Sunday, November 29, 2015

REVIEW: Ak’Chamel, The Giver of Illness – The Man Who Drank God

I love this band lots, and this new release was no exception.  Review written for Heathen Harvest, and gingerly edited by the very decent Sage Weatherford.

"I find myself lost in a surreal fog of antique strangeness, lo-fi ritual, and occult chaos-magic, so far outside of the fickle trends of the now that it transcends anachronism and becomes something almost otherworldly."

Ak’Chamel, The Giver of Illness – The Man Who Drank God

Monday, November 23, 2015

ESSAY: The New Guide to Swearing

The New Guide to Swearing 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I fucking love swearing.  Fucking love it. All those weird nincompoops who argue that swearing somehow “limits your vocabulary” are clearly deranged: what limits your vocabulary, quite literally, is the refusal to use a certain set of words.  Because, you see, vocabulary is all about the size of the range of words you can use.  Duh - this stuff isn’t rocket surgery.  Swearing not only expands your vocabulary, but it allows endless permutationary creativity, while simultaneously enabling cathartic release – when you smash your toe with a hammer and let fly with “shit-sucking uncle of a dickfart’s mother!”, you not only express yourself creatively, but release some of your pain into the ether.

But is all swearing equal?  I’ve decided to analyse the psychological connotations of various forms of swearing, because 1) I like to question stuff, and 2) I’ve started to feel uncomfortable lately about some of the implications certain swearwords have.  So – let’s get to it, motherfuckers.

Obviously blasphemy’s fine.  As far as I’m concerned, all religions are such obvious nonsense that this barely even rates a mention.  I mean, Jesus fucking Christ, even if god wasn’t a fictional delusion this stuff would be suss.  Any sort of all-powerful being that cares about humyns using its name “in vain” (ie, for anything other than grovelling worship) is clearly such an insecure fuckwad that it deserves nothing but scorn.  And please, anyone who claims to be a god of love and mercy, who then invents a place of eternal torture in which to endlessly torment his enemies, is probably bullshitting you about the love and mercy bit.  (Seriously, I could go on about this stuff for ages – best to let it go for now.)  So, yes, as far as I’m concerned, blaspheme away to your heart’s content.  

Biologically, our own faeces is meant to be unpleasant; with its foul odour and health repercussions, we have evolved to generally regard our waste as suspect, and to steer clear of it whenever possible.  This seems a fair enough call.  So “that was shit” seems totally appropriate to me.  Perhaps some of the variants might be borderline acceptable (“suck shit”, “fucking shit”) as far as the imagery goes, but nothing that threatens society with its underlying psychological implications.  (Obviously coprophages aren’t going to agree with me here, but they can suck shit.  See what I did there?  Ohohohoho.)

These seem fine to me.  Of course, when these words are used as simple descriptive words, they’re fine: “I love your cunt”, “you have a superb-looking dick”, “I have an itchy arsehole”.  But are there any problems when we use them metaphorically?  I don’t think so.  Saying “they were being total dicks”, or “turned out he was a massive cunt”, or “she is an absolute arsehole”, is suggesting that the people referred to aren’t whole synergistically-sound entities, but are in fact simply one big isolated organ.  It is as demeaning and insulting as suggesting that they are one giant thumb, or reducing them to a single enormous eyeball – it is denying their holistic organismhood.  Which is fine.  If you mean “this person has ruined my day, I am greatly aggravated by their actions”, referring to them as one unrealistically oversized body part does the trick nicely.  However, I do recommend not using any of these as direct insults: in general, I think steering clear of any sort of personal name-calling is always a good idea.  But if you’re unable to do so, then I don’t see why “you’re a cunt” would be any more offensive than “you’re an idiot”.  Either would be just as horrible to receive, person to person, I feel.  However, as a term used for the purposes of expressing anger or frustration about another’s actions in a descriptive sense, I have no problem with the “isolated body parts” technique.  (In fact, I’ve heard these terms used with much fondness – “this cunt is me best mate” – so again, context is ultimate when weighing offensiveness.)

