(please read Part I tobe in the context)
In the 1910s, a wave of suicides covered gymnasium students in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. That was the time of “tightening the screws” in the political life of the Russian Empire after the recent rise of revolutionary movements. The youth could not cope up with a sense of doom and fatalism due to a grim future provided by the reactionary Tsarist government. A century later, in the 2010s, a number of suicides happened among young Russians under the influence of some anonymous groups on the internet (the “Blue whale” and the like) that called teenagers for leaving their senseless existence in a society of total corruption and consumerism.
Nowadays, young martyrs from both ISIL and the other radical Islamic groups easily give up their lives through committing suicidal terrorist attacks against the servants of Iblis (Satan) in the face of citizens of the Western world. At the same time, dozens of thousands of opioid overdose deaths become endemic in the United States. In all the above-mentioned cases, the outcome is the same while reasons seem to be significantly different.
In other words, the ones who committed suicides could answer the question “Why?” with different arguments. Nobody can argue that a Russian gymnasium student from the beginning of the 20th century has anything in common with an Islamic suicide bomber from the beginning of the 21st century. But a variety of reasons is just an illusion. A reason for any kind of suicide is always one and the same. Let’s try to find and articulate such a reason together.
A scandal that erupted after a publication about the student suicides in one of the Russian quasi liberal newspapers in 1911 was based on the idea that the human right to leave the life voluntarily should be accepted as legal. It did not contradict the logic of a society where the state made citizens sacrifice themselves for state interests at any moment. However, the conservative majority of the then Russian population insisted on banning all liberal media as if the latter was the cause of all social evils. Nobody needed to figure out the true reasons for the suicides.
In the 2010s, when the problem of suicides among Russian teenagers was discussed in the Russian State Duma (Parliament), limited access to the internet for the entire population appeared the only viable solution which deputies of the State Duma could invent. Two solutions standing from each other in a century-long period are too similar to be a coincidence. Russia has not changed since then, some might notice about it. But what about the other countries? Russia is not isolated from the rest of the world in contrast to the Soviet Union with its iron curtain.
Western discourse tackles suicides in a few different ways. News media always blame suicide bombers in a legal framework. Bombers commit crimes, nothing extra needs to be discussed. They are just crazy fanatics, fundamentalists, radical Islamists, and terrorists. They hate Western society. The reasons for their behavior are clear and taken for granted. Terrorists are the scariest bugaboo for humanity today, they are stigmatized as pure evil. The question “why?” is irrelevant to the evil.
Another approach is available when euthanasia as the most extreme manifestation of healthcare is discussed. Suicide is to be sanctioned by the public and executed by medical professionals in such a case. It looks more like a voluntarily initiated capital punishment rather than a spontaneous action of an individual who chooses nothingness. Nobody really cares about why a suicide decides not to cast a shadow any longer. Society cares about keeping up appearances in such a case. It removes death from the equation again. But doesn’t society neglect life via neglecting death? Isn’t it a vulgar liberal approach when life amounts to comfort to be intolerant to death as to pain?
But since the death subject cannot be silenced completely, it is necessary to turn it into something non-threatening and innocuous, something easily discussable in public. Modern culture to the rescue providing “softcore” publicity of suicide through various horror movies such as, for instance, “Birdbox” (2018) and “Cell” (2016). Unknown supernatural evil pushes people to commit mass suicide in the movies. And if so, suicide takes the form of homicide. It does not look horrific on the screen because people leave their lives on their own while the reason for doing so is unexplainable.
Once the death on the screen appears meaningless, the problem of suicide is deactivated: Western people percieve such a sort of death similarly to how they percieve their lives that are meaningless as well. Thus the problem is either shifted to a broad discourse of war and peace or redirected to the mass consumer psychoanalysis that never tackles fundamental questions.
Yet another social discourse emerges when deaths due to opioid overdose appear beyond the subject of discussions on suicide at all. Various social and economic problems underlying the opioid scourge are considered explicitly impersonal. A popular public opinion implies that drug addicts kill themselves unintentionally, it just happens due to a tragic underestimation of large doses. Of course, clearly intentional suicides through overdose are also available, but like any other exception to the rule, they merely confirm the rule. Hence, personal death as an existential human problem is substituted by troubles in the social economy.
The phenomenon of suicide is very illustrative when we consider the attitude of society to death. In terms of decision making, suicide is totally personal, it excludes all the others, it represents intimate tet-a-tet relationships with death. Once the main task of society is to dissolve the human factor, any individual approach to death is exposed to blurring with conventional postulates. Even though economic, religious, and political factors provide weak explanations of why people decide to terminate their existence, society forcibly emphasizes various interim conclusions and epiphenomena instead of looking for the true reasons.
But even if so, the impersonal social dimension can provide some hints at the common reason for suicide. The vaguely defined striving to happiness is accepted by society as one of the basic human rights today. The final quasi-objective for every modern human being is to be happy in accordance with crowd wisdom. Therefore, we may assume that the suicidals feel critically unhappy to keep living their lives. Thus, our task comes to figuring out why it is so. Generalization is possible once we remain in the field of society.
When we are trying to change something in life, the more or less clear images of ourselves are available in our imagination. The images differ from who and what we are now. The very dissatisfaction regarding our current position makes us move towards our specific personal goals. Otherwise, no change in life is needed. We can keep moving as long as we realize that our goals are achievable as such. So, we hold happier versions of ourselves in mind when we are approaching our goals. It does not matter how many versions are available. The scope and scale of changes needed to be made for getting to our better images can vary to a great extent.
