PostScript: The Individual’s Right to Live and Right to Die

‘Cause she went quietly / She didn’t make a sound She went quietly / With the wish not to be found —Charlie Winston, She Went Quietly

Anthony Bourdain once said, “I hope that people … will feel the same kind of empathy and respect, and will be able to walk in somebody else’s shoes, or imagine walking in somebody else’s shoes …”

Read Also: An Invitation to Understand Suicide- Part 3

Why does it matter to walk in the shoes of someone contemplating suicide? What does it mean to put ourselves in the same situation of a person driven to a corner with no other logical recourse but to die by her own hand?

How is one to imagine even, the moment of choice and decision to take your own life? We do not, and we will never have a complete understanding of the mind on the verge of suicide. We can disagree, we can dispute, but always in respect and always only in a very limited sense.

“And what if Death were answer?”, so Elie Wiesel remembers a Jew of the Holocaust in Souls on Fire.

Different cultural experiences show us that suicide can be a form of moral duty. The Stoic and Roman statesman Cato (the Younger) killed himself as a resistance against Julius Caesar’s impending supremacy. Socrates and the Stoic Roman statesman Seneca obeyed their respective death sentences by suicide.

Read Also: An Invitation to Understand Suicide- Part 2

The Confucian emphasis on loyalty, honor, and self-sacrifice bound the scholar-officials and warriors of imperial China, Korea, and Japan to perform ritual suicide in honor of one’s master, to prove one’s sincerity, and to redeem and uphold one’s honor. And in defense of religion, devotees have engaged in suicide attacks.

Advocates of assisted suicide and euthanasia continue to contend that suicide is the individual’s dignified right to die to end suffering from illness and old age. Although highly contentious, this is also the very same argument used to view and justify depression-rooted suicides. In this case, it is argued that an individual has the right to end his life to be free from prolonged psychological agony.

Suicide as an inalienable individual freedom is at best, arbitrary, and dangerous at worst. Who are we to deny relief to a body, mind, and soul in prolonged, debilitating agony? But at the same time, we have a human responsibility to dissuade, to dispute another person’s propensity and decision for self-harm and self-annihilation.

Life is terrible.

Yet despite the rottenness and vileness of human beings, the absurdities of life, and the indiscriminate wounds that pain and misfortune inflict on us, intellectuals, writers known for their negative take on human existence like Albert Camus (The Myth of Sysiphus, The Rebel, The Stranger), Emil Cioran (On the Heights of Despair, The Trouble of Being Born), and Fernando Pessoa (The Book of Disquiet) argued against suicide. Instead, they advised that we face life head on and that to endure it is enough.

To end, I have tried and still try, and invite others to take a more understanding perspective on suicide. It is not for us outsiders to determine the relevance and value of another person’s suicide; it belongs alone to that person.

Read Also: An Invitation to Understand Suicide- Part 1

I think that it is the suddenness of suicide and the indiscriminate way in which it throws lives off balance that makes it difficult for us to understand and endure. Because I have always believed that no single life or death is isolated from the rest of humanity. Life and death connect us all, disturbs as all, dislocates us all.

And although each of us has our own lives to live, whether we like it or not, we affect one another.

 

 


Banner photo from Huffington Post

Dom Balmes

Dom writes for pay by day and writes for passion by night. He is a Japan major at the University of the Philippines. He’s fond of ramen and anime but not of nice people.

Leave a Reply