Disclaimer: This is all my subjective opinion and will be disturbing. There are major spoilers for the anime Bablyon as well. Those who don’t want to read something on a sensitive topic such as suicide or are having any suicidal thoughts please DO NOT read this post.
Okay, so I made a post about my thoughts on an anime series called Babylon awhile back and described how overwhelmed I was by it. Honestly, even after a few days, I can’t help but think back on the bitter taste it left in my heart. (can I say that? or must it be in my mouth?)
Anyways, what I want to talk about in this post today is the concept of legalising suicide which was the main topic of discussion within the anime.
Suicide is a very touchy subject because it is the act of taking one’s own life. Some people see it as the murder of oneself. Thus, a sin based on commandment in the bible that says “thou shalt not kill”.
However, in this anime, the enemy figure preaches of the positive change accepting death and accepting suicide could bring. To him, making suicide an option would make people confront the concept of suicide and really think it over rather than see it as simply a means of escape that is frowned upon. He believes that it could possibly even lower the suicide rate in the future.
I was curious about what it is like in reality and after some research, it seems that suicide is legal in over a 100 countries including my country of residence, Singapore. Although it was only May last year that a Criminal Law Reform Bill was passed for the decriminalisation of suicide or attempted suicide.
Also, taken from CNA website:
According to a WHO study of 192 countries and states, suicide rates “tend to decline in countries after decriminalisation”. The organisation adds that no data or case reports indicate that decriminalisation increases suicides.
However, there are studies that show the decriminalisation of suicide has led to an increase in the number of suicides.
Now, for my personal take on all this. Those people that contemplate suicide seriously would likely follow through because their circumstances have driven them into a corner. They either cannot reach out for help or there is no help for them to reach out to. As a result, they commit or attempt suicide to escape from their seemingly never ending pain and bleak future. Whether or not suicide is legalised, this is sure to happen. The only thing legalising suicide would do is reduce the punishment that is given after and for allow for those who failed to be given proper help they need instead of having to deal with what punishment is going to be handed down.
When someone decides to take their own life, there is most definitely a reason behind it. It isn’t something you can just brush off and say that they can’t do just because it is illegal. What is truly important is to find out the root of their desire to leave this world. Most people would have a reason that can be tackled, or at least, that’s what I’d like to believe. However, for those that feel a sense of loss and emptiness in this world like me there is no real answer. The closest thing to an answer is the US president in Babylon came to before dying. “To continue is good, to end is bad.”
Put simply, all we can really do is continue to think and search for some meaning in our lives. Even as an empty shell we should try all sorts of things to fill the void inside us. Hopefully, we will eventually come across that special something that can fill the void within us.
In the anime Babylon, the woman who caused all the suicides simply uttered a simple phrase “when you die, it ends”. Honestly, if someone could tell me that with certainty and in a manner in which I could believe whole-heartedly, I can’t say I’d still be here. The temptation of absolute nothingness is just that sweet to me. However, being the type that doesn’t believe anything until I’ve seen or experienced it for myself, I dare not tread too close to death because I do not know if heaven or hell or nothingness comes after. Also, who knows? Perhaps I’ll fill the void within me if I continue living and struggle.
Even as laws change, society’s opinion of something like suicide is likely to be more divided. Just like in the anime, there will be those that oppose the idea as well as those who support the idea. Those that oppose it either values the human life (fair enough) or simply finds suicide an act of running away and something only cowards do (which I find to be a real twisted view – telling someone to man up or something isn’t gonna do anything). Just like most things, not everyone is born with the same mental strength as others. Some are more sensitive and fragile compared to others. If you tell them to just deal with it or man up, what I see as a likely course of action would be them just escaping through suicide because “I’m not as strong as the rest, my presence here is of no use”. Of course I’m not saying that those who are mentally strong are invincible either.
What I feel to be the breaking point for most people is when they no longer feel needed or of value. Even if those who are mentally strong work hard and struggle to live a respectable life. When everyone around you could easily do without you or have accomplished so much more than you could, it just makes one feel more inferior day by day. All until it reaches the point where you feel that your presence is nothing but a burden, a waste of space and resources. You think to yourself “even if I try hard, I can’t compete with those around me” and if you go into the endless negative spiral, it simply becomes “why do I bother living”.
In episode 3 of Babylon, this is what Kaiki Itsuki says,
“Humankind has been afraid of death until now. We have tried to avoid it as much as possible. ‘We must not die.’ ‘We have to live as long as we are able to.’ That’s what we were taught. And that’s what we kept doing. Law, religion and morality all told us that we must avoid death. But we have already begun to understand. How unnatural it is to stay alive for no reason.”
