Suicide, Culture, and Politics

Acts such as the self-immolation of Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, in Saigon in 1963 (pictured on the album cover on the left) can be seen as altruistic suicide. The act was a protest against the government’s repression of the Buddhist religion. The photograph drew international attention and persuaded US President John F. Kennedy to withdraw support for Ngô Đình Diệm’s government.

A similar act is seen as sparking the “Arab Spring,” in Tunisia in early 2011, as described in this clip, “Suicide that Sparked a Revolution.”  Since the global financial crisis of 2008, there have been numerous attempts of public self-immolation in Greece and Spain, which have been suffering through extreme “structural adjustment” and austerity.  According to a recent headline, “Suicide by self-immolation a rising trend in France.” Visually, what’s common among these public spectacles is the (usually red) fuel container, which appears in this 2011 music video from rapper, Kendrick Lamar — “HiiiPOWER”:

WARNING: The video contains language that may be offensive to some.  Unfortunately, all the “clean” versions I could find online weren’t actually clean.  I’ve added it here to show how trends in suicide might be linked to social conditions, which can even be global (supporting the thrust of Durkheim’s work on suicide).  As you watch it, look and listen for relevant sociological insights!

You may post on Durkheim’s Suicide until Monday (2/25).


3 responses to “Suicide, Culture, and Politics

  1. Some may look as suicide as an absurd thing to do. Other’s look at is a heroic thing to do. Suicide in my opinion can have pros and cons. Suicide especially self immolation can lead to uprisings and revolutions that can change society. One example as stated above is the Monks in Saigon commiting altruistic suicide. The monk committed suicide to show how much Buddhism meant to them and to show the government that they must accept it because they are willing to kill themselves over their beliefs. It meant enought that the monk burned himself which shows how much pride and value they hold toward their beliefs. The protest brought many uprisings which eventually cooled down. But this goes to show how much suicide can affect a society and open societies and the governments eyes to accept things. Through out history their are a number of cases that show suicide as an eye opener that sparks revolutions.

  2. Some cultures look at suicide in different ways. For many it is a sin but for others it is something that can “save” a country or community. The monk for instance did it as an act of help or heroism. However, sometimes using suicide to become a hero can cause more problems. Many people can commit altruistic suicide for a cause but if there are so many dying the point they are doing it for fades away.

  3. In my opinion, suicide is completely preposterous. For some, suicide may seem crazy, heroic, or even great in a sense that it will bring awareness to countries all over. Monks come from a Buddhist background and they’re known to be very peaceful people. Suicide is against Buddhist beliefs but in the situation with Thich Quang Duc, his actions were not considered to be an act of suicide and to some others, it was. His actions proved that utmost efforts can have a great effect.

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