John Ford (John.Ford@JCU.EDU.AU)
Wed, 26 Oct 1994 09:07:22 +1000

As a post-grad may I add to the comments concerning suicide.

In my view the previous posts are Westnocentric. Suicide is ASSUMED
Suicide may well be deemed maladaptive from a western perspective but I
wonder if there is another story.

In OUR individualistic world, where the individual become the measure of
all things means that society therefore cannot equal more than the sum of
its parts, WE may not appreciate that other societies focus of the
population. For me, this perception changes the equation somewhat. In
such groups of people society CAN equaly MORE than the sum of its parts.
In other words, social cohesion comes above the individual. I refer, as I
did in a earlier post to Aboriginal people in Australia.

On the surface suicide may appear even more maladaptive to Aborigines.
But only is they accept western notions about life and death. The western
focus on LIFE means that death becomes some sort of obscene abberation.
We handle death very badly. I do not suggest that Aborigines grieve any
the less - such is surely not the case. What I suggest here is that the
meansing behind death may well be differnt to western notions.

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCADC) found that
the average At death was 29 years. In the prime of life. But to put these
deaths into some sort of perspective one needs to understand the
atrocious conditions and constant police attention Aborigines are
subjected to. (Sorry 'bout the grammar). Just perhaps death may offer
greater opportuities - to join with the dreaming ancestors, to be PART of
their country. I'm not suggesting this is so because their deaths may,
And have, generated a greater awarness in the wider community. Their
deaths, as I have suggested in a previous post, removed their body from
control. They demonstrated that society does not hold sway over them.

Following this thought - what about suicide attacks that ocurred in
Israel and Sri Lanka. Can western academics classify these as
maladaptive? Rather disruptive -yes, but as to the acts maladaptiveness
they seem to have focused attention on some rather important political
issues. Perhaps we can split hairs over the term maladaptive, but I take
it here have its meaning located in evolutionary theory.

The argument for euthanasiahas been put foward as an example of adaptive
suicide I think this argument is likewise
flawed. Generally euthanesia is a recourse by those who are terminally
ill. While I accept euthanasia has 'humanitarian' meaninsg perhaps we can
consider this form of death Acceptable because we who are left are
avoided the pain of witnessing death. Perhaps euthanasia too is a western
construction which places more value in life than in death.

My object has been to challenge what I think are western notions about
the adaptiveness of suicide. What I suggest is that in other populationms
suicide may have other meanings. Perhaps we need to consider some of
these when we talk about suicide.

John Ford