Thursday, February 10, 2011

Suicides and Samurais

The unfortunate death of ex AFP Chief of Staff, Angelo Reyes has sparked a discussion of suicide in Pinoy society. I think the discussion is good since Pinoy society has to face up to the problem of suicide aside from the religious aspects of this.

In a sense suicide is a taboo topic in Pinoy society and this is a reflection of the  generally conservative Roman Catholic culture of the country. But economic and social pressures have driven many to take their own lives. Just last December, a couple hanged themselves on the MRT pylon at EDSA Mandaluyong, snarling traffic for hours. We read about financially desperate breadwinners committing suicide, but aside from the reports, this isn't really news! When a student of Ateneo tried to commit suicide, this became news.

What drives people to suicide are many but medical science considers this as a mental health concern. Suicides are considered as "cries for help" or attention and is linked with lack of coping mechanisms for depression and anxiety. Roman Catholicism has greatly recognized the mental health aspects of suicide that for the most part and even if the Church still recognizes it is a sin, a history of the suicide victim is known first, before the Church denies a Christian burial to the victim. A priest told me that for pastoral reasons, most priests give Church rites to the suicide victim and his/her family.

We can only in conjecture determine the reasons for General Reyes' suicide but based on circumstances before his death, it is likely he lost the ability to cope with the corruption allegations he was subject to. Op ed columnists in the Philippine blurbs have likened his suicide to what the Japanese samurai did when dishonoured. They commit seppuku.  But the op ed columnists miss out on what really is. The Shogunate considered seppuku as a capital punishment for the GUILTY! The samurai are just given the honourable way of inflicting capital punishment with their own hands on themselves! The Meiji Emperor in 1879 abolished this kind of capital punishment and let the State's executioner perform the task. However this did not stop some Japanese from committing voluntary seppuku.

This it is plainly ridiculous to maintain that General Reyes did like what samurais of old  and to assert that he is innocent until proven guilty! If one believed he did like what a Samurai should do, then one must accept he was guilty of corruption.  If one believes he was innocent until there is evidence to say otherwise, then one must cease comparing his act to that of the Samurai. To do so is to dishonour the Samurai.

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