest. If anything, that clear-eyed cynicism is a strength.

  2. I go to Tyler Durden for wisdom on this.

    “Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression — is our lives.”

    This can be put to use, but it can go either way, good or bad.What it is, just what he says, wasted potential. So many lost souls looking for meaning.

    1. Of course the author of Fight Club also clearly intended Tyler as a demagogue exploiting confused men. (This is clearer in the novel and the graphic novel sequel than the film.)

      Dear editor, being a FM fan has certainly made me even more willing to accept great ideas coming from all over the political spectrum. But this is a piece with a good idea or two which is overwhelmed by the toxic idea that willful self destruction is “agentcy,” an idea which fuels the epidemic of suicides among American middle aged males, particularly among firearms enthusiasts such as myself. (Yeah, you have a “gun nut” among your fans. I dont need flip out because you feel differently about it. I despise the NRA, BTW. They deliberately create conflict to make a buck, everything else is window dressing) Plus, the author places this in the typical racist frame of Asians/Whites good, everyone else is not “up to” freedom.

      Glorification of self-destruction is a cultural cancer which keeps us from working to make our lives better.

      Not this is an exclusively a white thing, for the multi-culti verson, see “13 Reasons Why. ” Theme: avenge yourself from the grave by outing your victimizers after killing yourself.

      It seems this piece undermines the ideas of self-responsibity you have promoted here up until now.

    2. Christopher,

      (1) “It seems this piece undermines the ideas of self-responsibity you have promoted here up until now.”

      You appear to believe that the author approves of the Seattle suicide flyer. I see it as a clear and neutral analysis. We need more of this, not the maudlin and rightesous virtue signalling that is the US media (both Left and Right).

      (2) “But this is a piece with a good idea or two which is overwhelmed by the toxic idea that willful self destruction is “agency,”

      Of course it is agency, and has been considered so by most cultures throughout history. For example, ancient Rome and both modern and ancient Japan.

      (3) “the author places this in the typical racist frame of Asians/Whites good, everyone else is not “up to” freedom.”

      True. Racism is epidemic among both Left and Right in modern America. Both have worked to make it respectable again.

      (4) “the author of Fight Club also clearly intended Tyler as a demagogue exploiting confused men.”

      Yes, that’s the point. I’ll add text making this clear. A society with large numbers of alienated young men is like a forest loaded with tinder. One small spark and conditions change.

  3. Thanks for your prompt response! With some clarification, I have no problem with using the piece to make those points.

    I have read ROK a bit, while on the whole I intensely disagree with it’s idea of solutions to cultual problems , I have been surprised at seeing men actually open up about they feel to other men in a public forum, often in an interesting and informative way.

    Having known a young man who pulled a “13 Reasons Why” (just making the girl who shot him down feel bad with a letter that arrived on the day when she would find out he killed himself , not a group of people) in High School, it is very difficult for me to approach suicide in a detached manner.

    1. Christopher,

      Thanks for responding. That’s helpful.

      “I have been surprised at seeing men actually open up about they feel to other men”

      This is one of the great changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. For 30 years I worked in the brokerage business. High stress, high failure rate, high burnout rate among those who succeed.

      Like Japanese salarymen, we would go out for serious drinking 2 or 3 times per week, lasting until roughly 10pm (sometimes later). In vino veritas. We would exchange stories about our wins, losses, screw-ups, good luck, bad luck, hopes and fears. After a few years we knew each other, since the usual masks cannot be maintained under those circumstances.

      Now that is rare, almost suicidal. Misbehavior gets reported back to HQ. Snitches are everywhere. A friend of mine, a high middle tier officer, told a bad joke (racial) late one night after many drinks. He was canned the next day. Since this socializing must include the women in the office, the opportunities for lethal errors are quite high.

      Everybody are strangers, with little bonding and mutual support. So guys use drugs. Very high usage of antidepressants, coke, and god knows what else. It’s a different world.

  4. A lot of years ago I read an article about the book Gone With The Wind. And whoever wrote it, and I don’t remember who that was, said that it was about a woman who found herself living in a way that she didn’t expect to live at that point in her life. That explanation stuck with me for some reason, because i kept seeing it in people I knew. (And eventually, I saw it in myself.)

    Someone once said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation. It’s waking up to the realization that the future isn’t what you thought it was going to be, or maybe that you just don’t have one. It’s realizing that you aren’t living the way you thought you were going to be living. To quote from the old Warren Zevon song ‘Looking For The Next Best Thing’, “I appreciate the best but I’m settling for less, I’m looking for the next best thing.” It’s not going to be the way we thought. You got divorce raped. The perfect man never came along, and now you’re over thirty and have that wasted party girl look. Your job got outsourced, You’re not going to be able to retire when you thought. You never had children, and when you go, no one will remember and the world might as well end. You never figured out what women want, and you ended up incel, or MGTOW, or divorced, or trying to make it as PUA and not making it, or living in your parents’ basement, or just confused to hell. Trump really is going to be President. The future of America is majority non-White, and the nice White college kinds have been taught to hate what they inherited. The rest of the world goes merrily on no matter how many nations we declare anathema and impose sanctions on. No matter how big a hissy fit the establishment throws.

