Second idea: whatever groups this person is embedded into, be they their religion, socioeconomic status, their family, race, whether they are male or female, whether they live in a city or a rural area, whatever it is, they all have different suicide rates. How is that possible? If each one of these people who are contemplating killing themselves is making a free, individual act, a free decision, how is it possible that they all have different suicide rates?
The suicide rates for human beings should be the same. But it’s not. Because somehow, we are embedded deep into a structure of life that shapes us; even the most private, personal actions. So this person’s sitting here not thinking about sociology, not thinking about it’s coming toward the end of the year, and it’s looking like the suicide rate is going to be the same as it was last year, not thinking about any of that. Not thinking about how these things are pushing all these people forward. No. They’re thinking this is a personal, private decision.
But what if they saw the sociology? What if they were thinking like a sociologist? In fact, what if we all thought like sociologists? What would happen? First off, we would see that we are never alone. We’re supremely connected. Absolutely connected to others. We would see that our problems are not our problems. My problems aren’t my problems. They’re not mine, they are ours. Any problem that I have, any suffering that I engage in, it’s a problem and a suffering that I share with everybody.
In sociology, we talk about the sociological imagination: personal troubles, public issues. The other thing? We would feel empowered. I used to think that I was empowered by being separated from other people. But in fact, what I discover as a sociologist, is that I’m empowered by seeing the interconnectivity, seeing myself in this larger web.
And the other thing is inspiration. I feel inspired when I think like a sociologist. I’m inspired because I’m connected to all the other people. My actions are the actions that other people are engaging, and my thoughts, my concerns, are the same as others. So I’m doing it for them, and they are doing it for me.
And finally, the most interesting piece, what I think is really the most interesting piece, is that the groups that I’m most connected to may not be the ones that I think about and that I see on a regular basis. It may not be my family. It may not be other people who are like me, in my community, in my culture. The groups I’m most connected to might be invisible. I might not know any of these people, but I’m really connected to them. This is the wisdom of sociology.
But now I want to give you another example. This one hits close to home. Remember my girlfriend? So I acquired enough wisdom to marry her. And for 25 years, we have been living together, very happily. We love each other dearly. We work together, we play together. It’s a wonderful marriage.
And five years ago, she went through a rite of passage. And her rite of passage is that turbulent time, those swirling waters that women go through that we call perimenopause, that time leading up to menopause. Lots of pain, lots of suffering. It’s a struggle. And we went into it together. In here, this marriage, this love, and suddenly, we’re questioning. We said, “What’s going on?” And the struggle. And we were in our quiet times together, we were alone. We were looking at each other, and we were saying, “How can this be? We’ve worked so hard. What’s happening?” And always we apply sociological wisdom.
And here is what we see. We are not alone. We are members of an invisible tribe. And the invisible tribe is all of the people, all the women, all the couples that are going through this. Just like us. We don’t see them. But we are members. We are a big community. And suddenly, we reach out, and we are part of this global web.
So we imagine ourselves, in those times, those difficult times, we imagine ourselves holding hands with all of these people, all around the world, who are going through what we are going through. And here we are, in our private, private time together, but we’re not… we are holding hands, we are connected to life, and when we are connected to life, we feel powerful, we feel like, “Yes, we can do this!” Other people need us to do it, and we need them to do it.
This is so much bigger than we are. It’s beautiful. And so the wisdom of sociology. (Portuguese) I am humanity. I, always, I am humanity. (Portuguese) We are humanity. We are humanity. (Portuguese) Thank you very much.