On Suicide

A thought about suicide visits and entertains lots of us, in dire and not dire situations. Sometimes, it sits on the mind like a bug and buzzes and stinks, even though there may be no unsolvable problems at all. Well, some like to say, that it is a permanent solution to both temporary and permanent problems, at least that is how it is glorified. As an act of will, which only a daring and powerful individual can take, it becomes in some view a point of glory, ending the plight of misery. But is it so? Is it a glory of death, or cowardice in face of hardship? How can we explain these situations, which are of natural occurrence, to ourselves and accept the choice of our peers to end their life? How see these tendencies in ourselves and argue against them?

The glory of death may be one of the reasons to glorify the act. It is the step into the unknown realm, and some believe it is a known realm of infinite misery. If we take the act on an individual level, of course the choice that doesn’t interfere with anyone has to be respected. An individual, if he chooses so, can end his life at any given moment, regardless of the reasons we may or may not ever see. But how can we argue against the prevention of suicide, as the elimination of reasons to end life? It is a symptom of a healthy society that increases social capital that prevents suicide by social stigma, and vice versa it is an unhealthy society that glorifies that act and decreases its social capital. Let me explain.

But first, I have to say why social capital is important and what it is. For the sake of the argument, it is the value of interconnections of the members of the society, that increases trust, cooperation and, substantially, output. It is what lets members of community know and trust their neighbors, what lets them borrow goods and services from each other, and cooperate for a common good. Would you rather leave your child with a stranger or with a well-known neighbor? Something here makes a difference, and it is social capital. Now, if we disregard the individual aspect of suicide for a second, and look upon the act’s effect on other people. Relatives and friends (as long as they are real friends, and not your foes) are loosing a member in their community, one of their peers, one link in the chain of their social existence. But whatever, who cares if matters are really bad, right?

Let us examine why people may come to suicide. In the deep of it lies (not all the time) a disbelief in any worth of life, and suicide is only a completion of a long process of devaluation of life. But who, if not an individual gives value to his own life? Maybe we can step back and see. I can argue that you can rationally and objectively come to terms and figure out that this is the best solution. However, if suicide is a natural occurrence (and cases of animal suicides have been described well), do you believe it is of your and only your faculty to drive to this conclusion? If any societal animal has cases in which it displays suicidal behavior, drowns itself, starves to death or jumps off a cliff, did they consciously come to the same conclusion about the worth of life, or did they do so by instinct? If we can say that suicide is not only rational propositions so that even animals can do it, it lead us to “Qui Bono?”, or what are the reasons for such behavior outside of your (human) faculty.

You don’t have to agree with my perspective that the tendency to commit suicide goes back to the harshest times in human history as an “in-print” on our brain. Resources were always a scarce thing in life of a human, and if the population of man-apes didn’t gather enough, didn’t ration enough, was not cautious, or gave tasks to the most incompetent members, then the likelihood of survival of everyone diminished. In a competition among populations for resources, the population which would conserve and use them the best way would triumph, both in its size and in its force over others, so that they promulgate and pass on their traits. In some point in a millions of years this had to happen within the fight among groups, which became, and still are, more valuable than an individual. In essence, the tendency to commit suicide becomes a way of self-elimination of the weakest, the most incompetent, the most ineffective members of society in the times of starvation and direst scarcity, so that the rest are more likely to survive and promulgate. Why is this still the case?

We are uncertain creatures, and that is a good thing. Sometimes life surprises us and we have a will of our own to wonder and explore, and sometimes we have to stay together as close as we can to save ourselves. The times of dire straits have passed, but the ways of the past are with us. I argue against suicide for the same reasons that I would have argued for it (yeah, a million years ago). Here, the group trumps an individual, and stops the act. Because it is stupid and ridiculous, and you shouldn’t be a fool who kills yourself. Do something else, go to a therapy and change your focus, revive your connections and don’t forget that both the will to life and a will to die lie within you, and it is normal. If you are alive and do right, you and others are more likely to be happy. Always. And don’t say “To hell with it”.