Just silly.  In this long age of separated parents and test-tube babies and adoption and surrogates and megacomplicated familial relationships, the idea that one’s parents’ bond should be sanctioned under one particular religious circumstance is laughably out-dated.  Not sure how I feel about the word “bastard” used as an insult, though: I mean, the concept behind the idea that having unmarried parents is insult-worthy at all is the offensive thing here, much more so than the actual word itself.  But really, I almost feel like “bastard” isn’t even used as an insult any more: I think it’s one of those words that is so out of touch with current reality that it’s moved right out of its old semantic place and into a new one altogether.  It’s a word that, nowadays, often actually means something more akin to “whatsit” or “thingo”, isn’t it?  I think it’s probably okay to use, in certain circumstances, but I doubt I’ll be using it myself.  Like “cad” or “bounder”, it’s a bit too quaint to enable the cathartic utility of proper swearing.

Always seems gendered; even when used to describe a man, it is full of connotations that this femaleness is partly what’s so undesirable.  Don’t like it, have never used it.  I don’t like gendered words in general, and especially insulting gendered words, and this one really seems tied into misogyny.  Unpleasant, unnecessary.  Strike it from the list.

We don’t even consider this one a swear word, but I’m pretty sure it is.  I don’t think anyone really thinks it refers to sucking lemons or eggs (who the fuck sucks eggs anyway?).  Regardless, I don’t like this one, because the assumption behind the phrase is that “sucking” is a bad thing.  Now, I can’t speak on everyone’s behalf, but personally speaking, every single one of my experiences of the “sucking” phenomenon have ranged from positive to very positive.  If we’re to assume that the phrase refers to the act of fellatio, then it’s something that I actually have a great fondness for.  The last thing that I want to be thinking, as my man-shaft is being orally pleasured, is that my partner is having a bad time.  I want my sexual congress to be mutually appealing to all parties concerned.  So I’m kinda feeling like I’m not going to be using the phrase “that sucked” any more, even though it slips so easily off the tongue.  (Same goes for “cocksucker”, for exactly the same reasons.)  So instead, I’m making the full phrase “sucks dogballs”: that is, I’m not going to say “that sucked” ever again, unless it’s accompanied by the “dogballs” suffix.  I mean, “that party totally sucked massive hairy dogballs” expresses the exact right sentiment, albeit a little more colourfully than the old version would’ve.  So now I can continue using the phrase which so easily springs to mind, but I can do so in a way that doesn’t further psychologically tarnish the fine act of humyn-to-humyn fellatio.  (Of course, those of the animal-rooting community will feel offended by my deliberate continuation of the negative connotations of bestiality, but, well, you can’t please everyone.  And, to be totally honest, tiptoeing around the feelings of the bestiality community is not super high on my list of priorities.)

“That’s fucked”.  Means, “that’s awful/terrible/really really sucks dogballs”.  Which, like the “sucks” one above, is a terrible thing.  Because when something is bad, it’s just “bad”; when it’s “fucked”, it’s really hit the bottom of the experience barrel.  The idea that having sex is meant to be not only unpleasant, but actually really really awful, is a pretty repugnant attitude.  It seems to tie into rape-culture, the abuse of women (hystorically-speaking, I don’t think much research would be required to suggest that it has been traditionally mostly women who are “fucked”) – in general, just a really nasty, yucky, awful association to make.  Especially used as a threat – “you’re fucked” – it’s just the most unpleasant rapey utterance possible (although Mike Tyson’s memorable threat – “I’ll fuck you til you love me” – does seem to put the icing on the rape-cake).  Sex should be positive.  Sex should be something you look forward to, not something to be dreaded.  This shit can’t be good, psychologically-speaking, this constant slandering of what should be a really quite pleasant activity.  I mean, the more we collectively associate the act of “fucking” with badness, even punishment, the more, collectively, we are strengthening rape-culture.  No?  So I think this particular use of the word “fucked” has to go.  I don’t think I can use that without modification.  (For a while, I have tried saying “arsefucked by baboons” instead of just “fucked” (it’s still a bit unpleasant, but in a way that doesn’t legitimise rape-culture), but it just doesn’t flow like the original.  A work in progress.)

