Suicide: Desensitization and the "Doctrine of Can't"
For the fourth time in a little more than four months a student attending California's Palo Alto High School has committed suicide. The most recent occurrence was carried out by jumping in front of a train. This tragedy is simply a microcosm of an alarming epidemic—that after years of steady decline, suicides by youth ages 10-19 years are again on the rise.
Any myriad of a variety of externalities could be cited as contributing to this calamity. Two often overlooked major factors include the desensitization of death and the "Doctrine of Can't."
Death surrounds us. It is the headline of the morning paper and the main story of the six-o-clock news. A loss of life is a loss of life—be it due to the conflicts in the Middle East or the actions of a citizen back home. Yes, death is a part of life and thus merits acceptance and overcoming. However, premature death is a not something that should be received so readily.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and capital punishment are two controversial subjects that deal with death. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard “I’d rather the war be there than here at home,” or “better them than us,” uttered in absolute dispassionate ignorance. Loss of life may always be circumvented if not avoided altogether. Death is still death regardless if we mourn our friends and proclaim them martyrs, or celebrate the deaths of our enemies. This portrayal has been upheld by our culture and is still particularly evident in our modern media.
The existence of capital punishment is at fault. Here and now I will not digress into fully discussing its merits and demerits. The mob is always ready to jump to vigilante action whenever they perceive a slight. However, as humans with rational minds clouded by emotion there is no way we can truly judge who deserves such a fate. How many times in a day do we say “I’m gonna kill so-and-so” for whatever frivolity they have done to us, but do not mean it? Death is viewed so apathetically that we should not have the arrogance to even attempt to judge let alone condemn another human being to death.
“Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.” – J. R. R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings).
Violence begets violence, hate begets hate, and death begets death. All things begotten are begotten exponentially.
Death has fallen into the mundane. It no longer carries the same weight and shock that it had in the past. Therefore, not enough is done to prevent it on any front. Suicide is the saddest of all deaths. It is brought on by utter rejection from society and dissatisfaction with the state of being of the soul. It is a resultant of the way we are treated and what is said to us.
The “Doctrine of Can’t” runs prevalent and unchecked throughout society. In our attempt to define ourselves we often devalue others. Everyday we are told what we can’t possibly do—statements which are in direct violation of the adage “Man can do anything he sets his mind to.” This “Doctrine” is instilled into our youth in every facet of their lives.
Youth go to school were teachers and administrators tell them they can’t amount to anything other than the potential assigned to them. Never mind the fact that students have proven these people wrong and gone off to achieve greatness and world renown. The perfect example of such is Albert Einstein—a man whose profound body of work is now taught in schools.
Youth go to church where they are told they can’t drink, do drugs, or have sex. Yet these institutions do not give them a reason other than “you’ll go to Hell;” thereby setting the youth up for failure. Never mind that partaking in those activities has emotional consequences for the here and now, instead of some far out abstracted place. All in all drinking, drugs, and sex may lead to further dejection and a vicious downward spiral.
Youths are told by their parents (who were told by their own parents) that they can’t do something “because I said so.” Never mind that this idiotic response does nothing but lead to the action being done anyway. By far, humans are rational and empathetic beings and such should always be appealed to in lieu of being shut down by hollow words.
Youth of each generation are told by the previous generations (who were told by those before them) that they can’t plausibly be anything but “degenerates,” “good-for-nothings,” and “blights upon society.” Never mind that each generation, having been told this, grows up to become the innovators and world leaders of tomorrow. In the end, society has been upheld by generations of so-called hoodlums and spoiled brats.
“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth.” – Benjamin Disraeli.
Rejection and dejection leads to bitterness. Bitterness to angry desperation. It is desperation that leads to all human ills. Suicide is one of the worst ends in that it is the most easily preventable yet in the same moment the most often not prevented. More can and must be done to eradicate this affliction from the face of the planet.
There is no justification in the natural or supernatural that can explain away the allowance of suicide. Wake up and pay attention to those next to you—to those on your right, and those on your left—for it is highly likely one if not both of them have contemplated suicide or is doing so at this very instance. Society must refrain from letting its members slip through the cracks in the floorboard. Treat those in your immediate environment with respect and dignity, with gentleness and kindness, and above all with love. Just by doing so, who knows, you might be saving a life.
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Phoenix, Arizona, United States