Suicide, a willful decision a living entity makes to end their own life. The very word elicits a shudder from every normal person, and for those who have been touched by it, a deep feeling of sadness. But to study and understand people, society, and life in general, we must move beyond our personal feelings and think about what suicide means.
Suicide means that someone, something, that is alive chooses to not be alive. What happens when a soldier chooses to participate in a dangerous mission and never returns? We call such missions suicide missions because that is what they represent. What happens when an organization is disbanded? In a sense, while it is together, that organization is alive. Suddenly it no longer exists, whether through bankruptcy, ineptitude, or some other form of life-altering event. What happens if someone decides that they never want to have children? In this sense, their ‘life’ as represented by their genes will cease to exist. Their unique genetic signature will die, because it is only through offspring that such information is preserved.
In all these cases, a choice has been made in which ‘death’ may not be in the form that we are most familiar. That soldier’s suicide mission may not result in physical death, but a mental collapse from which there is no recovery. That business that was purchased by another no longer exists in the same form, even though its products and name may continue. And that person who is capable of reproduction has decided, willfully, to not have children. Though their body may live to a ripe old age, their genes will not be passed on. This is genetic death.
Choosing not to reproduce is a choice. It deals with the same forces of life and death for the individual as it does for the family. There are great joys that come with creating a new human being. And there are great pains as well. Our Western Civilization has seen a great reduction in reproduction, possibly because the apparent cost of children is rising while the benefits are decreasing.
Balancing great forces of life within ourselves, and making a choice. As unbiased students of behavior, we should be impartial and non-judgemental. But we should acknowledge at least one bias;
Life is nice.