Generally okay, I think.  When used for emphasis, the word “fucking” works fine, without necessarily bringing up any connotations of rape culture or demeaning sex.  More often than not, a good “fucking” slipped into a sentence is surreal at worst: “pick up the fucking phone!”, “fucking hot today, eh?”, “it was fucking enormous” – all of these are kinda weird taken literally, but not offensive.

“I don’t give a fuck” – seems fine, it can basically be read as “this doesn’t move me enough, certainly not to actual intercourse”, or words to that effect.  “I couldn’t be fucked” – similar vibe, “I was unmotivated, my arousal levels were low”.  So far so good.  

“Fucked up” – hmm, my first feelings are that it’s kinda similar to the “sex is bad” psychology above, especially if used in the sense of “we fucked him up good”.  So that one has to go.  But in the sense of “man, that was some acid, I was so fucked up”, it could be that the inability to function correctly the speaker is referring to is analogous to the feeling of exhaustion after a really good shag – a pleasant sort of tiredness, floaty but weak-kneed – and so in that way, can even be used quite positively.  I’ll try some more: “That last bong really fucked me up”, “Those shoes are fucked up!”, “Your hair is fucked up” – don’t know about you, but it just doesn’t really feel as rapey to me as the “fucked” entry earlier.  

Moving on: “the fucker won’t pick up his phone!”, “that fucking piece of shit”, “the fucker stole my distortion pedals!” – seems to have the same connotation of “intercourse is bad”, only from the point of view of a perpetrator.  Do I want to live in a culture where the idea of being a “fucker” – someone engaging in the active physical process of intimacy – is a bad thing?  Or do I want to live in a culture that sees sex as fun, natural, and appealing?  I think this one probably has to go as well.  Perhaps we want to substitute that with “raper”?  After all, no-one likes a raper.  The act of rape is pretty much universally seen as poor form.  If you’re trying to express displeasure with someone’s actions, and need an evocative slur to express your anger, saying “that raper stole my distortion pedals!” would seem to tick those boxes, without tainting the whole of sex.  To reiterate: not all sex is bad, not all fucking should be condemned, so we’ll have to let this variant go.  It’ll be hard, but I think we can do this, for the good of our language, and the cultural uberpsyche that goes along with it.

“Motherfucker” – again, seems fine.  Nothing wrong with having sex with mothers.  I do it all the time.  In fact, I think this word is actually good for the world, taking motherhood from its weird saintly sexless pedestal of unreality, and plonking it down in the real world.  Mothers don’t stop being whole women just because they have babies.  Mothers have desires.  Mothers have sexual needs.  Mothers need a good fucking now and then.  Let’s keep this one.  But it shouldn’t be an insult – it should probably be reserved for emphasis.  So “it was motherfucking awesome” would be ideal; “you’re dead, motherfucker” not so good.  As with everything, context is important.  (It has since been pointed out to me that the word “motherfucker” is perhaps meant to be insulting through its connotations of incest, a possibility which I had not actually considered.  What do I think of this?  Hmmm.  Well, first of all, I think that incest is perhaps overly stigmatised – as long as power isn’t being abused, and the act is consensual, I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with incest: indeed, in many cultures, cousin-fucking (within officially-sanctioned marriage, etc) is perfectly normal.  I’m pretty sure there’s some cousin-fucking going on in the British Royal Family, isn’t there?  So, as far as I can tell, a “motherfucker”, even when taken as an incestual reference, is probably okay: the power is with the fucker, presumably, who in this case is the child of the aforementioned mother, so this doesn’t appear to be forced or awkward or a power imbalance; and, as long as everyone is happy and having a good time and is considering the long-term emotional effects, well, I’m not sure we can be too hard on them.  So, even using this incesty interpretation, as far as I’m concerned, “motherfucker” can stay.)  

