Why is suicide illegal? Because it’s a crime to destroy government property (har har)?. I’ve heard that the truth is that it gives first respondents a pretext to enact drastic measures to save your life. Under normal circumstances, people have the right to refuse medical care.
From the perspective of third parties, suicide is clearly a bad thing – a get out of jail free card when other people want you to keep playing. But how do you block the dam at the source? How do you stop people from doing it?
You’ve got to persuade them that death is no escape. Here are some methods that have been tried:
1. In the West Indies under Spanish occupation (as recorded by Girolamo Benzoni), vast numbers of men committed suicide by jumping from cliffs or by killing each other. He adds that, out of the two million original inhabitants of Haiti, fewer than 150 survived as a result of the suicides and slaughter (a number that’s hard to believe). In the end the Spaniards, seeing their labor pool dwindle, put a stop to the epidemic of suicides by persuading the Indians that they, too, would kill themselves, and would follow them into the afterlife to inflict fresh tortures. “Kill yourselves, and we’ll be there holding open the gate.”
2. In the Spanish American War, the Moros would strip naked, bind their penises and testicles with green strips of cow hide, and soak the cow hide in salt water, causing it to shrink around their genitals, causing tremendous pain. They were in such agony that they’d attack the enemy in a blind fury and feel nothing, not even a shot to the heart (apparently this is the reason the Americans switched from .38s to .45s, which is not the only time small penises and big guns have gone together, but I go off-piste). The eventual solution to these suicide attacks was to capture the Moros alive, wrap them in a pig skin, bury them up to the neck, and leave them to die. From their perspective, pork meant eternal damnation. When the Americans starting doing this, the situation rapidly returned to normal.
Is there a secular method to deter suicide? Maybe. You’d have to start out with kids, and school them the right way.
“Killing yourself? No. Doesn’t work. The universe always knows. Here’s what happens: you black out from the pills, the bloodied knife falls from your hands, you feel the galvanic surge of the train passing over and through you…and then you wake up, alive and unhurt. The kettle’s boiling. It’s time to go to school, or go to work, or go to nowhere at all. You haven’t escaped. The bottomless abyss just drops you back in other the top. I’ve tried doing it over and over. So have we all. There’s no getting out of here, and we just have to live through it.”
Wouldn’t they have heard of successful suicide victims on the news? People who apparently did what a guy on PUAHate once described to me as “manually stop breathing”?
Maybe you can explain to your kids about how time has a subjective element. For some, it’s a tumbling waterfall. For others, it’s a trickling brook. Maybe for suicide victims, it has the consistency of pitch at room temperature – apparently solid, yet flowing over the course of millions of years. As you kill yourself, your brain captures a moment, and holds it in Zeno’s paradox of increasingly smaller intervals, stretching out eternally.
People who get run over by a train? They’re still under the train.
There’s ways to make suicide seem far less attractive. It involves lying, but maybe suicide victims themselves are already deceiving themselves by imagining an escape route anywhere.