Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Human rights, gender issues and suicide

The tragic story of Tyler Clementi’s suicide is well known to many by now . It was an event, not improved by the media circus that has erupted after it. And it raises a number of fundamental issues. Here are three that come to mind, I am sure that there are more.

First: human rights. The secret video and its subsequent broadcast of Mr. Clementi’s intimate activities violated his human rights – period. That is clear, regardless of whom his intimate partner (or partners) was. The electronic age has made it easier to both address and infringe on human rights. The digital world is a global world. We as a global society will have to deal with this, and quickly. 

Second: gender issues. My family, my community, my country and my world are places in which diversity is celebrated, where gender inequalities are not tolerated and where gender differences are embraced. It seems that we still have a lot of work to do on these issues. We cannot stop until they have been long relegated to the dustbin of history.

Third: suicide. Mr. Clementi’s suicide was certainly a tragic event. Yet we do not know all the details of his story and it is too easy to jump to certainty about what emotional turmoil and what other factors lead him to choose the tack that he did. We do not need to argue that we must respect and support human rights and gender differences by raising the specter of suicide. We need to address suicide on its own terms, in all its complexities and in all its layers. We need to do the right thing not just something.

 I for one, look forward to a time when I do not ever read a media story such as the one about Mr. Clementi. Not because the media has not made a circus about it, but because there are no more similar stories to tell. But in order to do that, we must work hard to make sure our friends and our neighbors are on a similar page. And who is my neighbor? Everyone is my neighbor, and everyone is your neighbor.


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