Archive for November, 2003

that is the question

Saturday, November 8th, 2003

Why is suicide crazy? Before you go calling the hotline for me, calm down. I’m not asking in the cry-for-help way. I’m seriously interested. And since Turgenev isn’t here to chat with me about it, I’m throwing it out there.

I mean, the DSM-IV will tell you that suicidal thoughts are a symptom of any number of big, bad disorders, and there’s no allowance that one might reasonably choose to end one’s life. Now, I’m sure some shrinks are sympathetic to right-to-die arguments, so maybe they’d accept that a terminally ill person could kill himself and still be sane. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I want to know why it is so impossible to accept that one might rationally conclude that life is not worth living. Not because you’re in excruciating physical pain, costing your family a fortune and just waiting to die anyway. I mean for other reasons.

It seems to me that there are plenty of circumstances that might cause one to want to opt out of this world – poverty, existential angst, W.

So if anyone’s still reading this, and has a good, overriding counterargument, I’d love to hear it. Bear in mind that I’m not saying that suicide would necessarily be the correct response to a given situation, only that it could be a reasonable one. (So “if you don’t like the world you should fight to change it instead of bailing out” won’t cut it.)

I mean, certainly many non-Western cultures have a place for suicide. But in America, it is by definition the result of an illness, an unsoundness of mind. Why? The only reasons I can come up with are pretty disgusting. The myths that are used to invalidate suicide as a rational choice – “there’s always hope,” religious arguments, etc – are pretty classic tools of oppression. Clearly, having a bunch of people choosing suicide would be disruptive to society. (Hell, it could be the ultimate polling – tonight on CNN: Ashcroft elected president, 39% of Americans intend to kill selves!) So I can think of reasons why the idea of suicide as sickness would be useful to society. But is there any reason why it might be true?

[For the sake of completeness and in a stab at coherence, this entry was imported from my previous, dormant blog.]