June 8, 2013

Somebody jumped in front of a train today at City Hall Station.

Equally tragic, according to a business suit guy, was that his socks were wet and now that somebody jumped in front of a train, he had to walk in the rain again.

by Asher Platts

Why do people commit suicide? According to Psychology Today the number one reason is depression. Financial troubles, and unemployment are just a few of the leading causes of depression and sucide.

Why am I hung up on this?

Leaving Left Forum's Plenary Session at Pace University, I was going to take the 4/5/6 to the lower east village to try to catch the end of a comedy show. I was playing phone tag trying to get the address for the venue, and then decide whether it was worth it to go out there,or to meet up at another party out in Brooklyn, and then suddenly, City Hall station was filled with firefighters and EMTs. At first, I didn't know if one of the trains had caught fire, but as soon as a firefighter came down with a single backboard, I knew what had happened-- somebody fell in front of a train and was hit.

I can't find anything about the incident on twitter or in the news yet, so I don't know if they survived or not.

Having just left the Plenary Session where Jill Stein, Christian Parenti, and Immanuel Wallerstein talked about Capitalism, Eco-Socialism, and so on, this talk was creating a prism I viewed these events immediately afterwards through.

It soon became apparent that the trains weren't going anywhere, and I left to find another station and hop the A train to Brooklyn. As I was walking around City Hall, a middle-aged man in a business suit complained to me, "I can't beleive this. I'm walking all day in this rain, and some asshole jumps in front of a train, and now I've got to walk in this fucking rain again. I'm taking a cab."

And that's how I found out that the fall in front of the train was not accidental.

This man wasn't concerned with the fact that a person just tried to kill themselves, wasn't concerned why, didn't care what sort of financial, personal, or other troubles had led them to jump in front of a train.

Jill Stein and Christian Parenti both talked about the way that economics and environmentalism are inextricably linked. That our ecological system, and our economic system are continually shaping one another.

It occurred to me standing in the deluge of rain outside the entrance to City Hall station, that our economic system and other seemingly untouchable aspects of humanity are also engaged in a process of shaping one another. Philosophers, artists, musicians, all can espouse ideas that shape the way people act, and thusly effect our economy; the relationship also goes the other way, and capitalism reaches it's dark claws through the mirror and shapes our values, our ethics, and empathy in its own sociopathic image. So much of what makes Capitalism possible is that our success within it often depends on us unlearning empathy, to avoid acting on our immediate instinct to help others. To unlearn compassion.

We are okay with driving cars that burn gas which requires that indiginous people get cancer via Tar Sand extraction releasing toxics into the water table. We are okay with African children getting their arms cut off with machetes when they refused to work as slaves in rare earth mineral mines, or when Chinese workers are paid part of their paycheck in rice, or made to work 100 hours of overtime per month so that we can have computers and cell phones. We either don't know, or we do know, but we teach ourselves to not care. And if we sell Cell Phones or Computers for a living, if we work for an engineering firm that is consulting with Exxon to build tar sands pipelines, we especially don't care.

It was apparent that this man had long unlearned the skills of empathy and compassion. Despite the fact that somebody who is a sister or a brother, a son or a daughter, may have just lost their life, this man was concerned only about his socks getting wet.

And why did this person decide to end their life? Was it financial trouble? Unemployment? Homelessness? I imagine that this business man works in the nearby financial district. Was he somehow responsible for the woes of this anonymous suicide? Capitalism creates the sort of world where businessmen who profit by causing financial trouble, unemployment, and homelessness for others, and when confronted with the consequences of their actions, care only about their wet socks.

I didn't mind the rain pouring down in NYC tonight, but tonight's events, left me feeling downright gloomy.

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