What is it exactly that is so cowardly about suicide?
What is it exactly that is so cowardly about suicide? The recent death of Robin Williams has triggered various emotive responses from outpourings of grief to accusations of cowardice and selfishness. It’s this latter one that gets me.
I am not sure it is possible for suicide to be cowardly. How can it be? It’s actually spectacularly courageous to kill yourself because to do it you have to overcome the most basic element of animal nature – the drive to survive.
And as for the idea that suicide is selfish – yes, the friends and family of a suicide suffer immeasurably, but surely it is just as selfish of us to demand that someone we love carry on living a life that they are finding intolerable just for us?
These ideas seem to imply that a human being somehow has a duty to live – that we owe our lives to someone. This got me thinking about life, and who owns our lives.
Do we really own and control our own existence?
If you subscribe to many of the world’s religious doctrines then the answer is no – you don’t own yourself. Your god does. Basically, God made us, therefore God owns us, and God can do what he likes with us. The Bible is pretty blatant about that, “Thou art worthy, O Lord… for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
That doesn’t sit so well with me, to be honest.
Now I’ve never been a fan of the idea of an omnipotent god and was fortunate to see through it at about 4 years old, but some people really buy into this stuff. An act of ‘self-murder’ is considered unpardonable in the Bible.
Clearly when ‘god’ (some human men) was thinking about suicide ‘he’ (the human men) realised that with the promise of a glorious afterlife came the likelihood that people might just think “Brilliant!” and immediately kill themselves, because life on earth can be rather unpleasant at times.
But then ‘god’ (the human men) wouldn’t be able to use the glorious afterlife to control the populace, so ‘he’ (the human men) had to make suicide unpardonable just to keep the bribe in place. Nice move, you dick(s).
For a long time, suicide was actually illegal (you tell me the rationale behind that law?). Laws tend to exist to protect property; this suggests to me that the state clearly thinks it has some sort of right to your life. The fact that you have to register the birth of a child is a pretty solid suggestion that the government thinks it has at least a stake in that new life.
Perhaps they’re simply cataloguing their possessions so they can keep track of them. Then when the child is old enough to earn money, the state is entitled to take some of it. And it can punish him or her if they object (by taking more of your possessions).
So, we don’t even own what we earn. There are plenty of complicated arguments in favour of this point, but I’ve only got 800 words to work with. So, you know, Google it yourself or something. Jeez, who do you think I am?
Incidentally, if you Google ‘the state own you’ Google changes it to ‘the state owe you.’ Google is pulling the wool over our eyes! They’re in on it! Run!
The people who spurt ill-thought-out comments about suicide being selfish or cowardly are basically suggesting that each of us owes it to someone or something to continue to exist.
This stock response doesn’t bear logical scrutiny – it’s probably just the sort of banal comment that has been said so many times that people think it must sound deep and contemplative.
The thing is though, regardless what governments and gods like to think, we own our lives and we have every right to do whatever we like with them. We don’t owe them to anyone.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
[Image: Knar Bedian – Suicide Graffiti, Flickr]