Tuesday, November 30, 2010
"Vice Pioneers" : Suicide
The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis, 1856
Aokigahara Forest: 2nd most popular location
Arthur Schopenhauer: proponent of suicide for all
With the news that several celebrities are planning to kill their online personas (see yesterday's news post), I thought it would be fitting to look into suicide, the actual act of killing oneself. Not to be taken lightly, it has become a very popular issue as of late with the rise of gay youth committing the act as a means to escape bullying and ridicule. The information is moreso a look into the ins and outs of suicide opposed to its history, but it is informatibe nonetheless.
From Wikipedia: Suicide (Latin suicidium, from sui caedere, "to kill oneself") is the act of a human being intentionally causing his or her own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair, or attributed to some underlying mental disorder which includes depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism and drug abuse. Financial difficulties, troubles with interpersonal relationships and other undesirable situations play a significant role.
Over one million people commit suicide every year. The World Health Organization estimates that it is the thirteenth-leading cause of death worldwide. It is a leading cause of death among teenagers and adults under 35. There are an estimated 10 to 20 million non-fatal attempted suicides every year worldwide.
Views on suicide have been influenced by broader cultural views on existential themes such as religion, honor, and the meaning of life. The Abrahamic religions consider suicide an offense towards God due to religious belief in the sanctity of life. In the West it was often regarded as a serious crime. Conversely, during the samurai era in Japan, seppuku was respected as a means of atonement for failure or as a form of protest. In the 20th century, suicide in the form of self-immolation has been used as a form of protest, and in the form of kamikaze and suicide bombing as a military or terrorist tactic. Sati is a Hindu funeral practice in which the widow would immolate herself on her husband's funeral pyre, either willingly, or under pressure from the family and in-laws.
Medically assisted suicide (euthanasia, or the right to die) is currently a controversial ethical issue involving people who are terminally ill, in extreme pain, or have (perceived or construed) minimal quality of life through injury or illness. Self-sacrifice for others is not always considered suicide, as the goal is not to kill oneself but to save another; however, Émile Durkheim's theory termed such acts "altruistic suicide."
Some see suicide as a legitimate matter of personal choice and a human right (colloquially known as the right to die movement), and maintain that no one should be forced to suffer against their will, particularly from conditions such as incurable disease, mental illness, and old age that have no possibility of improvement. Proponents of this view reject the belief that suicide is always irrational, arguing instead that it can be a valid last resort for those enduring major pain or trauma. This perspective is most popular in continental Europe, where euthanasia and other such topics are commonly discussed in parliament and has a good deal of support.
A narrower segment of this group considers suicide something between a grave but condonable choice in some circumstances and a sacrosanct right for anyone (even a young and healthy person) who believes they have rationally and conscientiously come to the decision to end their own lives. Notable supporters of this school of thought include German pessimist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Scottish empiricist David Hume.
Bioethicist Jacob Appel has become the leading advocate for this position in the United States. Adherents of this view often advocate the abrogation of statutes that restrict the liberties of people known to be suicidal, such as laws permitting their involuntary commitment to mental hospitals.
Some landmarks have become known for high levels of suicide attempts. The four most popular locations in the world are reportedly San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Toronto's Bloor Street Viaduct (before the construction of the Luminous Veil), Japan's Aokigahara Forest and England's Beachy Head. In 2005 the Golden Gate Bridge had a count exceeding 1,200 jumpers since its construction in 1937, in 1997 the Bloor Street Viaduct had one suicide every 22 days, and in 2002 Aokigahara had a record of 78 bodies found within the forest, replacing the previous record of 73 in 1998. The suicide rate of these places is so high that numerous signs, urging potential victims of suicide to seek help, have been posted.
In most forms of Christianity, suicide is considered a sin, based mainly on the writings of influential Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages, such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas; suicide was not considered a sin under the Byzantine Christian code of Justinian, for instance. In Catholic doctrine, the argument is based on the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (made applicable under the New Covenant by Jesus in Matthew 19:18), as well as the idea that life is a gift given by God which should not be spurned, and that suicide is against the "natural order" and thus interferes with God's master plan for the world. However, it is believed that mental illness or grave fear of suffering diminishes the responsibility of the one completing suicide. Counter-arguments include the following: that the sixth commandment is more accurately translated as "thou shalt not murder", not necessarily applying to the self; that taking one's own life no more violates God's Law than does curing a disease; and that a number of suicides by followers of God are recorded in the Bible with no dire condemnation.
Judaism focuses on the importance of valuing this life, and as such, suicide is tantamount to denying God's goodness in the world. Despite this, under extreme circumstances when there has seemed no choice but to either be killed or forced to betray their religion, Jews have committed individual suicide or mass suicide (see Masada, First French persecution of the Jews, and York Castle for examples) and as a grim reminder there is even a prayer in the Jewish liturgy for "when the knife is at the throat", for those dying "to sanctify God's Name". These acts have received mixed responses by Jewish authorities, regarded both as examples of heroic martyrdom, whilst others state that it was wrong for them to take their own lives in anticipation of martyrdom.
Suicide is not allowed in Islam; however, martyring oneself for Allah (during combat) is not considered the same as completing suicide. Suicide in Islam is seen as a sign of disbelief in God.
In Hinduism, suicide is generally frowned upon and is considered equally sinful as murdering another in contemporary Hindu society. Hindu Scriptures state that one who commits suicide will become part of the spirit world, wandering earth until the time one would have otherwise died, had one not committed suicide. However, Hinduism accept a man's right to end one's life through the non-violent practice of fasting to death, termed Prayopavesa. But Prayopavesa is strictly restricted to people who have no desire or ambition left, and no responsibilities remaining in this life. Jainism has a similar practice named Santhara. Sati, or self-immolation by widows was prevalent in Hindu society during the Middle Ages.
In other animals
Suicide has been observed in salmonella seeking to overcome competing bacteria by triggering an immune system response against them. Suicidal defences by workers are also noted in a Brazilian ant Forelius pusillus where a small group of ants leaves the security of the nest after sealing the entrance from the outside each evening.
Pea aphids, when threatened by a ladybug, can explode themselves, scattering and protecting their brethren and sometimes even killing the lady bug. Some species of termites have soldiers that explode, covering their enemies with sticky goo. There have been anecdotal reports of dogs, horses, and dolphins committing suicide, but little hard evidence. There has been little scientific study of animal suicide.