The Fool on the Hill: On Suicide

January 2021

On Suicide

This is an essay about suicide. If that triggers you, don't read it. Similarly, if you're tempted to respond with a sentimental knee jerk response – especially a religious or mystical one – please don't, it really isn't helpful. I'm not seeking help, or sympathy. I neither want, nor need, either.

I am a person who suffers from depression, and who has done so over most of my life. But I do not believe I am depressed now. On the contrary, I believe that I am rational and clear eyed. Please do me the courtesy of reading this essay (if you choose to read it at all) with that understanding.

Life is harsh. I'm not speaking about my life, particularly; I'm speaking generally. Most people get by from day to day without any rational basis for hope. Across the world, most people are poor, many are hungry. Very few have significant agency in their lives.

Covid is making all our lives harsher just now; but Covid will pass. It's not intractable. The world will recover from it. This essay is not about tractable problems. The state of the world, at a national, a continental, and at a global scale, is beyond any rational besis for optimism.

Here in Scotland, the SNP, the only party which might reasonably be expected to lead the country towards a better future, is engaging in bitter internecine squabbles, and it's my belief that the main reason for those squabbles is avoidance behaviour because the leadership lack the courage to lead.

Across the UK as a whole, a catastrophically broken system of institutions has led to a government of none of the talents – the promotion of a calamitous collection of incompetent buffoons to the highest positions of leadership; while around them, a pack of sociopathic hyenas circle, eager to tear chunks out of the corpse of the British body politic.

We've left the solidarity of Europe, of course; we're no longer part of the project to build an area of stable peace and prosperity across our home continent. We can no longer engage in the wider continental project to build a better world. But Europe, too, has problems which seem intractable.

There's no visible solidarity between the comfortable burgers of Germany and Sweden, and the impoverished people of Greece. And Europe has found no response to the rise of fascism in Hungary and Poland, or to the needs of the desperate migrants on its southern and eastern borders.

So let us lift up our eyes beyond Europe. Let us lift up our eyes unto the world, from whence cometh despair. The climate emergency is intractable. Yes, in theory, if we turned the world economy hard around right now, we could fix it. But it won't happen. Our economic system is built on continuous consumption, on designed obsolescence, on buy and throw away. We can't pivot from that quickly or most people really will starve. We are alienated from our food and from our labour. Without employment in the captitalist market, we can't earn and we can't eat.

But supposing we could overcome the climate emergency, we would not be a great deal better off. The Anthropocene mass extinction is only gathering pace. We are one species of animals who live in an ecosystem, dependent on ecosystem services provided by tens of thousands of other species; and those species are dying. They're dying because we're killing them. We're killing them directly by intentionally poisoning them, by pumping biocides into our own environment. We're killing them indirectly by destroying ecosystems, clearing forests, overfishing oceans to wet deserts; and by dumping our discarded toxic wastes into the environment.

We could, in theory, stop doing this, just as we could, in theory, stop burning fossil fuel. But changing a whole global economic system is hugely complex and takes time – even if we had a consensus to do it, and a consensus about a new, sustainable, economic system, which we don't.

We're out of time. None of this is going to happen. The world will die, and it is now almost certainly too late to prevent that, even if we had the agreement and the will to do so. But it won't die in my lifetime, so why do I care?

Let's come back to my life. It's January. It's cold. February is yet to come. My stores of heating fuel, and of food for the animals, are running low. I'm poor, and realistically I'm too old and too unwell now to do much about that. My strength, and particularly my eyesight, are deteriorating. At my age things are not going to get better. Each winter, the struggle of living on the back of this hill inevitably gets harder; each year, the budgeting for the maintenance and repairs I need to do to keep the physical infrastructure of my life gets harder to fund. I have been living on charity. I hate it.

I do still have things I want to do, things in particular that I want to build, and some of those things could even potentially be profitable; but I no longer believe I have the energy or drive or steadiness of purpose to build them. In any case, against the background of the problems our world faces, they're trivial.

No-one depends on me. I have no children, nor grandchildren. I have several friends whom I love who need support, but realistically I'm unable to give it. My passing will leave barely a ripple in the pool. And, in the meantime, I'm consuming resouces – and especially space – that other people could use better.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and proceeds one step after the other. We keep making those steps because we want to get to the destination, but also to help those whom we can help along the way, and that is no small thing. But the journey of life leads to just one destination, death. And we have at all times a shortcut to it; the laborious steps along the path do not need to be made.

And when my time is come, I shall go gently into that good night that is starless and bible black; and in that sleep of death no dreams shall come, for I shall lay aside all mortal toil. When I am gone, think only this of me: the black dog won. Move on, there's nothing here to see.

 Labels: [Madness](categories?cat=Madness]

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