Suicide: The common excuses
ON October 19, The Chronicle published a news item about a ZRP Bulawayo-based senior officer who shot himself to death. Near his body, his colleagues found a Bible, indicating that the man had read the holy book shortly before he took his life. He was most likely a church-goer, hence the Bible in his office, for that was where he killed himself.
He was quite probably not a deeply committed Christian, hence his obviously superficial way he valued human life, in this particular case his very own life.
A couple of days after that incident, two other Zimbabweans also took their lives. One was a policeman, based in Masvingo. He hanged himself at Mvuma.
The other was a woman employed in Germany. She left a note stating that she decided to kill herself because she had become pregnant. She threw herself in front of a moving train.
It is understandable for a pagan to kill or to commit suicide, but for a devout, practising Christian, it is unjustifiable because whatever difficulties one is facing, the Christian faith says solutions are in God’s allpowerful hands.
That spiritual aspect apart, a look at the psychological side of suicide shows us that there are generally three causes of that most unfortunate human weakness.
The causes are anger, protest and despair. Anger may be against oneself as it is the case with some rapists, or one may be angry against a very dearly beloved one, or because of a loss of what one regards as the real or only purpose of one’s life.
Some rapists kill themselves shortly after they have committed rape because of being deeply ashamed of themselves, or being afraid of the legal consequences.
Such people have a very deep sense of self-esteem, and cannot reconcile what they would have done with how they rate themselves in the family, and the community to which they belong.
They would have committed rape at a time when their sexual emotions were in stronger control of their bodies than their minds. After the crime, their sense of self-esteem overwhelms their sense of self-evaluation, leading them to conclude that they are worthless to both themselves and to the world at large, hence selfelimination.
Fear to face the social and legal consequences may also be a causal effect in some suicide cases involving some rapists. The rapist fears to be ostracised by his or her society, as well as the inevitable punitive measures meted out by the law courts.
That fear generates anger against oneself, leading to suicide. Suicide occurs in other crimes such as arson, and is not confined to rape. Debts can also lead to suicide.
Protest is another cause of suicide. Most suicide cases caused by protest occur in some religions as well as in cultures where forced marriages are a norm as is the practice in some parts of India.
We come across suicides caused by protest also in certain socio-political communities in which dissidents or prisoners of conscience are locked up incommunicado for indefinite periods as a result they go on hunger-strikes, or use other means to kill themselves in the prisons.
In the Islamic religion, it is permissible to kill oneself in protest against the existence and practice of heathenism or what may be perceived to be heathen.
Cases of self-immolation, that is to say self-sacrifice, are common in some oriental countries. Some social scientists attribute Islamic suicidal cases to selfimmolation and not to protest.
However, that is debatable in that such cases are, in effect, an aspect of jihad, a word whose current meaning is “holy war”, but whose original meaning was “doing one’s utmost” in defence or promotion of that which was considered to be spiritually or morally honourable.
Wars are waged in protest against whatever as was the case with Zimbabwe’s liberation war, or in defence or the acquisition of whatever is at stake or is desired.
Protest suicides seemed to abound in the Gokwe region, especially in the early 1960s when some women hanged themselves following their husbands’ taking of an additional wife (wives) using financial resources acquired with the active participation of the first wife or wives. The senior wives would commit suicide in protest.
Earlier in Zimbabwe’s marital cultural history, many girls hanged themselves in protest against being offered as wives by their parents (fathers or guardians) to some elderly men they did not love.
There are many suicide cases involving marital (as well as quite a few business) partners whose marriage or business performance fell far much below their (the partner’s) expectations. That created very deep disappointment, resulting in suicide.
It is the opinion of this article’s author that most of the “victims” of those suicides are women.
Protest as a cause of suicide borders on despair, the third cause of suicide. Some social scientists argue that “protest” can also be an aim.
Despair suicides involve mostly young adults, teenagers being a very significant group. Some people who feel that counselling, pleading and persuasion have failed desperately turn to self-elimination.
Featuring prominently in this group are those who are passionately in love, but whose amorous passion is not reciprocated. In some instances, that nonreciprocation perception may be utterly misplaced. The reason maybe a difference in personalities between the passionate lover and the other – one being an extrovert and the other an introvert.
It is usually the extroverted person who turns to suicide as a “solution” (for lack of a better word). That is simply because the physical elimination of one party to a conflict or controversy does not solve but destroys the conflict or controversy in that there would no longer be a complainant or respondent, accuser or accused whichever the case may be.
Resorting to suicide is a tragic expression of cowardice to stand up to harsh and hard realities of this world’s social, economic, cultural or political problems.
It is honourable to be courageous, but shameful to be cowardly. It is virtuous to persevere, yes, to try, try and try again for success lies behind the dark corner beyond our visual, aural and other sensual powers.
It has been strongly suggested that the only time when suicide can be justified is when it can save one’s family or one’s nation.
Such situations occur during wars, and wars are rather rare, and so are such situations.
In the majority of conflict and controversies, crime and shortages, solutions can be found provided there is a will for “where there is a will there is a way.”
We should also bear in mind that in every bleak situation, there is always a streak of hope; in fact they say “every dark cloud has a silver lining.” This is an English expression that means that never mind how hopeless a situation may appear to be, it has some advantages to some of those involved.
In addition to that piece of wisdom, we should remember that every unfortunate happening has a solution that brings it to an end. All that is needed is goodwill.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayobased journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. firstname.lastname@example.org
A policeman hangs from a tree after committing suicide in Masvingo recently