blogspot visitor
Generally Recognized As True: 13 Reasons Why, Hand Cannot Erase, and suicide

Sunday, May 07, 2017

13 Reasons Why, Hand Cannot Erase, and suicide

13 Reasons Why

I've just finished watching Netflix's "13 Reasons Why", which tells the fictional tale of a high school girl's suicide and the events and people that led to what seems like the very well-considered decision to end it all. Each of the 13 reasons are given one side of an audio cassette tape each. In that way, it's very much like a modern-day retro suicide note. A very long one.

The drama as presented was excellent. As I imagine was intended, it raises a lot of questions about suicide and what it means to you that I don't think have concrete answers. The girl in the story is extremely sensitive, is sometimes inconsistent, and misinterprets some events. She perhaps expects too much of people that she is not close with and doesn't open up enough to the people that would really care. The main "reasons" are largely corroborated, however, because the protagonists are also inconsistent... and, rather than being mistaken, some of them lie. These imperfections are ultimately the things that bring the story to life.

Reading through the user reviews, as I often do after the fact, exposes these conflicts quite clearly. It is hard to answer these questions honestly without resorting to self-stroking, impractical platitudes. Questions such as:
  • If you act against someone in a way that wouldn't cause most people to commit suicide, is that sufficient enough to excuse having done it?
  • Is every suicide worth trying to prevent, or are some inevitable because some people just don't fit in the society they've been forced into (and never will)?
  • Do we care about what it is about society that leads to suicide, or should we focus on treating it? And do we respond differently if someone contributed significantly to their own downfall?
  • Do we really have the resources to guard against any or all of this given the potential for so many false-positives? And if we do, is it a good use of resources?
These kinds of questions are relevant to other types of modern-day situations that didn't seem to exist in the past, as we move along with the program of defining our special nature by our consumer preferences, salted with boutique disabilities, intractable proclivities, and sprouted mental health issues. While simultaneously living in the most prosperous society that ever existed.

When the majority allegedly have problems needing attention, then no-one does. The people with real problems get drowned out by the noise from people wanting attention and from other people wanting to make a career out of distributing funding to help them. I think this is the central problem of social program funding and prioritization in general.

I didn't have problems in high school, but the caricatures were so familiar. They weren't, in fact, caricatures. Whether in "13 Reasons to Live" or in your own high school, you could pick out many of the future leaders. They were the ones that got away with it, largely unconflicted by conscience, aware of who was watching at any given time, and looked upon affectionately by the administration who liked what they did for the school. They knew that the game was played by giving your overseers (school administrators) material to promote their own narrative or agenda and that quality or integrity didn't really matter as long as the real rules of the game were followed. They were sure of that. Yet they would deny in public that they were aware of this. As I said, they were unconflicted.

Hand. Cannot. Erase.

While working my way through "13 Reasons Why", I was reminded of Steven Wilson's "Hand. Cannot. Erase." album from 2015. Largely because I am vastly impressed by its author, I spent a lot of time with this album over the last couple of years. The album was very loosely based on the backstory dramatized by the 2011 documentary "Dreams of a Life", which describes the circumstances around the death of a woman alone in her apartment in 2003. While that unfortunately sounds quite pedestrian, the caveats are that the woman was an attractive younger woman that had people who knew her, yet nobody knew she had deceased until 3 years after it had happened. She was found sitting in front of the television near a pile of unopened gifts.

"Hand. Cannot. Erase." is not directly associated with that story, but is inspired by it. It is a musical and lyrical compendium of circumstances, experiences and "reasons why" that lead to the inevitable end for this woman in a somewhat later stage of her life than was the girl in "13 Reasons Why". However, lyrical passages like the following are directly relevant:
When the world doesn't want you
It will never tell you why
You can shut the door, but you can't ignore
The crawl of your decline
There are a number of carefully-crafted music videos related to this album that are worth looking up. One in particular is "Perfect Life":

Mental illness

As a closing comment, suicide is often linked to the creeping, crawling, and fluid notion of "mental health". The suggestion is that people who commit suicide are mentally ill and that they need to be returned to health in order to not feel suicidal. This undoubtedly applies in many cases. But when the world repeatedly tells you that it doesn't want you, that you just don't fit, and doesn't value what you have to offer, is it perhaps fair to say that suicide is a rational or healthy response in some circumstances?

It's extremely easy to be reactionary to a question like that. But if you believe that mental illness is real and its cause elusive; if you believe that people in terminal illness and significant physical pain should be allowed to make life-ending choices; and if you believe that psychological pain can be as bad or worse than physical pain, then you need to have an honest discussion with yourself before answering.

No comments: