Re: [Foucault-L] Biopower and Suicide

not sure if i can do this (and i know it's not what you asked for),
though it is freely available as a pdf on the web, but i truly adore
this piece...

The Simplest of Pleasures.
From: Sylvère Lotringer (ed) (1996) Foucault Live: Collected
Interviews, 1961-
1984 SEMIOTEXT(E). New York. pp.295-297
'Homosexuals often commit suicide,' reports a psychiatric study. This
word 'often' fascinates
me. We might imagine tall, slender, palid creatures unable to cross
over the threshhold to the
opposite sex, in a faceoff with death all through life, only to end it
finally by slamming the door
with a loud bang (which never fails to annoy the neighbors). Instead
of marrying the opposite
sex they marry death. The other sex is replaced by the other side.
But, the story goes, they're
just as incapable of dying as they are of really living. In this
ludicrous account suicide and
homosexuals are portrayed so as to make each other look bad.
So let's see what there is to say in favor of suicide. Not so much in
support of legalizing it
or making it 'moral'. Too many paople have already belabored these
lofty things. Instead,
let's say something against the shady affairs, humiliations, and
hypocrisies that its detractors
usually surround it with: hastily getting boxes of pills together,
finding a solid, old-fashioned
razor, or licking gun store windows and entering some place pretending
to be on the verge of
In my opinion a person should have the right not to be rushed, which
is very bothersome. Indeed,
a great deal of attention and competence are required. You should have
the chance to discuss
at length the various qualities of each weapon and its potential. It
would be nice if the salesperson
were experienced in these things, with a big smile, encouraging but a
little bit reserved (not
too chatty), and sophisticated enough to understand that they are
dealing with a person who's
basically good-hearted, but somewhat clumsy, never having had the idea
before of employing
a machine that shoots people. It would also be convenient if the
salesperson's enthusiasm didn't
stop them from advising you about the existence of alternative ways,
ways that were more chic,
more your style. This kind of business-like discussion is worth a
thousand times more than
the chatter that goes on around the corpse among the employees of the
funeral parlor.
Some people that we didn't even know, and who didn't know us either,
arranged it so that one
day we started existing. They pretended to belive, no doubt sincerely,
that they were waiting
for us. In any case they prepared for ourentry into the world with
great care (and often with
a sort of second-hand seriousness). It's quite inconceivable that we
not be given the chance
to prepare ourselves with all the passion, intensity and detail that
we wish, including the little
extras that we've been dreaming about for such a long time, since
childhood perhaps or just
some warm summer evening. Life it seems is quite fragile in the human
species and death quite
certain. Why must we make of this certainty a mere happenstance (which
might suggest, by
virtue of its suddenness or inevitability, or air of punishment)?
The philosophies that promise to teach us what to think about death
and how to die bore me
to tears. I'm not at all moved by those things that are supposed to
'prepare us for it.' One has
to prepare it bit by bit, decorate it, arrange the details, find the
ingredients, imagine it, choose
it, get advice on it, shave it into a work without spectators, one
which exists only for oneself,
just for that shortest little moment of life. Those who survive, of
course, see suicide as nothing
but superficial traces, solitude, awkwardness, and unanswered cries.
These people can't help
but ask 'why?': the only question about death that shouldn't be asked.
'Why? Because I wanted to.' It's true that suicide often leaves
discouraging traces. But who's
to blame? Do you think it's pleasant to have to hang yourself in the
kitchen with your tongue
hanging out all bluish? Or to close yourself in the garage and turn on
the gas? Or to leave
a tiny bit of your brain lying on the sidewalk for the dogs to come
and sniff at? I believe that
we're witnessing in these times a 'suicidal spiral' because many
people are so depressed at the
thought of all these nasty things that are forced on someone who's
aspiring to suicide (things
including the police, the ambulance, the elevator man, the autopsy and
what not), that many
prefer to commit suicide rather than to continue to think about it all.
Some advice to lovers of humanity. If you really want to see a
decrease in the number of suicides,
support only those potential suicides which are committed with
forethought, quietly and without
wavering. Suicide must not be left to unhappy people who might bungle
it or make a mess
of it. In any case there are lots fewer happy than unhappy people.
It's always struck me as
strange that people say that death is nothing to worry about, because
between life and nothingness
death is nothing but a border. But it is true that this is all there
is to the game? Make something
of it, something fine.
No doubt we've missed out on a lot of pleasures and we've had some
that were pretty mediocre:
others we've let slip by out of laziness or lack of attention,
imagination or persistence. We
should consider ourselves lucky to have at hand (with suicide) an
extremeley unique experience:
it's the one which above all the rest deserves the greatest attention
- but rather so that you can
make of it a fathomless pleasure whose patient and relentless
preparation will enlighten all of
your life.
Suicide festivals or orgies are just two of the possible methods.
There are others more intricate
and learned. When I see the funeral 'homes' in American cities I'm not
just appalled by how
dreadfully banal they are, as if death had to smother any attempt at
imagination, but also I think
it's a pity that they serve cadavers and their glad-to-still-be-alive
families. Let there be some
alternatives for those of little means and those who have grown weary
of too much reflection
so that they don't have to rely on these prepackaged, boring and
expensive expedients. For
example, alternatives like those the Japanese have devised (they're
called 'love hotels') for having
sex. They know a lot more about suicide than we do.
If you have the chance to go to the Chantily in Tokyo you'll see what
I mean. You'll sense
there the existence of places without maps or calendars where you can
enter into the most absurd
decors with anonymous partners to look for an opportunity to die free
of all stereotypes. There
you'd have an indeterminate amount of time - seconds, weeks, months
perhaps - until the moment
presents itself with compelling clearness. You'd recognize it
immediately. You couldn't miss
it. It would have the shapeless shape of utterly simple pleasure.

On Nov 9, 2007 4:05 PM, Halit Mustafa Tagma <mustafatagma@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Hello,
> I remember once reading something Foucault wrote on biopower and suicide.
> Something that went like "biopolitical cannot tolerate suicide..."
> I cannot remember the entire argument.
> Does anyone remember such a thing in Foucault (with citations if possible)
> Thanks a lot,
> Halit Mustafa Tagma
> _______________________________________________
> Foucault-L mailing list

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    • From: Nihal Mermutlu
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    [Foucault-L] Biopower and Suicide, Halit Mustafa Tagma
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