Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Word should not be a Sentence

Words are important. Freudian slips are accidental but no less significant. "I didn't mean that" can be both a genuine and a bogus excuse. With some of our news coming in a one sentence tweet you need to choose your words very carefully and woe betide the birdie who drops a bomb like 'suicide'.

It's not really surprising that someone has said that suicide is selfish. In a proper debate that point of view would have to be aired and examined. It would need to be tested from different angles and according to different criteria. The definition of 'selfish' has to be established. Does it simply mean I did it for myself or does it carry the caveat that it has no consideration for others? Is being selfish, of itself, a bad thing or does it depend on how you are being selfish?

Maybe it shouldn't but it bothers me a little seeing article headlines saying suicide isn't selfish. It's not that I believe it is but it seems that everyone has to defend Robin Williams' own suicide like a herd of wildebeest running from the pragmatic lion. Is it now something to be honoured like a death in the trenches? Does it actually have any merits or is it something that just needs to be understood more?

Those who have criticised JW should be ashamed of themselves but that's no reason to counter attack. By arguing against something you can accidentally validate its point of view. If someone claimed the moon was made of cheese you'd just laugh it off, not get into a serious debate.

When someone commits suicide as a way out of their torment, they do it for themselves. Its your choice to load that positively, negatively or not at all. But if this is our focus we are never going to tackle the important issues. A moralistic approach to anything only leads to shame, condemnation and self-righteousness. Reassigning suicide to the 'good' pile changes nothing.

Human nature is such that we cannot resist the urge to take a side or pass moral judgement. There is a place for this in setting your own standards or those of society. But like the doctor, psychiatrist or priest who must put judgement aside in order to treat the patient or seek the truth, it serves no purpose to label actions according to your own preconceptions.

We all feel the need to be in the right as if what we think really makes any difference.