In the world that we live in, everything needs to have a certain value to society to be permitted. No matter what sweet things people talk about the value of each and every human life, society as a whole never looks at every individual as of the same worth. There are always those above and those below. It is an inevitable fact of the world. If you can’t work well enough to put food on the table, or simply don’t have access to the necessities for survival, you will most likely die.
Even those political figures that opposed the suicide law in Babylon spoke in terms of the loss of economic growth for the country, morality based on societal ethics as well as the inability of humans to process that which is called death. All of which translates to fear of monetary loss, fear of change as well as fear of the incomprehensible. None of which actually tackles the root cause of suicide which varies from person to person. They are all simply worried of the “bigger picture” which fails at detailing what is most important in addressing the issue itself.
Sidetracking a little, but I also do not believe that people’s beliefs would change so easily just because suicide is legalised. That is evident as even in today’s world where suicide is legalised in most countries, most people look down on the concept of suicide and strongly discourage it.
Of course, what I mentioned above was only one way for a person to break. For those who are less mentally strong, the moment they are pushed into a seemingly hopeless situation that they cannot get out of, instead of trying to solve the problem, they might make an impulsive decision to commit suicide.
All in all, people commit suicide for a variety of reasons and I wouldn’t dare say I can think of every situation. In the end, although my title is “Suicide – Good or bad”, I really don’t think that it is either good or bad. It should not be handled in such a manner.
Suicide is simply the decision made by someone who feels that death is better than living. Nothing more, nothing less. It isn’t something good or bad. You might argue that the intent is important, however, it isn’t even something we are meant to judge. Some people say that suicide is bad because it hurts those close to you when you die. However, while you can say that it is selfish to kill yourself and leave behind those close to you, why can you not say that it is selfish for two individuals to choose to bring someone into existence? Of course I acknowledge that it possible for you to consult others before deciding whether to or not to die but impossible for your parents to ask you whether or not you want to be born. My comparison may be akin to those the teachers make when reprimanding students. However, the fact that coming into existence is the only way to come face-to-face with suffering makes me wish that I never existed.
In the end, we are the ones who have to struggle through life ourselves. Sure we may get the support from friends and family along the way but they can’t live your life for you. We have to handle the most difficult parts of lives ourselves. If we feel incapable of keeping up with the world around us, we should have the right to decide what we want to do with our own lives.
To never give up and persevere as most anime teaches us, or to give it all up even if it is “bad” in the eyes of society and has an uncertain outcome?
Perhaps, all that I’ve said is irresponsible of me as someone who is a coward and too afraid to actually take my own life. I don’t know what I’d do if someone decided to take their life after reading this post. Suicide is something I could never do, but also something that I think about every now and then. In the anime, Nomaru says this, “Humans cannot remain calm when it comes to death. They cannot process their own death or the death of someone else rationally.”
Later, he also states that “People are influenced by emotions and they sometimes make mistakes.” followed by “If someone makes a mistake and chooses death, there is no going back.”
In other words, he assumes that we are either incapable of thinking of suicide rationally or any decision made with emotion is invalidated. What then, does that make of those who live their lives full of passion for what they love? Those with talent and the passion to follow their dreams, are they being reckless and irrational and thus wrong? Of course not, they have results to prove them right. However, when it comes to death, there is nothing after that. Nothing to prove that their decision is right because you don’t know what could have come after that. At the same time, there is nothing to prove that they were wrong… because you can’t tell what sort of future they would have had even if they lived.
With regards to thinking about suicide rationally… I do not believe it is impossible but even if there might not be emotionally influenced as he phrased it, there will be, without a doubt, personal bias. I mean, most of our thoughts that are not factual are bound to be riddled with personal bias. It is inevitable.
In the end, this whole article of mine is nothing but personal bias except for the simple fact that the suicide has been decriminalised in most countries and is still looked down by most of those in society (although there are an awful lot of suicide “jokes” on the internet nowadays).
Although I said all that, it’s not like I don’t not understand where he is coming from. He was likely referring to those who choose suicide impulsively because the law doesn’t stop them from doing so while they are mentally unstable. Even then, when people try to confront death, they are likely to cling more so to life than before. They will think of reasons to escape death, because no matter how much they desire not to live, they will realise that they have some things in life that they want to cling to.
Of course, I can’t speak for everyone as there are likely to be people who really can’t find anything to cling to even when they confront death…
I’ve kind of reached an uncomfortable point and can’t quite find the words to conclude this post. I won’t be including a ko-fi or paypal button here cause it feels kind of wrong to add something like that at the end of a post entirely based on suicide but I do hope you found my post somewhat insightful or… I don’t know.
Hope to see you again next time.