Notes of a Degenerate Dreamer: Suicide and the Horrors of Life
By Sebastian Vice
Derek Humphry’s Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying opens with a warning on the proper use of the book. Namely, urging non-fatal people (this is dubious—all of us are in a state of constant death) to seek professional help if they consider ending their own life. This sentiment bothered me, but given the contentious nature of the book, I can understand why such a warning was included. On the other hand, if someone wants to end their own life (regardless of the reason) why not?
I’ve never found the arguments against suicide compelling. Most seem to boil down to some sanctity of life bullshit, or resort to some nonsensical religious reason (which are often reducible to the sanctity of life which is more than a little ironic considering Western holy books). But as a civilized species we don’t really believe in the sanctity of life, do we? It’s a nice phrase to toss around, but in practice it’s devoid of significance. It’s a phrase pro-birth people use to bludgeon people with while pretending to care about the unborn (spoiler: they really don’t). Yet at the end of the day, like so much of civilized society, it’s nothing more than mythic bullshit used to comfort the already comfortable in a blanket of delusion.
Embedded in our socioeconomic and political institutions is a full-throttle commitment to human misery. A cold hard look at most societies, especially Western civilizations, has shown that, if anything, there can be a species divorced from its own nature to such an extreme that they either consciously or unconsciously hunger for the grave (though special props go to North Korea for constructing a society dedicated to the eradication of human flourishing).
Below is an incomplete list of things we do that dispel the notion that as a civilized species we hold human life sacred (or any life for that matter).
Meaningless and humiliating jobs
(And the list goes on and on).
I get so tired of hearing about the sanctity of life, when we do nothing about gun violence. I get so tired of hearing about the sanctity of life, when we wage wars of conquest. I get so tired of hearing about the sanctity of life when the state executes its own citizens. And if we really valued human life, we wouldn’t deny healthcare to people, nor let them languish on the streets in a world of plenty.
Not convinced we couldn’t give less of a shit about the sanctity of life? Imagine you’re an alien anthropologist visiting Earth. You know nothing of its organisms. What would be your rational conclusion after seeing the senseless brutality of civilization? You see billions of dollars devoted each year to weapons manufactures. You see countries bombed daily. You see these strange entities called “corporations” which indifferently poison the very land it relies on. On a mass scale, you see death and misery. What would your conclusion be? Would you conclude the human race values living things, or would you conclude we, as a species, are hellbent on its own destruction? (I wager the latter).
Fuck this hollow notion that life is sacred. You can sell your sanctity of life bullshit to assholes raptured in delusion. I ain’t swallowing it.
Let’s stop pretending as a society that we value human life. We don’t, and as far as I can tell, we never have. We value human beings only in so far as they are of economic value. Civilized humans are nothing but cogs in the system, discarded after we’ve chewed them up. Isn’t this why we treat the elderly in such abhorrent ways? They are often too poor to buy cheaply made shit, and too old to endure the humiliation of bullshit jobs. So we let them rot in nursing homes. We don’t treat children much better, because again, they don’t generate much economic value. And rarely have I met a woman who, after opening up to me, hasn’t been sexually assaulted.
There’s a metaphor that compares life to a game. The game of life. We find similar notions in eastern traditions. According the Hindu cosmology, life as we’ve been indoctrinated to view it is a grand illusion. They call it Maya: the grand, or cosmic, illusion. We can liken it to a theatrical production, a drama played out on a cosmic stage. Though I wager the audience is empty and many of us actors aren’t having much fun.
Every so often we get folks who glimpse life for what it really is: just a ride (Bill Hicks), or a game or a grand drama. And too often, the ride, the game, the drama, ceases to be fun. It can be fun for a while, of course, but like any game, it gets old eventually.
And when it gets old, what’s so wrong about checking out? About not participating in this theater of nightmares anymore?
Consider the contortions we go through to escape this so-called wonderful life. How many of us navigate life sober? Few, I wager. How many of us are eaten up be distractions? We bing Netflix, play videogames until our eyes turn red, shop and rack up credit card debt, etc. We do anything, absolutely anything, regardless of harm, to not be alive, to escape life which everyone claims is so fucking awesome. But if life is so awesome, why are our phones tattooed to our hands?
We go to extremes to merely exist, while subverting everything about being truly alive. And I’m no better and I’m not judging. You’ll find no moralizing or chastising from me for any escape one can get from this wretched existence. I see the shit show and disassociate as much as the next person. Like so many, most of my day is consumed with distractions.
If we need constant vacations from our lives, is a permanent vacation so bad? After all, aren’t many of us already dead inside? But we carry on, husks in caught in the möbius strip of ontological horror, believing life is great or perhaps no-so-bad-after-all.
I’m neither advocating nor chastising those who end their lives. I see it as neither a virtue nor a vice, nor heroic nor cowardly. It’s just an option. And it should be an option available without judgment. Period.
Suicide rates are a leading killer, right up there with heart disease and cancer, and it’s not hard to see why. I’m just shocked it’s not higher.
And to add a pithy comment for any psychotherapists or psychiatrists who might be reading this: Don’t presume your perspective on a person’s life is superior to one’s subjective evaluation. You don’t have a God’s eye view of existence, nor do you experience the horrors inside another’s mind. If I can concede that sometimes one’s subjective opinion on their own life can be mistaken, it’s only fair you concede your faux objective opinion can also be mistaken. And given psychotherapy and psychiatry has a long history of abuse and nonsense, I value your opinion as much as a psychic or alchemist.
There are plenty of reasons to stick around and suffer existence. There are also more than enough reasons to check the fuck out.
P.S. Send all hate mail to James Bergman (a.k.a. Ahead Of The Curve).
Sebastian Vice is the founder of Outcast-Press, an indie publishing company specializing in transgressive fiction and dirty realism. His poetry and short fiction has, or will, appear in Punk Noir Magazine, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Close To The Bone, Terror House Magazine, and the anthology In Filth It Shall Be Found.