There are obviously more variants of fuck to cover, but I think we get the gist, and can deal with any further cases ourselves in our own time.

Okay, fine, just this one more.  Now this one could be problematic.  I’ve read various sources, and heard various actual living people, claim that this is insulting to retarded folk.  I don’t agree.  If I said “this shit’s retarded”, then this is obviously offensive to retarded people.  There is a real thing called “retarded”, and you’re plainly using the real word “retarded” to mean “not very good”.  This is inarguable, I think.  Same with “spastic” or “gay” or any other actual real description of actual real people – it’s just not on.  It’s like if people were using the word “Blackwell” to mean short, fat, and full of self-doubting procrastination.  It might be true, but it would also be very hurtful.   So I think I have no truck with epithets of this nature in the New Swearing Guide.  But “fucktard”?  I can’t help but love this word.  And thing is, there is no-one on this planet that is actually “fucktarded”.  This word applies to no living soul.  There is no-one’s actual feelings who can be legitimately hurt by the use of this word, because none of us, none, are actually clinically and objectively “fucktarded”.  It’s a made up word, it’s delightful, and I have to keep using it.  So in it goes.

Yeah, nah, can’t use this one.  Actually never ever have, and never ever will.  It just doesn’t even make sense that this is considered a swear-word: calling someone a “slut” is like calling someone a “fire-fighter” or a “pilot”.  It’s a business description. “You small business operator!” Doesn’t make any sense.  And the way people seem to use it, it comes with an icky double-standard gendered bullshit thingie that I just don’t have time for – it’s a term almost exclusively reserved for use on women, and nearly always used to make judgments about the clothing/lifestyle/promiscuity/etc of said women, which is just no-one else’s fucking business.  It just doesn’t seem fair or nice or culturally-desirable.  Out it goes. 

Why would anyone say that anyway?  Seriously?  Dickheads.  (Unless they’re singing along to Busta Rhymes, in which case it’s kinda mandatory.  As in, there’s literally no way to sing along to the Bus-a-bus without saying “nigger” pretty much every verse, in some cases nearly every line.  But as long as it’s kept within the context of home-style karaoke, I’m pretty sure it’s okay.)  Same goes for any other racial slur – “ching chong”, “boong”, “sheepfucker” – as insults, they suck total dogballs.  Not because of the words themselves, but because insulting someone because of something they had no choice over (disability, gender, weight, race, the levels of melatonin, etc) is just stupid.  When it’s not used as an insult, well, if the recipient is cool with it, then I’m cool with it too.  It’s basically a respect thing, and, as with everything in life, seems to me to be context-dependent. 

So, yeah, hope this has helped.  Obviously this isn’t exhaustive, and I’ve left out combinations of words (“dickhead”, “fuckwad”, “arsehat” etc) because I kinda feel they most likely fall under one of the other guidelines already explored above.  But please, do let me know if any of your favourites are missing, or if I’ve totally misunderstood something – there’s nothing I like better than a good hardcore nerd-out about words.  That shit’s the shit.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

REVIEW: Dead Man’s Hill Vs. The Earth King – Cycling Between Sun and Moon

A review for the probably-interesting-to-some-people-but-kinda-drawn-out-and-boring-for-me black-metal-meets-throat-singing-meets-industrial-atmospherics project, "Dead Man’s Hill Vs. The Earth King", and their album "Cycling Between Sun and Moon".   Review written for Heathen Harvest, and perhaps slightly over-edited by the invisible-but-ubiquitous Sage Weatherford.

"Even when Piette stops his wannabe-Tuvan vocalising, the music doesn’t do much for me.  Cycling Between Sun and Moon simply sounds generic. The riffs aren’t innovative and the entire album feels like I’ve heard it a thousand times before—better, more interestingly—and the only thing that makes the album at all different (the throat-singing) actually makes it more annoying."

