Inquiry: The Intent of Suicide & The 21st Century Social Gospel

Credit: Fernando Coelho, Photographer

by LJ Frank

Somewhere on the planet at this moment a woman, a man or a child is about to commit suicide. Every minute, every hour, every day. Death is literally the singular reasonable option when they know in their heart it’s only a matter of time and not choice, as those living in a healthy body and mind, a full stomach, and a bank account might suggest. Never underestimate the aloneness of physical and loveless despair and its subsequent expression.

Three of my friends committed suicide in the past five months. Colleagues have had friends that ended their life this past year. The number of suicides around the world is increasing. 

Suicide is not a matter of self-pity, being a victim of anything or anyone. In some cultures, it’s an act of courage not cowardice. Whether it might include the mentally ill, a terminal illness, an overwhelming pain or hopelessness in the face of not knowing where your next meal will come, where you are crushed by living under a bridge, devastated by a disease, beat by living in a cultural landscape of greed where a capitalistic version of economic independence is considered the philosophy of a rationale human being, or where you’re overcome by being manipulated and abused, even with a briefcase full of college degrees and unable to find work to pay for your existence let alone your college loans while your self-esteem becomes an existential question.

The worst form of violence settles deep in your bloodstream, trapped in the violence of poverty and rooted in the rich man’s competitive scheme of winners and losers with his and her shelves of trophies.

Suicide is the end of the abuse, the self-hatred, being beaten down, the agony of being hit by those who gain the most at the expense of another they consider below them or outside their “circle of superior breeding, education and network,” or being alone in the middle of the cold night without the touch of a caring human.  

Ministers, psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, educators, politicians and lay persons decry suicide as selfish and how will it affect family, friends and the economic landcape. They don’t understand the despair for they project their filtered life and belief system on to others from a position which the person contemplating suicide lacks – like a reasonable paying job, a clean, warm shelter and a sense of self-worth that comes with being able to eat and most of all, experience life with dignity.

Those that have, speak from a position of conceit and pride, of never knowing true want and what it means to having your self-respect stripped from you, being humiliated by the very nature of capitalism and its categorizing devised by another human being in a position of power. It’s easy to say but for the grace of God go I,  not everyone is equal in body and mind.

To forbid suicide and make it illegal is anti-intellectual, inhumane and scandalous. Better just to sit next to the person and listen and not say a word except to affirm them as a human being worthy of respect and without suggesting a book to read or a thought to digest or sell them on some trendy idea foreign to their existing position of wanting to pull the trigger or jumping off a bridge; rather it’s best to acknowledge their intent and offer them your support in whatever form is available.

Suicide is commonplace, so much so, it goes by largely unnoticed though volumes have been written on it. And few people appreciate the dynamic and the inner feeling of desertion. The intent of suicide is to end the misery. 

The ultimate remedy is not achieved by calling a suicide hotline. The real remedy is more provocative and embedded in the nature of greed which is at odds with the nature of being humane. The answers can be quite disruptive to the persons of wealth. The poor will always be with us is an excuse to do nothing of consequence.

The social gospel of the 21st century is a call for humane treatment of all people and not high-minded sounding political rubbish. Humanity in order to survive must abolish the division between classes. To do so requires enacting the ancient guide of do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which in turn is a call to social, economic and political action and justice – through equal pay, a basic citizen survival allowance, single payer universal health care and tuition free schooling. Then the intent of suicide can begin to be resolved.