Suicide and Homicide

Fri, 28 Oct 1994 14:59:17 CST

The suicide thread has interested me. I notice nobody has related it to
homicide, however, which I consider worth thinking about. A few years
ago I suggested measuring the extent to which an entire society tends to
introvert aggressive impulses in the following way: Divide the number of
suicides in a year by the total number of killings, that is, the number
of suicides plus the number of homicides. This gives you, loosely
speaking, the proportion of all killing that is self-killing. Populous,
densely inhabited nations appear to have significantly higher values for
this index than do less populous, sparsely inhabited ones. This seems
consistent with Freud's argument, in *Civilization and Its Discontents*,
about cultural evolution's impact on psychodynamic functioning.
Crowding may make rats kill one another; but given time, it appears to
make humans kill themselves. In nations such as Austria, there are
roughly 20 suicides for every homicide; in the U.S., about one for one;
in Guatemala, about 20 homicides for every one suicide (if memory
serves). Anyway, I published a paper, "Cultural Evolution and the
Introversion of Aggression," in the small, liberal-arts journal *The
Connecticut Review*, Vol. 11 (1989), pp. 105-112. I'll gladly send a
hard copy on request. --Bob Graber