Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Robin Williams Death Say About Us

Like everyone else with a conscious, I do not care about the details surrounding the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams. I do not care at all how he died. The facts of how he died do not change the fact that this influential comedian is dead. But the sad thing is, those of us with a conscious are in the minority. For every one person who claims to be upset at the details released by the media, there are ten people whose appetite to know is exactly the reason why the media releases such information. I agree when people say, “Let’s honor this man by remembering and focusing on his history in the performing arts.” If only most people would take it just that far.
Instead of being content to simply remember Robin Williams, many people are taking the man’s death to focus on the ‘illness’ of depression. Depression is not an illness, though; depression is a deviation from our normal chemical balance (or homeostasis, or baseline, or whatever you want to call it). Depression is no more an illness than happiness. Sure, extreme depression is a serious condition because it may lead to suicide, but extreme happiness is a serious condition as well – just observe any member of a cult. If Robin Williams was in a state of suffering so great that he decided suicide was his only way out, well, it was his decision to make; no one else’s. I may not agree that suicide is a reasonable solution to one’s problems, but because I personally don’t like it doesn’t give me a logical reason to categorize simple depression as an illness. Those of us who have never taken our own lives due to severe depression (which would be everyone reading this) doesn’t know what it’s like to be in such a state that the conviction it takes to take one’s own life is actually there. We are not Robin Williams. We do not know what he was going through. Should he have sought help? Maybe he did. We do not know. It shouldn’t matter.

Then there’s the goddamn conspiracy theorists who are taking this opportunity to suspect that 1) It wasn’t a suicide because 2) they can’t fathom why someone would kill themselves or can’t fathom the conviction it takes or because 3) the media is trying to cover up other major world news events. As a mentioned just a few sentences ago, none of us know what it was like to be in the actor’s shoes, so just because we can’t fathom the why’s or how’s of suicide does not mean foul play is afoot. In thinking the media is trying cover some other important bit of news is preposterous; imagine all the major news network owners getting together and saying, “Wow, first this shit with Russia and now ISIS is really fucking up things in the Middle East. People are getting scared. We’d better kill off a celebrity and distract the public. Who can we get to?” You really have to be a moron to concoct a narrative like that. What I love/hate about conspiracy theorists is that they insist there’s a conspiracy to use fear to control the masses, while they themselves use fear to try and sell you on the idea that there’s a conspiracy.

In the end, it is the end of Robin Williams. I will fondly remember his stand-up comedy, him as Mork from Ork and the creep from One Hour Photo. I don’t care how he died. I care about the art he made.


Ashley F. Miller said...

Philosophical discussion. I quite enjoy your blog by the way.

Who is injured by an interest in the method of his death? In what way is it harmful? You claim that anyone with a conscious is prevented from caring about it, do you truly believe that the majority of people are without conscious?

I grant that it is unlikely that anyone is really upset by the details, interest wouldn't be that high if they really were. But, in what way is a man dishonored by releasing the manner of his death? Unless one grants the premise that suicide is inherently a bad act, in which case surely the method doesn't matter, does it? Do we wish to prevent ourselves from judging him for the scene he left for his family?

I also resist the idea that an imbalance of chemicals is not a disease AND the idea that depression is an imbalance of chemicals. We haven't conclusively proven that depression is any one thing, which is why no single antidepressant works on all depressed patients. As for chemical imbalances, surely you would describe diabetes as a disease, and it is an imbalance of chemicals. Hashimoto's Thyroid Disease is an imbalance of chemicals.

Deviation in the opposite direction is called mania, and in fact depression is a unipolar expression of mood disorder at which mania is the opposite end. Happiness is not the opposite of depression, though, and mania would not accurately be described exclusively as happiness, but also as agitation and impulsivity and a number of other concurrent expressions of a highness of mood. The analogy to cult membership is not off, though, just watch that video of Tom Cruise.

I also am not sure that I agree that it was wholly Robin Williams decision to make as he was not the only one impacted by the decision, but I think that suicide is a deeply selfish act because of how it increases the likelihood of those around you killing themselves; even more true in Williams' case. Somewhat like not getting vaccinated. Mitigated here somewhat by the fact that he was suffering from much more than depression. I highly recommend the book Stay by Jennifer Michael Hecht if you're interested in a very layman's approach to the subject of suicide. That said, we do know that Williams sought help his entire life, which is likely the reason he lived as long as he did.

theoryparker said...

Thanks for the comments, Ashley. To reply: 1) I think people do themselves a disservice by obsessing over the manner of death. I think it is irrelevant. Focusing on the fact that it was suicide subtracts from his artistic achievements. That should be the focus of his passing, not the manner of death. In any case, perhaps 'dishonored' wasn't the right word to use. 2) Depression is a chemical imbalance. Any extreme behavior - or that which is seem as extreme - is some kind of deviation from the norm. All we are, are chemicals and chemical reactions. No single medication works on all people because human chemistry varies enough at the cellular level to make a difference in that respect. But you are right that an imbalance of chemicals CAN BE a disease, but not all are. 3) Suicide is only a selfish act from the viewpoint of other people. Other people are not the one's who have the right to do what one will with their life and have no access to someone else's inner state. We can all say what we want about suicide, but I contend that it is other people who are selfish by claiming it is the suicidal who are selfish. (Though, I would on the other hand argue that suicide bombers are indeed selfish since their intent IS to hurt others.)