COMMENT

The reality of suicide

By Pantelis Boukalas

When a death is not political by nature, no political dimension can be attributed to it no matter how many announcements political parties make or how passionate the stereotypes they dish out. Speculation about what led to an individual’s death simply allows those who ought to feel some responsibility shift the focus from the actual death to secondary matters.

Suicides, which are formally seen as a matter of choice but are in fact forced, can be endowed with a political dimension, firstly by the note left by the person and secondly by society feeling that once again, it has failed to protect an individual at a desperate place in his or her life. As far as the state is concerned, it basically feels terror at the news of another suicide, but it manages to dispel the fear by denying the political dimension of an event that is much bigger than 50 debates on the crisis can even begin to fathom.

It is not easy to count the number of suicides that have occurred over the past few difficult years. It is immoral for political parties to inflate the number or to believe that all of the suicides since the start of the crisis have a political dimension. People, unfortunately, have always committed suicide, even before the crisis, and people will continue to do so even when Greece eventually emerges from the notorious tunnel to enter the promised land.

One of the many people who will never see this promised land is a 59-year-old army reservist who shot himself with his service revolver on the eastern Aegean island of Lemnos on Saturday.

“I can no longer be a burden on my friends. It is winter and I am going to have to be homeless. My health is terrible. I haven’t taken any medicine for my blood sugar in a year. I beseech the metropolitan bishop of Lemnos to allow me a Christian burial,” he wrote in his suicide note.

A weak character? A man who suffered ill health and panicked at the prospect of being evicted in the middle of winter? A man who didn’t manage his finances properly? We only have speculation to go by. But we will not tolerate political parties insulting the dead with their superficial hypotheses and brushing off the sheer weight of his note – a brave note that points no fingers and thanks his friends for their support while at the same time trying to lighten the burden of any guilt they may feel at the fact that he was led to this desperate act. Addressing his friends, he addresses his society, his people. Without people, without the solidarity shown by those in every individual’s environment, it is very likely that the number of suicides in Greece would be far greater than the ones we know about.

Clearly, the government and our international creditors don’t understand just how hard it is for a large portion of society to make ends meet, people whose concern is to secure a dignified existence, not prosperity. Otherwise they wouldn’t gloat about their successes.

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