REVIEW: Antique Crumbling Framework – Triumph of Death

A review for the strange meeting of cold synths and gutteral death, "Triumph of Death" by the Melbourne two-piece "Antique Crumbling Framework".  Review written for Heathen Harvest, and mildly edited by the ever-present Sage Weatherford.

"What do you get if you mix John Carpenter-style cheesy ’80’s synth sounds with the most guttural pitch-shifted death metal vocals imaginable?  You get Antique Crumbling Framework."

Antique Crumbling Framework – Triumph of Death

REVIEW: Public Speaking – Build Another Boat

A review for the technically-excellent and subjectively-uninteresting release by "Public Speaking", "Build Another Boat".  It's probably very very good, really.  It's just not my cup of tea.  Written for Heathen Harvest, and edited maybe a little too much by Sage Weatherford.

"I’m sure there are lots of people out there who would enjoy this sort of thing.  I am also sure that there are many more people out there who would enjoy these strange poppy beats and “I’m so depressed” emo vocal stylings than there are people who like the kinds of things that I like ... I really didn’t get into Build Another Boat at all."

Public Speaking – Build Another Boat

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

REVIEW: Dog Hallucination - Serving Two Masters

A review for the wonderful dreamlike exploration of memory and remembrance and memorial (and all other memory-related variants), "Serving Two Masters" by the very interesting "Dog Hallucination".  Written for Heathen Harvest, and hardly edited at all by Sage Weatherford.

"[L]istening to Serving Two Masters feels like being allowed into something very private and personal, but at the same time, absolutely universal: every single one of us grieves and tries to remember (or forget), but the ways we go about it are intensely our own.  On this release, we have been let into something special, I think, and it’s an honour that feels very warm, welcoming, and very, very real."

Dog Hallucination - Serving Two Masters

Saturday, September 26, 2015

INTERVIEW: Beyond the Noise Crowd Ghetto: The Birth and Death of Justice Yeldham

An interview with one of Australia's favourite art-noise visionaries and most famous sheet-glass player, Lucas Abela, on the beginnings and endings of his alter-ego Justice Yeldham.  Written for Heathen Harvest, and gently edited by Sage Weatherford.

"It would be more like a vindication to all the naysayers out there who think the glass is a shtick... Personally, I believe that everyone can bring something different to an instrument, so why not the glass?  I very much look forward to seeing Kanye jam that shit one day."

Beyond the Noise Crowd Ghetto: The Birth and Death of Justice Yeldham

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

REVIEW: Ak’Chamel, The Giver of Illness – My Form Has Been Extinguished

The most difficult review I have ever written.  Because I love this band so so much, and I liked their VHS cassette so very very little.  Written for Heathen Harvest, and barely edited by Sage Weatherford.

"In my heart of hearts, I honestly believe that this is just a collection of cool footage that was combined to look mysterious, without any real greater agenda than that: to seem cool and weird, and maybe trip someone out a little, as something for the eyes to do while the ears digest the music—music which, I insist, is still incredible."

Ak’Chamel, The Giver of Illness – My Form Has Been Extinguished

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

NEWS: Funding for convict sharehouse black comedy "Bruce"!

