Sunday, June 24, 2007

Troubled History

The suicide rate in Northern Ireland has increased dramatically since the end of the "troubles" [BBC News Aug 2005, June 2007].

There are several possible explanations for this.

1. Civil unrest provides a "buffer".
"When people come together to confront a general threat they tend to think less about themselves as individuals and more of the common cause". [BBC News Aug 2005].

2. The suicide rate represents the longer-term consequences ("fall-out") from the troubles. [BBC News June 2007] [Day of Private Reflection].

3. As the "troubles" have subsided, political attention has shifted to other issues - such as bullying. ["Paisley calls for inquiry into Ulster school bullies", Guardian June 2004.]

4. And the way people now think about the "troubles" may already be starting to shift. [See my earlier post: History Lesson.]

This diversity of explanation demonstrates that we have to be careful in ascribing purposes and effects to complex systems and events. A simplistic POSIWID analysis might latch onto the first explanation, looking for (perhaps even confident of finding) some positive benefits from (even the most terrible) negative events. [See my earlier post: Silver Lining]. Whereas a more subtle POSIWID analysis would be sensitive to the possibility of delayed long-term and socially constructed effects.

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