Against the World, Against Life

A comment from Arran Crawford on yesterday’s post for #WorldSuicidePreventionDay:

I’m convinced there is a moral component to the paucity of action on suicide. It amounts to a sense that suicide is an accusation against the world. It is as if the idea were that suicide is the ultimate rejection of this world and therefore this world cannot afford to acknowledge it under the fear of acknowledging its degree of delusional and disintegration. I don’t know how useful an observation that is but its the one that has impressed itself on me in the years that I’ve been working with suicidal people.

I’ve thought about this a lot overnight.

I think it’s certainly a useful observation and I think it encapsulates one part of what I was trying and failing to express yesterday.

There are two sides to this: there is the offence caused by rejecting this world and there is likewise the perhaps previously unthinkable realisation that it can be rejected.

I think this is what has always struck me about Mark’s writings — a tension within his words that is never quite presented with the clarity it deserves.

Is it accurate to suggest that his optimism and his depression were perhaps two sides of the same coin?

We can reject this world.

Sometimes this comes as a vision of a new future. Other times as no future at all. Distinct existential positions, perhaps, but from where we’re currently standing within the grip of capitalist realism, they can be very hard to distinguish. An entangled life and death drive captured in a single gesture.

What is most dangerous and so necessary to be aware of is how much easier it is to become stuck in the mire of its negative conception.

So much of Mark’s work could be summarised with the question: “What are we to do with our melancholy?” How, and where, should we channel it?

That is still a question very much alive within his writings. Kodwo Eshun made this clear when I met him to discuss my MA dissertation last year: “Mark’s work may have stopped working for him in that moment but what happened does not mean it has to stop working for us.”

The stakes are too high to let his questions go with him.

Suicide can be an all too understandable response to the nature of being in this world and it’s abject negativity can be infectious but what is needed, perhaps, as Arran suggested previously, in radically new forms of care and treatment, is that we need new solutions that extent beyond the confines of this world as we know it, positively conceived.

Right now, we’re way off balance.


  1. the recent research into neuro-sci/phenomenology finds no evidence for Freudian style denial, we don’t register experiences (including trauma) and then at some non-conscious level edit or repress them we are always already manipulating/cog-biasing our uses and abuses of the world.
    Suicide is generally about the terrible suffering of individuals and the points beyond which there is no other relief/exit for them, we all have our breaking points.
    If this “Suicide can be an all too understandable response to the nature of being in this world” were so, or if we made such decisions along these lines suicide would be a more common affair, we can and do adapt to all kinds of degradation and stressors, that’s one of the horrors of “bare” life.

    1. There is a big difference between the evidence of neuroscience and what people understand from lived experience. I’m only speaking to the latter here. Of course people adapt to all kinds of stressors but that says nothing of mental illness and suicide rates which are already a common affair.

      1. there isn’t actually a big difference arran’s making a philosophical point about denial that in my many years of clinical work with suffering people and their families/friends isn’t the case, people facing the suicide of others don’t turn away from the unbearable realities of modern life that are somehow exposed by these events they are reacting to the specifics of the person/relations in question. Neuro-diseases are of course a real and sometimes deadly problem and while they can be exacerbated by social ills aren’t likely caused by them, that’s part of what I’m saying conflating the two isn’t helpful for either psychology/coping or philosophy (D&G and all were wrong to romanticize/generalize ‘schizo’ and all).

    2. I think there is neurological evidence for “denial” of realities that conflict with preferred narratives, see for example the theory of neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran (based on his studies of stroke victimes) of how the brain’s “left hemisphere ordinarily deals with small, local ‘anomalies’ or discrepancies by trying to impose consistency in order to preserve the status quo” at (Ramachandran also discusses these ideas in his books ‘Phantoms in the Brain’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Brain’)

      1. that’s quite dated we’ve come a long ways since then (even then he was making huge leaps) and wasn’t about “narratives” but signals, but you don’t have to get into the research just pay attention to someone who say doesn’t believe in climate change it never occurs to them that it would be terrible (let alone too terrible to bear) because it strikes them as immediately wrong, that’s how cog-biases work, the brain isn’t a mystic writing pad.

      2. “that’s quite dated we’ve come a long ways since then”

        Can you be specific about what new research you think makes this concept–the left hemisphere’s language areas focusing more on rationalizing existing beliefs/imposing consistency–seem outdated? Links?

        Leaving aside the question of the roles of the two hemispheres, my impression is that a lot of recent research shows that people are bad at taking into account new information and tend to use reasoning to rationalize their preferred beliefs, which would fit the idea that people mostly just go into denial when presented with information that doesn’t fit those preferred beliefs, see for example the links at (the one sliver of hope I’ve seen is that curiosity may reduce this sort of confirmation bias, see )

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