Saturday, September 9, 2017

Frequent Suicides can Actually be Good for Social Stability

When working in Tokyo, taking the train to work (or anywhere, for that matter) is part of daily life.  And since people are so reliant on trains to go anywhere, it is especially irritating when they are delayed or canceled for unforeseen reasons.  Japanese train services are famously punctual by design, but even then, there are times where good service and design does not equate lack of issues.  The most frequent of these issues is 人身事故 (accidents involving bodily harm), an euphemism for people jumping into train tracks to commit suicide and delaying services in the process.

Japan is often considered one of the developed countries with statistically highest rate of suicide in the world.  The social and work-related pressures and stress, along with bullying and other sorts of harassment in schools and workplace, tend to drive make people to end their lives prematurely out of desperation to escape the harsh reality.  Given recent high-profile suicides among corporate staff and students, the government is becoming more and more aware of the problems leading to suicides, and have gradually began to address their underlying causes.

Yet, to play the devil's advocate on the issues of suicides in general, it is also interesting to discuss just what sort of benefits that a society may actually obtain from a certain number of its citizens committing suicides.  Let's look at the kinds of people who commit suicides.  Without a doubt, most of the suicides are committed by people who tend to be emotionally fragile and unable to actively seek help to change the reasons that drove them to suicidal thoughts in the first place.  Those who are resourceful enough to get away from the sources of pressures and fears would choose to change, however expensive, than prefer to die.

The counterargument, of course, is that it is up to society to provide those resources.  The suicidal go down the path of no return do so because there is no active institutions that can halt their emotional deterioration before it is too late.  Yet, the argument discounts the fact that however limited, certain resources, whether it be friends, community organizations, and even private companies do indeed provide some sort of support.  To say that the suicidal have nowhere to go to for help has the connotation that those who want to die have no ability to help themselves through personal effort, something that is simply untrue if the person has even the slightly determination to continue living.

Suppose society does expand suicide-help networks, investing millions into publicly funded counseling centers and prevention systems to take care of suicidal persons.  What returns would society gain from such use of resources?  The suicidal, if optimally recovered from their emotional trauma, will at most become functional members of society, but not the creative, ambitious types that will drive to create enormous values for the economy.  After all, their history of emotional trauma limits their appetites for risk and even limit their capacity to work with strangers on a continuous basis, both pivotal for entrepreneurialism.

On the flip side, what if society, cruelly as it may seem, choose to do nothing about the suicidal, and allow them to end their lives in peace.  While not glorifying the act itself, the laissez-faire policy on suicides would allow society to redistribute limited resources to more productive uses, shifting them away from people who can barely survive to those who can use them to create further economic values for society.  If society is thought of as a collective, then the sacrifice of a few laggards can boost overall productivity.  If humanitarian concerns are secondary, the results of letting people die if they want can be a boon for the economy.

To be certain, to simply "let people die" would be demoralizing for society as a whole and may drive many of the mentally healthy to suicidal thoughts as well.  This is particularly an issue in a country like Japan where suicides have become common enough to be, in some ways, considered perfectly viable method to end suffering.  To prevent the spread of suicidal thoughts that can corrode the motivation of even the most productive members of society, policies can be enacted to evaluate the suicidal, allowing those who really wish to die to die in comfortable isolation, while discouraging such ideas for the general public.

Specifically, enacting such policies would involve the expansion of euthanasia that has previously been available only in a few countries to the disease-ridden elderly.  Recognizing the mental problems of the suicidal can validate the use of mercy killing to even young, physically healthy individuals.  In the process, there should be enough talks about the consequences of dying to the suicidal, including pains for family and friends as well as lost opportunities for career greatness.  While not explicitly discourage suicide, such last-minute talks can further separate those who are really determine to die and those who can still be saved.

The result of such policies, if enacted, would be a win-win situation for the collective morality of a general populace opposed to suicides as well as the individual will of individual persons seeking early death.  Most of all, with euthanasia systematically implemented as a viable, legal, and scalable process, society reduces the social and economic costs of dealing with the aftermath of suicides (e.g. train delays and mental trauma of bystanders unfortunate enough to witness the suicide).  In terms of social stability, greater use of assisted suicide combined with some form of dissuasion is the most efficient use of resources when handling suicides.

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