    But the guy went out on his own terms, and he went out with style, and he didn’t hurt anyone else. People admire that, and maybe they wonder if they could do the same thing, or would they chicken out. The future isn’t what we thought, and so what do we do? Maybe we look for an exit. Maybe we take it out on the people in charge. Maybe we climb up on the roof and take it out on random passers by until we run out of ammo.Herclitus said that after death comes a thing neither hoped for nor expected. well, sometimes life can be that way too. For all of us.

    1. “The future isn’t what we thought, and so what do we do?”

      America is living with the harvest of unrealistic unexpressed expectations, and these have been substantially brought about by the attitudes of an education profession that has taught contempt for just about every aspect of traditional middle class life.

      We have moral and epistemoligical relativism (of which post-modernism is an offshoot): everything is a matter of taste and determined by class and background. We have contempt for a steady job, a marriage, and raising children, and this has later turned to contempt for the white middle class men for whom these things were central values and aims. A contempt that pre-dated the fall in the availability of such jobs or women who also wanted that.

      We have a romantic infatuation with derangement of the senses as personal fulfilment, and a feeling that lives and prospects should be different and better. It often takes the form of an unconscious snobbery about the middle classes.

      The question to ask is what is the underlying cause of this cultural malaise, in fact crisis. We can see that post modernism and romantic left wing ideas have taken over the educational establishment and spread widely in the country. The question is why now, why so pervasive, why so unchallenged?

      I think Larry is right to criticize the view that money is the only thing that matters in this. But I think its a big part of setting the conditions for it. When jobs vanish, real wages fall, and asset prices soar on the scale and for the time we have seen, this is going to have, and has had profound social consequences. But the problem isn’t this undefined thing called global capitalism, and the answer isn’t this undefined thing called socialism.

      The fundamental problem is imperial overstretch funded on debt. It is a massive debt or credit bubble. Like all such bubbles it has destroyed ordinary businesses and jobs. They bring about temporary abundance for some classes, and this in turn brings irresponsibility and a feeling that resources are unlimited. It has parallels to the 1920s, but its worse because of the scale and because of the perpetual wars.

      I don’t see clearly how it is going to end, though it must end. And I don’t either see how to bring about effective political reform. As soon as you say that its essential to get a grip on debt creation, government debt creation, the endless pointless wars, you see the problem. How on earth can the people do anything effective about that? I wish I knew.

    2. Thank you for a great post. Well written with refreshingly clear views.
      How much do you think the removal of the concept of eternal life from main stream thinking has contributed to the moral relativism that is pervasive? Do you think that it has contributed to the purposelessness and hopelessness that is so prevalent?

    3. 7Zander,

      I think you’re on the right track, more than most in this thread who see only money money money (or power, the other side of that coin). That monomania is a large part of the problem, so ingrained in America to be invisible to us.

      Other people around the world across time had active spiritual lives. Many (most?) Americans have a dead space inside where that used to be. It makes us ungrounded, with our beliefs and selves lacking a foundation.

  5. While we’re here can we get a shout out to Killdozer? from Wikipedia:

    Marvin John Heemeyer (1951 – 2004) was an American welder and an automobile muffler repair shop owner most known for his rampage with a modified bulldozer. Outraged over zoning disputes, he armored a Komatsu D355A bulldozer with layers of steel and concrete and used it on June 4, 2004 to demolish the town hall, the former mayor’s house, and other buildings in Granby, Colorado. The rampage ended when the bulldozer got stuck in the basement of a Gambles store he was in the process of destroying. Heemeyer then committed suicide.

    Heemeyer had been feuding with Granby officials, particularly over fines for violating city ordinances and a zoning dispute regarding a concrete batch plant constructed opposite his muffler shop.

  6. Without hope beyond the grave what makes sense? A the saying goes, ‘life’s a bitch and then you die.’
    It doesn’t matter if you pack bags or are president if this is all you get why bother?

    1. Mark,

      Like 7zander, I think you’re on the right track to understand our problem, our weakness.

      “There’s more to life than just life.”

  7. “Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s**t we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war. …And we’re very, very pissed off.”
    — Said by Tyler Durden in Fight Club(1999).

    I love that quote and it is spot on but don’t forget that 50 years of feminism has shamed, humiliated, damaged men.

    1. Sven,

      People, men and women, are far stronger than most give us credit for. The extreme example are slave rebellions – begun against heavy odd, done by beaten and often broken people, with failure often meaning torture and death. I can only think of one that succeeded (Haiti vs. Napoleon, aided by Yellow Fever). Yet still they happened, rarely but more often than I’d expect.

      Compared to that, complaining about “50 years of feminism” having damaged men is a bit much. If we’re broken that easily, American should be replaced by stronger people.

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