The producer and director team behind the hit web series How to Talk Australians, Jason Byrne and Tony Rogers, return to our screens with Bruce, a dark comedy set in a share house that just happens to be a prison tent in Sydney Cove in 1788. Written by Warwick Holt and Mat Blackwell, the series will be released for online platforms. - See more at:
The producer and director team behind the hit web series How to Talk Australians, Jason Byrne and Tony Rogers, return to our screens with Bruce, a dark comedy set in a share house that just happens to be a prison tent in Sydney Cove in 1788. Written by Warwick Holt and Mat Blackwell, the series will be released for online platforms. - See more at:
For many years now, me and my dear co-writer/friend Warwick Holt have been toiling away on creating a TV show with Wilfred's co-creator and director, Tony Rogers.  The idea is, it's a modern sharehouse comedy/drama, but it's set in 1788 convict Sydney - the British occupation/invasion of the land that became Australia.  The characters have no idea they're in some grand sweeping Period Of History: they're more concerned with their own petty human existences, whose turn it is to do the dishes, who's got the most room in the prison tent, that kind of thing.  Seems like a nice little concept for a show, we think: a much needed antidote to the constant stream of stuffy puffy period dramas mainstream media seems to constantly throw our way.

Anyway.  The three of us have been working on this for years (constantly aided and abetted by the immensely supportive producer Jason Byrne), and the road has been littered with drafts, redrafts, bibles, arcs, re-redrafts, and short-lists.  We've cosied up to the right people at the right funding bodies several times, only to have them all be sacked, retire, or leave for more commerical pastures.  The cycle of almost-funding has orbited us many many times now.  But finally, finally, we have triumphed!  Look!  Look!

"The producer and director team behind the hit web series How to Talk Australians, Jason Byrne and Tony Rogers, return to our screens with Bruce, a dark comedy set in a share house that just happens to be a prison tent in Sydney Cove in 1788. Written by Warwick Holt and Mat Blackwell, the series will be released for online platforms."
The producer and director team behind the hit web series How to Talk Australians, Jason Byrne and Tony Rogers, return to our screens with Bruce, a dark comedy set in a share house that just happens to be a prison tent in Sydney Cove in 1788. Written by Warwick Holt and Mat Blackwell, the series will be released for online platforms. - See more at:
The producer and director team behind the hit web series How to Talk Australians, Jason Byrne and Tony Rogers, return to our screens with Bruce, a dark comedy set i - See more at:

So currently we're heads down, arses up, and occasionally doing some writing too.  We're aiming for a September/October filming date... more news later!

Until then, please, enjoy this trailer we made a couple of years ago.  It's not quite as good as what we're working on now, I think, but it definitely gives you a feel of how the final show might work:

"Bruce" - The 2013 Trailer

And here, for all the excitement of reading that quote up above in its orginal location, hop on over to Screen Australia's official press release:

Screen Australia's Official Press Release 

Monday, June 8, 2015

INTERVIEW: Fierce Strength: An Interview with Eko Eko Azarak

An interview with one of my favourite occultic avant-noir grimschticklers, Eko Eko Azarak, written for Heathen Harvest, and mildly-yet-expertly edited by Sage Weatherford.

"[S]ome unexplained harnessing of power, truth, or primordial regression shared within the space that I’ve somehow managed to draw from within myself and from an external force for a brief moment in time.  That’s what I want to share with the ‘audience’, because I want them to feel whatever phenomenon I’m experiencing..."

Fierce Strength: An Interview with Eko Eko Azarak

Monday, June 1, 2015

FAQ: Vague But Compelling Gestures of Strong Disagreement

This FAQ post almost definitely contains spoilers, and it is highly recommended that you read the story it refers to before reading this.  These questions are about the short story “Vague But Compelling Gestures of Strong Disagreement”.  For the actual short story itself, please point your browser here


Why is ‘Stanley’ yet another over-represented cis-gendered white able-bodied male?
I’m glad you asked.  Basically, because, according to modern popular analysis, he’s exactly the kind of person who ‘has it all’.  He’s already got white privilege, male privilege, hetero privilege, able-bodied privilege; the epitome of ‘mainstream’ ‘normality’, the people that apparently the ‘system’ makes life easy for.  The idea was to give someone everything (externally-speaking), and show that all these privileges are only privileges to a point – they have no bearing on the amorphous demons of the soul.  If I’d made him anything else, it’d be all too easy for someone to read it differently, and I think clarity is important.

