Monday 30 August 2021

On the Terrorism of Suicide

by Chengde Chen *

Approaching the 20th Anniversary Commemoration of 9/11, Pi is pleased to bring you a poem which originally appeared in The Guardian, in 2001. It is as relevant now as it was thena poem, wrote Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, to help us commemorate and try to understand.

When released from the fear of death

men can be MC² times more powerful

Once they turn their mass into energy

the power is as great as our fear

The terrorism of killing with suicide

is different from that of only killing

Killing is terror

while suicide is a philosophy


Men who don't fear death are dead men

because fearing death is part of life

But by cancelling this premise of psychology

they have invalidated all we can do


We may talk to ordinary terrorism with war

but it makes the suicidal one more suicidal

If a death sentence is a home-delivery gift for them

cruise missiles would answer the wrong question


The way to conquer the suicidal

is to make them fear death again

That is to find the reason why they don't

and to eliminate it as a psychiatrist would


* Chengde Chen is the author of Five Themes of Today: philosophical poems, and of the novel: The Thought-read Revolution.


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Yes, it is a powerful poem, and it asks an important question. What comes to mind, too, is the transmission of such fearlessness through time. Who or what transmits it?

docmartincohen said...

"fearing death is part of life"

I'm not really in agreement with all this. Many people don't fear death. I suppose people who bungee jump are like this! What is objectionable about suicide killers is the killing, not the suicide.

Chengde Chen said...

Thanks Martin. Fearing death is a human instinct to life, hence part of life. A man who takes risks to do something doesn’t mean he doesn’t fear death; a man of bungee jumping is taking a risk rather than committing suicide – his fear may be with him all the way before (or even after) his landing. While a suicide killer is seeking death, which is beyond human instinct, hence a dead man.

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