Hope, Change, and Suicide
Which got me to wondering: why do people commit suicide? And more to the point, is there any analogy between individual and collective suicide?
I have only one book on the subject, but I've never read it. I think I picked it up at a library book sale for a buck. It's by the Father of Suicidology, so it looks sound. Let's see if we can learn anything about why our cohorts are so bent on the destruction of western civilization.
Before cracking the book, here is what I know about suicide just based upon personal experience. Obviously it is related to depression, but what is depression? Clinical depression is often characterized by sadness, but more often it is marked by a pervasive sense of meaninglessness. The severely depressed person is devoid of meaning; or, to put it another way, his only meaning is relentless pain. But while it is a psychic pain, it is so intense that it is perceived as physical. Such a person may harbor ideas that he is riddled with cancer or suffering from some other fatal illness. Depression "feels" like death.
One of the most common features of depression is anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure, satisfaction, joy, or any other positive emotion. It is a kind of living hell, because in the absence of pleasure, the person literally doesn't know which way to turn. He can do this or he can do that, but it doesn't matter, so he ends up doing nothing. The doing of nothing is just an outward reflection of the inward nothingness.
The last severely depressed person I evaluated was completely anhedonic. Not only did he have no positive emotions, he didn't have any "negative" ones either. He just felt dead. While not actively suicidal, he didn't care if he died, and had passive wishes that death would simply "take him." It was as if he were pervaded by an absent-positive as opposed to a present-negative.
America is not a sad place. But it is an anhedonic place. To get a sense of this, one would have to "participate" in contemporary America, which the Raccoon refuses to do. When I say that America is anhedonic, imagine being strapped to a chair and being forced to watch its television, or listen to its contemporary music, or read its popular fiction. Any normal person would soon fall into despair and give up hope.
As it so happens, on Saturday I ran out of books. While I have several in the mail, the earliest they would arrive would be today, so that meant two days with no innertainment. Therefore, I did something I hadn't done in many years, which is to set foot in a bookstore. What a dreadful experience! It was the local Barnes & Noble, and it was about as uplifting as shopping for books in Soviet Moscow. The crap people read! It was like being in the cathedral of the Death Culture.
It did yield one important lesson for the boy, however. He's always hearing about how important it is to read, but it all depends on what you're reading. Like anything else, 95% is worthless at best.
Back to suicide. Shneidman makes the important point that suicide didn't exist before the mid 17th century, because it would have been impossible. What he means is that belief in the afterlife was universal, such that killing oneself wouldn't be the end of one's difficulties. Indeed, one might find oneself in even deeper in the soup: "It was simply not possible to extinguish oneself forever," because "the essence lived on."
This implies that only a secularized society can truly destroy itself, for "only those who believe that this life is the only life [can] commit suicide." Conversely, overtly suicidal Islamist movements and regimes aren't suicidal at all, because they are convinced they will be rewarded in the afterlife.
This puts an interesting twist on the "clash of civilizations," because we are fighting with one hand tied behind our back. In other words, Islamists fight with both this life and the next (as no doubt do most of our actual fighting men; it is just that they are led by the likes of the one-worldling Obama).
I wonder of we could have defeated the Soviet Union (or Nazi Germany) had it not been for the fact that they were unyielding this-worlders while we were still mostly both-worlders back then? Was the atheism of national and international socialism a kind of cultural suicide?
Conquest's Reflections of a Ravaged Century is the finest postmortem of the ideological wars of the 20th century I've ever read. What does he say about the subject?
Why does the revolutionary embrace revolution to begin with? It must be because he feels hopeless about the present but hopeful about the radical transformation he wishes to bring about. Hope and change are the lingua franca of every revolutionary, but they are always grounded in a hatred of the present. This is why they become even more hateful after the radical changes, because they never result in the hoped for utopia. Look at how much more transparently hateful Obama has become over the past eight years. It's all he has left.
Conquest cites the example of the celebrated Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, who was asked in 1994 whether the Soviet... experiment had been worthwhile, or if he nursed any regrets in supporting it: "You didn't have the option. You see, either there was going to be a future or there wasn't going to be a future and this was the only thing that offered an acceptable future."
In other words, he was utterly hopeless about the world as it existed before the Revolution. The interviewer then asks about the millions of deaths due to famine, and Hobsie responds that even in hindsight, "the chance of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth backing."
To put it in contemporary terms, if only the magical hope were justified, then all of this destructive change would have been worthwhile!
Indeed, if we continue our present course, someday an Obama supporter will be able to say: "true, we hastened the destruction of western civilization, but if only you could appreciate the magnificent vision of what we had hoped for, you would see that it was worth it!"
Returning to that interview, Hobsbawm is asked, "What it then comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?" Without hesitation he responds "Yes."
So, that's the mentality we're dealing with. I mean, this guy was in the upper echelons of the tenured.
The point is that the secular leftist doesn't have hope for an afterlife, but this hardly means that he lives in "reality." Rather, he just displaces the hope and ends up living in un-reality. Conquest talks about the "unreal assumptions" that drive such people, "a quite different set of motivations, based on a different political psychology."
This being the case, we fundamentally err if we simply project our own psychology into these people, and imagine they have the same motivations. We cannot do it vis-a-vis the left, just as Obama is delusional in doing it vis-a-vis Iran. Such rubes "assume that the light of their own parochial common sense is enough. And they frame policies based on illusions."
These are the same people, mind you, who never shut up about multiculturalism, but Obama treats Iran like the Harvard department of Middle Eastern Studies. He thinks he's dealing with Edward Said.
There are other reasons for suicide, but one can see how they tend to flow from an anti-Christian metaphysic. For example, some suicides occur "when an individual's ties to his community are too few or too tenuous." Being that man is trinitarian and relational right down to the ground, it makes sense that life might be perceived as not worth living outside conditions of intimately relational love.
Sheidman also speaks of a kind of suicide "deriving from excessive regulation of the individual, where the individual has no personal freedom and no hope." Think of Winston in 1984. Is life worth living in the absence of Christian freedom? "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17). Therefore, where there is no liberty, God cannot get his Word in edgewise. There is no space for the divine freedom. I can imagine feeling suicidal under such dreadful conditions.
Here's another interesting type, what he calls ageneratic suicide: it relates "to the individual's 'falling out' of the procession of generations; his losing (or abrogating) his sense of membership in the march of generations and, in this sense, in the human race itself."
This very much reminds me of the function of Tradition, and also of Chesterton's comment to the effect that we live in a democracy of the dead, or that our true community includes those who preceded us and those who will follow. The left obliterates this thread, thus the casual dismissal of dead white males and the callous destruction (and sale) of living black babies.
There is also aggressive suicide, AKA ultimate payback. I can't help thinking that Obama's anti-American aggression is of this nature.
Then there is the anhedonic suicide alluded to above, which Sheidman calls "apathetic suicide": it "results from a sense of worthlessness," "in a desire to manifest self-contempt, to reject oneself, to put oneself down.... One's life is seen as having a negative value..." It reminds me of this little exchange at Happy Acres: