After being gone for a month, from around here, I find that I am terribly behind in my reading, and even further behind in my commentary on that reading.

Almost instantaneously on dropping the clutch on this backlog comes Ithaca NY native,  and friendly voice, Billy Beck:

“If people in Ithaca seem inured to suicide, that’s because they are. For as long as anyone can remember, Cornell’s gorges have furnished a wide open casket for those so inclined, and Ithaca, in turn, earned the unwanted distinction of ‘suicide capital of the combined Ivy League, Big Ten, Little Three, and Seven Sisters,’ as one local writer put it. Although commensurate with national averages, suicide at Cornell — or to borrow the local vernacular, ‘gorging out’ — has become the stuff of myth. And sometimes reality, as this month, when the university lost three students — in February, Bradley Ginsburg, 18; three weeks later, William Sinclair, 19; and the very next day, Matthew Zika, 21 — in as many weeks to its precipitous gorges.”

Rob Fishman (Huffington Post) moans about sail-kids flying off the edges of Cascadilla and Fall Creek — but they don’t fly for long.

I’ve spoken previously in these spaces about suicides. usually, the point involves some star or another. This case is a little different, and frankly a little closer to reality.  Not just because of its physical proximity to me here at Casa de Bit,  but because we’re dealing with real people, now.

The   Billy speaks of his wildly misspent youth, (chuckle) traverse sing some of the waterfalls and Gorges in the Ithaca area, and then says:

Since, however, everyone must now be responsible for everything and nobody can mind their own business anymore, I think it won’t be too long before both Cascadilla and Fall Creek will be completely swaddled in bubble-wrap, replete with sirens and rotating beacons in International School-Bus Chrome. And another piece of grown-up life will have gone to hell here in America.

I just wish I had one of the “Lemmings Society” t-shirts that were going around back in the 70’s.

I would wear that thing all the way out, now.

I, too, have walked some of the paths of which Billy speaks.  I know the Thurston Avenue bridge rather well, having taken my wife walking around the place a few years ago on a fairly warm November day when we celebrated our anniversary.  I know several places in and around my native Rochester that are similar and have caused shall we say, extraordinary, yet futile efforts to prevent such happenings .

I understand well Billy’s point, at least the stated central one, and sympathize.

Frankly, though, I have to wonder however briefly what it is in the culture of upper level academia to cause so much self destruction. Certainly, pressure to make grades is one plausible answer.  But I doubt it’s the whole deal.

In any event, it seems to me that as Billy puts it swaddling the place with bubble wrap is only a band aid on the original problem.  It certainly isn’t going to stop people taking their own lives ,it’ll just make it harder to recover the bodies.  But of course if they do that, if they put up the fences and whatnot, government now has something they can point to to say “See?  We did something about the problem.” In reality of course, they have done nothing at all. They’ve managed to do something without ever addressing the central cause.  “doing something” without ever addressing the central problem seems to be a specialty of government.

The central problem is that people want to kill themselves.  Billy can perhaps argue that that’s none of our business. I’m not so sure, because I wonder if our government hasn’t been the proximate cause of the problem in a lot of these cases.  Or, our society.  If we are the proximate cause, it’s very much our concern.

Who is it that commits suicide?  For the most part, at least in my experience, it is people who feel that their life is of no worth to anyone, or they feel that they are being pushed down a road to an unacceptable conclusion. Perhaps, we’re dealing with some combination of the two.  But you know, it seems to me that the former issue is the more foundational.  The idea that your life isn’t worth very much, your individualism isn’t worth very much, is a relatively new idea.  The political philosophy of Marxism, would seem to fit very well,here.  The state, after all, in that philosophy is by far more important than the individual.  Ponder the prevalence of socialist thought in today’s academia.  I wonder how many of the suicides are in direct or indirect response to the amount of control that government at all levels has over our daily lives?  Certainly, despondency is an understandable response to that control.  When feels they are being controlled, with no escape…(sigh)… the results are fairly predictable.

That’s something I don’t see government being able to do anything about, including it’s law enforcement representatives.  I don’t see fences solving the issue either.  As Oliver Renick, on staff at the school paper, The Cornell Review says:

Cornell students have begun to pick up on this.  Up until 12 AM this morning, at least three students were camping out on the Thurston Avenue bridge above the Fall Creek gorge.  ‘Thurston Ave Love’ is their message, and have inscribed it in chalk along the bridge’s walkway.  Beside the messages are white roses that were laid down earlier, apparently by a sorority.  Security guards and fences won’t keep people above water.  People like these will.

Frankly, this is a little too immersed in “feel good ism ” for my taste. but at least, it identifies the government isn’t the solution to the problem.  Given the state of academia today, that such a statement would come out of such a place strikes me as moderately encouraging. It’s not the whole enchilada, but maybe, just maybe, it’s a start.

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2 Responses to “The Last Step”

  1. It seems the only thing unique to Ithaca is the manner of suicide, to wit jumping off of tall bridges into gorges.   Statistically the number of suicides in Ithaca is not exceptional.

    So if you don’t like suicide, don’t commit it.  End of problemt.


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