I don’t watch television so I don’t have much familiarity with the two U.S. celebrities who apparently took their lives this past week. What I can say is the irony of the situation is the focus and elevation of celebrity acts e.g. this stratified class system, is largely the cause for the conditions that lead to people like these celebrities, and everyone else, deciding to take their own lives in the first place.
Even if you cannot define what capitalism is, and the overwhelming majority of people in the world would be challenged to provide a comprehensive definition of the dominant economic system in existence today, all you really need to know is that capitalism is a system where money is more important than people. Since this type of core value relegates people to the level of commodities, meaning people are viewed the same way any material item is viewed, people – like material possessions – take on similar characteristics. People become interchangeable and replaceable. The newer and younger the model of person, the more value they have. The more someone fits the dominant image of beauty in a person, the more value they have, etc. The value people hold under this type of inhumane system is reduced to that of what they represent on a surface, superficial level, instead of what substance they offer. This type of approach that determines how people are viewed, treated, and valued, collides directly with who we are as human beings. From a core value level, all cultures of human beings fundamentally see humans as more important than money and things. Consequently, this contradiction creates significant conflict on all levels of society. This conflict manifests itself in mobilized and organized resistance against the system on a collective level. It also manifests itself on individual levels where people struggle mightily to find their place in a society that constantly tells them they don’t matter. This is true for everyday people as well as celebrities, because famous people, who’s fleeting value is determined by day to day ratings which ensure the advertising dollars that keep them on the air, live in a constant state of instability. For the most part, these people are only as good as the money they brought in five minutes ago. This is the naked savagery of capitalism that people don’t understand. Most working people believe the bourgeois fantasy that all celebrities have endless money and absolutely no stress when the truth is no one in capitalism has no stress because all of us are commodities to be replaced at the slightest sign of wear and ineffectiveness e.g. to the never ending money making processes that drive this backward country. The truth is celebrities struggle to maintain their sanity within a life that commodifies them on a level most of us cannot even imagine. Just think for a moment the number of household celebrities who have succumbed to suicide and/or drug, alcohol related death, etc. Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Ruffin (Temptations lead singer), Amy Winehouse, James Brown, etc., etc., etc.
So, with that level of life pressure, it shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us that celebrities would choose to end their lives. And if celebrities are so easily driven to the breaking point, certainly, that explains why everyday people are so prone to succumb to the pitfalls of depression, drug use, alcohol abuse, etc.
Of course, at the core of this problem is back to this capitalist system. Anyone serious about addressing issues like suicide who isn’t serious about addressing capitalism, isn’t serious about addressing issues like suicide. This is true because the solutions to these social problems cannot be met with individual approaches. Or, we should say individualistic solutions because using the word individualistic clarifies that what we are talking about is an ideological approach which promotes the predominance of individualism over collectivism. It’s the belief that the individualistic approach is the only effective way to address anything and this approach is overwhelmingly dominant in this society. We ignore the fact that this approach slams in the face our own cultural values that sustained us thousands of years before capitalism consolidated individualism into our conscious and unconscious minds. We have before us endless proof that the individualistic approach is cancer to our efforts to resolve any problems, yet when the pressure mounts, most of us turn instinctively to individualized solutions because that’s all we know and its easier. Its much easier to just work with yourself than to learn how to work with others. That’s where backward sayings like “if you want something done right, do it yourself” come from. This is clearly an extremely elitist saying which suggests no one can do something as well as you can do it as if it was never done correctly before you came onto the scene. This is without question the height of bourgeois thought. Things were done better than you could ever do them long before you got here and they will be done better than you can do them long after you are gone. And, the key to this is being able to work with other people ala the collectivist (socialist) saying “two heads are better than one.”
We can go down our usual path of talking about individual conclusions to issues like suicide. Depression and how it impacts people on an individual level. Providing people bureaucratic phone number hotlines and leaving it at that as if solving the problem is the sole responsibility of the person suffering. We can do that and after two weeks pass we have forgotten those who took their lives and we are on to the next capitalist adventure. We can continue to approach problems in this proven ineffective way and for most people, that will continue. This is because far too many of us who talk a great social justice game are truly only interested in venting our personal frustrations at viewing and/or experiencing oppression. We want to react and express our anger at this, but we haven’t matured to the level of making a strong commitment to work tirelessly to end this oppression. If we were at that latter level, we would be talking about these issues much differently than we are today.