Are you going to top yourself?
No.  Well, I have no plans to do it at this stage, anyway.  I mean, it’s always an option, isn’t it, but currently life is pretty good, all things considered.  Besides, I don’t think I have the absolutist mindset required for that kind of commitment: I mean, what if I changed my mind halfway through?  Plus I’m a total chicken with a serious aversion to pain, and all the suicide-options seem to be a bit scary.  But in all seriousness, when (my life-partner and Cosmik Wife and best friend) Nalin first read this story, that very question was the first thing she asked, all worried and wide-eyed, and I had to convince her that, no, it was actually just a made-up story, coz, y’know, I’m a writer and stuff.

So it’s all just made-up rubbish then?
Well, no, not really that either.  The part about wanting to write the story and not being able to get it out for some reason, is true.  The story that the “Me” character describes is indeed a story that I’d been wanting to write for ages, that’s all true too.  That the first person I knew to kill himself did it by hiding around a bend in a railroad is also true (and we were in English Lit class together, etc).  My brother is a real train driver.  The crossing at Ruthven is really unsupervised (at least, it was when I had the idea for the story).  And I am, every now and then, genuinely crushed by the overwhelming breath-constricting obsidian ceiling of existential meaninglessness, so much so that the only light at the end of the tunnel is that one day I’ll be dead.  It happens more often than I’d like, this inky black enveloping horror, and the certain knowledge that one day it’ll all be over (life, I mean) is perversely the only thing that helps me through it – ‘this too shall pass’, as the Buddhists say.
So yeah, it’s all true as well as being totally made-up.  Um.  I try to be as honest as I possibly can in my writing, but at the same time, it’s not like 100% autobiographical or anything.  I think any writer balances that tightrope between authenticity and total bullshit, don’t they?  

Are you pro-suicide?  What kind of monster are you?
Those are actually two totally different questions:  I’m on to you, mate.  But I will answer them both. 
I think, on the face of it, I guess I am pro-suicide.  I mean, we’re all only here for a limited time anyway, aren’t we?  The one thing we can absolutely guarantee in our lives is that it will one day all be over.  The End is coming, and it’s either by our own hand or not.  Now, there’s lots of talk about euthanasia and ‘dying with dignity’, but only for old people or ‘terminally-ill’ people.  As far as I can see, given we’re all ‘terminal’ – none of us are getting out of this alive – we all deserve the same amount of dignity regarding our own deaths, at whatever point we decide that it’s no longer worth the struggle.  I mean, who am I to say ‘no, you need to stay alive’ to anyone?  It’s not my place to interfere; I mean, it’s not like suicide is ever a light decision.  This is not a fickle whim.  It’s not like someone wakes up with a bit of a sniffle and decides to end it all.  Things must be pretty fucking dire for someone to actually really properly decide to actually really properly end it all, and I kinda feel like it’s not my business to try to convince someone that they’re wrong, that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel, and that their own life is actually not theirs to take.  If someone is feeling like ending it all, by all means, it’s their business, their decision, and I really have no right telling them to stick around.  Not my biz. 

(Yes, every life is precious.  But, well, let’s face it, there are a lot of us around.  One less isn’t really going to make much of a dent.  In fact, even if 1 billion of us all decided to do ourselves in simultaneously, there’s still more than 6 billion of us left to carry on.) 

When I look at it, all the arguments against suicide seem, to me, to be selfish ones offered by the people left behind: ‘but what about the children / yer mum / me?’  When my mum died (at 56, of cancer), sure, I was totally miserably sad about her dying – but I was also happy that her suffering was over.  Would I really prefer her to be alive and in pain, or dead and oblivious?  I can’t help but think I’d rather her be gone than suffer so much (she really wasn’t having a very good time at the end there).  Of course I miss her – but my personal feelings aren’t the only ones (or even the most relevant ones) to consider.  Same with suicide: let’s focus, not on our own feelings, but on the genuine feelings of the specific person whose life we’re talking about here.  Is it actually better to struggle every day, to ‘fight the battle with depression’ for years and years, than to just disappear?  If so, how?  Certainly, it doesn’t seem better for the person who has to fucking struggle every day for the rest of their life just to exist.  I’m just not convinced.  As far as I can tell, it’s best to let everyone pop off whenever they want.  It’s their life.  Only they can decide whether it’s worth living or not.

