Thursday, September 18, 2014

Death Wish

In Syria and Iraq the young are killed by ideologies, by other minds. In America, it is the mind that kills. “Why Do Doctors Commit Suicide?” (NYT, 9/4/14)  was the title of a Times Op-ed piece by a recent medical school graduate, Pranay Sinha. Why would a graduate of a top university who has succeeded in being accredited in one of the world’s most respected professions end his or her life? And it’s not only about medicine. There was a period when Sweden, a country which provided semi-Utopian conditions to its citizens, experienced the highest suicide rate in the world (Sweden no longer heads the list). Can we hypothesize that perhaps a society where outward cares are less an issue becomes more inward turning? And is this not somehow the case with America where the jihad can come from within? In his famous Suicide: A Study in Sociology Emile Durkheim argued that suicide was less evident in highly structured societies. One wonders about the prevalence of suicide in the Taliban controlled portions of Afghanistan, among Boko Haram in Nigeria and naturally ISIS and al-Qaeda controlled territories. However, horrible the idea, can we say that jihad itself, with its hatred of the other, is an insurance against self-annihilation (with the exception obviously of suicide bombers)? And is it possible to conclude that in societies like Sweden and the United States which preach tolerance and freedom, and which demand relatively little social conformity, that the thanatos  or death drive which Freud described as a natural part of life (Todestrieb) is more likely to be unleashed on the self?

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