Wednesday, January 19, 2011


No no no...this isn't going to be a post about Rage Against the Machine. To most people in the teens and twenties this image is probably just an album cover and they probably don't realise that this is a real image of a real person. The person in question is Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam who on June 11, 1963, committed suicide by self-immolation as a protest of the Vietnamese regime of the time. Of course this is very very simplified. Now, this post isn't really about Thich Quang Duc. I just used the image because it is the most famous one. Videos of this event are on youtube and you can watch it if you with. I won't be posting the video here...kind of voyeuristic, no? 

Why, you might ask, am I rambling incoherently about self-immolation? Well, this morning I read a news-report about an 18 year old French student who committed this very act. It is felt that he was copying recent self-immolations in North Africa. While it remains to be seen whether or not he had a political motive or was just taking emo too far, it does seem like a gruesome thing to do. But I guess that is the point. When someone does that you pay attention. Opinion tends to be divided on the it a brave act of self-sacrifice? Or is is a pointless suicide that ultimately achieves nothing? I can see both sides to the argument. While it can bring people's focus onto a particular issue and change people's minds over things it is still one step short of strapping a bomb to yourself...other people do get hurt during self-immolations. People try to stop it and people have been set on fire themselves while trying to stop the act. 

Basically...I find this act very disturbing and particularly the act of Thich Quang Duc. Not all immolations are the same but many share something similar to that of Thich Quang Duc. It is not the idea of the pain that disturbs me, nor is it my own fear of being burned to death and neither is it that people stand around and watch it happen. What disturbs me is the calmness of the whole thing. If you choose to watch the video of Thich Quang Duc's immolation watch out for the calmness. He does run around, he doesn't scream, he doesn't do anything. He just sits there, perfectly calm and waits to die. After a few minutes he slumps forward and dies. That I find disturbing. Don't you?
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