Revolutionary Russian students saw themselves as citizens of a future democratic republic instead of being subjects of the then Empire. The contemporary Islamic martyrs can, probably, see themselves as holy warriors of Allah whose true residence is in paradise. But someone can be satisfied with just another fancy gizmo in a pocket or on the wrist to demonstrate all that coolness to jealous classmates. Yet another one will be happy with the next dose of opioids to perceive a grim reality around through more colorful lenses. Any kind of goal is decent as long as it remains reachable. But what if it does not?
Here we can grasp the real reason for that critical unhappiness which, sometimes, leads to suicide. This is not just an impossibility to reach your own goals and create a better version of yourself. This is a terrifying prospect to remain who and what we are today forever. In other words, an opportunity to stay as unhappy as before becomes, oftentimes, so unbearable for many people that suicide looks like the only way out from such hopelessness. Not to be different seems the heaviest burden that people cannot shoulder in many cases.
Where does our incapability of being average in our own eyes have roots? Why do numerous real and imaginary goals always lurk on the horizon? A radical individualism dominating nowadays in the very fabric of our social life makes us seek something different from what we already have. At a deep subconscious level of mind, we know that all of us belong to the same species of homo sapiens.
We know that a black shepherd from Africa is absolutely equal to a white manager from America in terms of all inherent natural features of humans. The tacit knowledge we have about our nature continuously whispers in our ears that a billionaire eating delicacies from platinum plates and a hobo eating leftovers from dumpsters both crap with the very same shit at the end of the day. Common sense suggests that we would never achieve such a degree of globalization if humans have some critical biological differences.
Origin, skin color, education, wealth, gender, social status, religion, political views, as well as other possible distinctive characteristics cannot change the fact that everyone is a set of living cells working under the same algorithms that will finally bring us to the same bunch of decaying organic aimed at maintaining the energy balance of this planet. The truth is that WE ALL ARE AVERAGE. And only our ambitions make us think otherwise.
At the present stage of reasoning, we should clearly distinguish the following three aspects of our human nature: a biological organism, a reflecting consciousness, and a social creature. Ambitions belong to the third one only.
Ambitions are impossible beyond society as well as a society is impossible without ambitious people. Any desire for change is fuelled with just ambitions. Any striving for being different creates goals, thereby moving progress forward. But at the same time, ambitions make us forget the fundamental truth that we all are equally average in terms of our biological origin.
So, we can see a double-edged sword of ambitions that is our personal enemy and the main ally of society simultaneously. Even though logic tells that society is an enemy of individuals (an ally of my enemy is my enemy), it is hardly worth simplifying everything to such a degree. Besides, a concept of individual — the one who does not have any kind of collective identity — is one of the basic doctrines of postmodernity.
An individual becomes an individual when a strong feeling of separateness from the other people finds a place in his/her mind. Besides, that feeling must be validated with sufficient rational arguments. Moreover, the actual everyday routine must practically confirm the legitimacy of both the feeling and the arguments. The true individual cannot be average by definition: individuals are incomparable and unparalleled. But society evaluates everyone through the prism of success. It dictates us to which of the two main social groups we belong: to either winners or losers.
The contemporary behavioral model suggests that only losers may accept to be average. It is the cardinal sin for winners to be like anyone else. Customization became a central mantra for manufacturers, personalization became a must-have feature for service providers. Even mass serial products must have options making them look tailor-made. Consumers are not a crowd anymore, we live in a world of unparalleled identities. This is an absolute and total fake!
Individualism is the strongest weapon of modern society being an illusion at the same time. The thing is that no true individuals are available in any society. Society seemingly appreciates individuals making them obey collective social power simultaneously. An individual personality having a collective social identity is nonsense making intelligent people feel nothing but cognitive dissonance. Humans have no options to evaluate themselves with anything other than social conventions. The so-called universal human values determine what we are in the eyes of social multitudes while our personal existential concerns do not matter at all.
A desire to be different from what we are at the present moment without an actual opportunity to achieve this goal is the bottom reason for any suicide. In other words, society-induced wishful thinking drives people to graves. We confuse an artificially imposed ego with a deep self. We are chasing serially-produced social phantoms instead of leveraging our own uniqueness.
Various personal goals constitute the next upper level of the problem. We make futile efforts to merge with the improved versions of ourselves without much reflection. We feed society with our vital energy having no idea how it can contribute to our non-social selves. Our personal teleology is repressed by social propaganda.
Methods and approaches aimed at achieving our goals go next in the hierarchy of suicide reasons. An inability to achieve our fictional goals with the conventional methods and socially acceptable approaches can be a final trigger for committing suicide. An individual who is going overboard in order not to be average is the most vulnerable target for suicidal thoughts.
To be absolutely unique we should do literally nothing, in fact. Whatever effort we can make looking for originality, it inevitably will put us on the assembly line of typical fates. Probably, the sudden tragical apprehension that society will never allow anybody to go beyond socially determined images pushes some people to a radical protest via suicide. Probably, the suicidals can detect nothing really personal, nothing completely of their own except death within the multifaceted substance of social existence. Society has already swallowed up human life long ago. But death is always way out of society’s jaws.
(to be continued)