(And is it really that much better for someone to accidentally fall off a cliff and die, than deliberately leap off the same cliff and die?  Why fetishise accident over choice?  Why fetishise life – no matter how horrible – over death?)  

So, given that people are going to do it anyway, and kinda seem to have a basic right to do it, it seems to me that the real issue is making suicide a bit nicer.  In three ways: 1) making sure it actually works (suicide survivors are often permanently disfigured, and still have to suffer whatever it was that drove them to try to opt out in the first place); 2) making it less awful for the people left behind; and 3) removing the social stigma.  

1) Is an obvious one.  For every one person who is successful at removing themselves from this mortal realm, something between 19-25 people fail, only managing to severely disfigure themselves (losing limbs, destroying organs, damaging brains, etc, depending on the methods of exit employed). Now, if I decide to end it all, I don’t want to wake up and find that all I’ve done is lose my legs and soil my underpants.  We need some sure-fire fool-proof absolutely guaranteed method of getting out of here, some kind of prescription-based lethal injection we can just purchase when we decide, as grown adults, that it’s time to move on.  I mean, sheesh, if we can do it for Fluffy, why not ourselves?

2) As it stands currently, all the options are a bit yuk for those left behind: who wants to come home to see mama swinging from a rafter, or papa’s cerebellum decorating the rumpus room?  Blood and vomit and arteries and shit and train-splatter are all majorly gross things for loved ones to experience.  It’s not fair on them, it’s not pleasant for anyone, and do you really want everyone’s last memory of you to be the one where you look like an extra from The Walking Dead?  Again, a lethal injection might leave us with no muss, no fuss.  No more suicide notes ending with “please excuse all the blood”; nothing but clean sheets and a smile.

3) Imagine a world where, when you decide you’ve had enough, your loved ones gather around you, offer you their final words of kindness and solidarity and support, light a few candles or put on your favourite tunes or whatever, and engage in some sort of respectful severance ceremony, some kind of warm official ceremonial goodbye.  And then you jab yourself with a needleful of ‘Soft Farewell’TM and slip into unconsciousness and eventually the void.  No shame, no vilification, no coercion.  Imagine if it was just a normal thing that everyone did: imagine if people chose their own deaths as much as they choose their own holiday destinations.  Would that really be so bad?  (Even if you had no loved ones to speak of, the idea of vanishing slowly within a cocoon of warm oblivion sounds preferable to trying to slice open the right artery or fall from a high enough bridge.  You’ve got to go some day, might as well make it nice.  Self-determined.  Clean.  Thorough.  Dignified.)

“But Mat,” I hear you ask, “if suicide was socially-approved, legally-sanctioned, easily-accessible, no muss, no fuss, and non-controversial, more people would see it as an option!  We’d have more suicides!  And that blood would be on your hands, Blackwell!”  To which I respond, “Well, sure, maybe, but as a non-controversial, socially-approved activity, that’d only be as shocking as saying more people were playing Bingo, or more people are putting fucking butter in their coffee.  They’d’ve gone with approval and dignity instead of furtive secrecy and shame.  They’d’ve made a choice about their own lives, and that would be okay with everyone, because we’d all be mature adults who respect other people’s decisions about what to do with their own personal bodies.  And their blood might be on my metaphorical hands, but at least it wouldn’t be all over the literal real-life bathroom for their literal real-life loved ones to have to clean up.  Besides, a lot of really fucked up sad sad people would no longer be with us, so, overall, society would be a happier and more highly-functioning place.  You’re welcome, buddy”.

And what kind of monster am I?  It turns out I’m that kind of monster.