Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation during the Buddhist crisis
I was already familiar with the most famous case of self-immolation where Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk, Thích Quảng Đức, lit himself ablaze in Saigon. The picture at the top of this article is from that day. He was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. Rather than losing their way of life, Thích, and other Buddhist monks immolated themselves. Political protests like theirs seem to be the most common reason for performing the incredibly painful act of altruistic suicide.
There are other ways that a person might kill themselves, other than by fire, in an act of self-immolation but that has become the norm. My guess is because of how showy it is to be fully engulfed in flames. This would make sense since most are done in public to catch the attention of on-goers and media outlets through the dramatic presentation. It certainly makes for unbelievable pictures.
There is a pretty high chance of death if one chooses to go the way of fire and that's what gets me about the whole idea. These people are so dedicated to their cause that they are willing to suffer not only the initial fire that they hope will kill them, but also the burn unit procedures they'll need to endure if they aren't successful. It's the over the top statement that will inevitably will bring more attention to their cause, but they may have to live in even more pain and endure even more suffering.
There is nothing I'm passionate enough about that would make me want to bring attention to it by self-immolating. That's also because I have no interest in dying anytime soon. Going out quietly and as painlessly as possible is the optimal way to leave this world in my opinion. However, writing yourself into world history as a revolutionary martyr certainly has an appeal. Doing it just to be remembered is wrong but by committing the act for your cause, you'd be immortalized. Is that better than living and dying without making any sort of mark on the world? I'm not sure.
There are certainly other ways to go about trying to force change in this world and I would hope that people who have decided to self-immolate tried all other courses of action first. Whether they did or not, their choice to take their own lives was theirs to choose. Suicide for any reason is seen as the ultimate act of selfishness because it's not about the person who has died, but those they've left behind. However, while it's not praised, self-immolation is accepted by many as the betterment of the world on behalf of a collective cause.
So what do I think? My will to live won't allow me to entertain the idea but if there are people who out there who think this is the only way, then they should do what they think is right. Whether it's lighting themselves on fire, performing seppuku, starving themselves, jumping off of a cliff, etc, that's on them to decide. I don't look at it as a pointless act of violence or that a person wasted their life. A waste of a life could be a simple as never doing anything meaningful for the world or even just for another human being. People who choose to self-immolate are doing something meaningful in theirs and many others' eyes. Is everyone to going to think so? No. But there is no issue that everyone in the world agrees about so people need to make the decisions that are right for them.
Self-immolation is a fascinating act that deserves the attention that it receives. A life is a precious thing so when a person makes the conscience decision to end that life by taking that act, notice should be taken. Nobody is killing themselves in this way over a TV show getting cancelled or their favorite snack product being discontinued. No, they have identified a problem that in most, if not all, instances is truly a problem and are sacrificing themselves in an attempt to fix it. It's something that should never be taken lightly or scoffed at because you don't agree with either the issue in question or the act itself.