By George H. Tsai
Recently, the media played up two suicide stories, one in Texas and the other in Massachusetts. Why do people take their own lives? There are perhaps scores of factors causing people to commit this tragic act.
It seems those committing suicide got little sympathy from society. They were deemed to be cowards. It is unfair to characterize them that way because taking one’s own life by any means needs tremendous courage. Suicide knows no boundary; people from all walks of life do it.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to find out that emotional troubles, financial woes, physical ills, family disharmony and religious craziness are usually the culprits responsible for suicide.
Man is mortal. Knowing that, we should take good care of our health, physically and mentally, to meet all challenges in life. Some people, unfortunately, seek destructive paths to avoid obstacles.
Clifford Baxter, a former vice chairman of now-moribund Enron Corp. in Houston, took his own life last month. He apparently shot himself to death in a car.
Congressional committees wanted him to tell all he knew about the company’s shady accounting practices. Furious stockholders named him as a defendant in a civil lawsuit.
It was reported that Baxter, 43, was devastated by the company’s collapse. He left the company a rich man. Over a three-year period, he sold more than 577,000 shares of Enron, worth $35.2 million. It seems his death had something to do with Enron’s fall.
Also last month, a couple filed a lawsuit against a top academic institute in Cambridge, Mass., for its alleged failure to prevent their daughter, 19, from setting fire to herself in her dorm two years ago. There were probably many factors motivating her to make that deadly decision. It was reported that she had emotional troubles in high school. I don’t intend to pass any judgment on this $6 million lawsuit. It is the court’s job.
Years ago, a colleague who got caught up in gambling hanged himself after losing all of his savings. His goal was to strike pay dirt in the gambling field. Also, in the wake of the October 1987 stock market crash, a Florida investor committed suicide after losing a chunk of his investment. To both of them and many others, life seemed meaningless without money.
Yes, money is important; everyone wants to have enough money to lead a decent life. But money is not everything; sometimes it’s an evil. Money can satisfy those craving materialism, but it won’t necessarily buy them happiness.
A former Cornell University professor, who helped the government in Taiwan create the taxation system, killed himself by taking an overdose of sleeping pills at a hotel because of terminal stomach cancer. Out of deep love, his wife chose to end her life with him in the same way. It’s a tragedy, isn’t it?
On the other hand, some cultists and religious zealots killed themselves in an attempt to live an eternal life in heaven, like the Chinese Falun Kung members who immolated themselves a year ago in Beijing’s Tieneman Square. The Falun doctrine led them to believe that they would rise from the dead and go to heaven, where roads are paved with gold. Their self-immolation was apparently out of greed and irrationality.
Also, some Islamic fanatics resort to suicide to reach their goal of “martyrdom.” The 19 evildoers who killed more than 3,000 Americans and foreign nationals by attacking the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11 were apparently brainwashed and thought they would go to the promised paradise in the hereafter.
Of course, some of the people who committed suicide deserve our commiseration. My deepest sympathy goes out to the cancer-stricken victims who choose to end their lives to free themselves from excruciating pain. Moreover, I have a great respect for patriots who would rather die than surrender to their enemy. Police officers and firefighters who died trying to save others during the World Trade Center attack were the real heroes.
As a Chinese adage goes, people content with what they have will always be happy. Don’t try to get things that are beyond your ability or to get them by illegal means. Of course, it’s easier said than done.
Suicide is not preventable. There is probably no cutting-edge device yet to detect the attributes of those who may someday do away with their lives with their own hands.
Remember, friends, we can live only once; think twice before you attempt to throw away your precious life.
Reach columnist George H. Tsai by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 140.