Thursday, May 28, 2015
Meaningless Resistance, Suicidal Despair
- This year on April 18th, during Washington, D.C.'s Cherry Blossom festival, an anonymous man stepped onto the lower west terrace of Capitol Hill, unzipped his backpack, took out a placard that read "Tax the 1%" and proceeded to shoot himself in the head. The story garnered very little media attention.
- We don't know who this man was, not even his name, and we can only speculate as to the motivations and circumstances surrounding his suicide. We are left then to interpret this event as one might a dream.
- To my mind, the most important symbol in this event is the placard. The demand ,"Tax the 1%", is tepid, something most of the industrial world does already, yet so deeply out of reach in the United States that it drove this man to suicide. Many of us know that if such a mild reform isn't going to be implemented, that we have no chance of our more radical demands being met, and to the powerful doing anything to stave off our extinction as a species is deemed radical.
- It is understandable then, that among those fighting for even the most mild reforms and concessions, a deep despair arises. The despair does not only arise from the knowledge that reform will not be granted, but from the knowledge that such reforms will not save us. For myself, and for many others I have spoken to, this can be too painful to admit, so we protect ourselves through denial.
- We tell ourselves that technology will make fossil fuels obsolete. We tell ourselves that passing a given law will pave the way for a just society. We tell ourselves that if we all cut our personal carbon footprint, eat vegan, use less water, etc. the next century won't be the horrific mess it's shaping up to be. We tell ourselves that putting the right politician in office will change everything. We tell ourselves that popular revolution is nigh. No lie is too transparent, if it allows us not to collapse into despair.
- For some of us, when the denial becomes so thick and obtuse that it can no longer be maintained, it will be too much to live through. We are not helping ourselves by obscuring the nature of our predicaments. This man is not the first to take their own life as an act of meaningless resistance, and I fear as the century progresses, he won't be the last.