Public Deaths

Death is one of the most universal of taboos. Not the rituals of grief, burial and mourning which are many, varied and almost always public in character. I mean the actual act of dying. This most mysterious of earthly transitions is done in private, even for the most well-known of persons, with a few family and close friends in attendance and maybe a man or woman of God around to ease the way.

Public deaths, on the other hand, serve a social purpose. For instance, public executions are meant to be cathartic events in which society extracts its pound of flesh, as it were. It supposedly serves as a deterrent to criminal or aberrant behavior and reflects the manner by which justice is served within a community. It’s also morbidly entertaining and can even be interactive, such as in the practice of stoning or the spectators’ participation in the gory events in the Roman Colosseum.

Other public deaths, such as the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, serve as a catalyst for social upheaval and change.

Suicide is a more complicated phenomenon in which no easy generalizations can be made. It can be done privately or in plain of view others, but even the most secretive act of taking one’s life assumes a public aspect upon the discovery of the body. The act itself is shocking under any circumstance, being so contrary to what we normally know and expect of human behavior. Thus, the ripple effects of a suicide extend beyond the immediate family or social circle of the victim to the society at large. I knowingly use the word “victim” as I believe those who kill themselves are casualties of one or another of life’s events which makes continued living unbearable. However, some suicides are more publicly significant that others. Continue reading

Let Cory Aquino Die in Peace

Eased out as headline news in most parts of the world, including the Philippines, by the death of Michael Jackson is the battle with colon cancer of former president Cory Aquino. Good thing too. She confounded most participants of the aborted deathwatch by getting well, at least for now. The media had to content itself with covering the many “get-well Tita Cory” activities in the wake of her reported death. Which was of course greatly exaggerated.

Who doesn’t want to wish her well and a speedy recovery ? Everyone it seems wants her to get back on her feet, the icon of feisty political courage, except Cory herself. She just wants to die, and join Ninoy in the Great Rally in the sky. After having given so much of herself to God, country and the cause of democracy, why not give her this one last wish and let her die with dignity and grace ? Instead, there’s a media circus outside the Makati Med and environs, where she was expected to breath her last. Continue reading

Lessons We Can Learn From Michael Jackson

People are saying about the sad and sudden passing of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, the same thing they said about Elvis: good career move. It’s a bit uncharitable but not entirely inaccurate. He was (and is, in death) a global star but his career had been on a downward spiral for years. Now he’s back on top of the charts.

And given the cult-like veneration given him by some, expect “Michael sightings” to happen a lot in the coming years. He didn’t really die, he was abducted by aliens. Continue reading