I’ve mentioned that I value life, and to that end I’m a vegetarian, I’m against the death penalty, and I’m still uncomfortable with abortion. Yes, I’ve gone into these things in detail already and I know that they’re all more complicated issues than just “I’m against this” or “I’m for that.” The point is there is a level of consistency there based around the idea of valuing life. One of these days I’ll probably go into a whole blog post about that overall topic. For today, however, I’m going to focus on one more related element: suicide. With that, it might surprise some to find that generally speaking I have no problem with suicide.
Before I continue I should make a few key points: I am not contemplating suicide, nor have I ever. With my active imagination I will admit to daydreaming about what would happen if I did and how people would react, but that is pure fantasy. I also don’t want to get you confused when I say I have no problem with suicide: if you’re a friend of mine, I will try to help you, and in this particular instance I would have a problem with it.
I suppose I could just go with what is perceived as a more noble sense of ending one’s life–that is, if one is suffering from terminal illness or his or her life is so unlivable for any other reason, then suicide may be the best answer. Even religious people can get away with that one sometimes. This is true, I do agree with the reasoning. But to tell you the truth, on a moral or intellectual level, I don’t have a problem with anybody (aside from somebody I care about) killing themselves.
I strongly believe in individual rights. What could be a more individual act than suicide? If somebody wants to kill somebody else, I have a problem with it. If somebody wants to kill themselves, that’s their own decision. In terms of people who wish to keep on living, I do agree that sometimes people need protecting from themselves. But this stems from a matter of ignorance. If somebody is an adult they should make their own decisions. I have more respect for somebody who buys a pack of cigarettes and says “I’m going to die anyway” than I do for some health nut who gets on my ass for enjoying the odd cigar.
Back to suicide: I might not agree with you killing yourself. I might not agree with your reasons. But I agree that it’s your right. I also find it amusing that in some states suicide is illegal. How the fuck does that work? Suicide is the one act that one can do that’s outside of the law and not worry about the consequences. What are they going to do–arrest your corpse? Take your inheritance away from your next of kin? The law can only really touch attempted suicide. But if somebody wants to die, how is legal action considered a deterrent?
It probably isn’t. It’s probably more of a matter of “moral obligation” based on religion, like so much of people’s attitudes toward suicide in the first place. Maybe if we didn’t have so much self-shame based on religion suicide rates would go down.
Years ago I got involved in an e-mail exchange with a young woman (so she said) who wanted to die before she grew old. Because of legal issues I won’t go into further details about the conversation. But it does bring up an interesting point. If so many people think it’s okay for older people to commit suicide because of decrepitude, then why don’t people set aside a certain age for themselves to achieve their goals and then kill themselves? Why not make a pact with their spouses to go together? Hey, there’s a book idea in that….