Bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim
The Logan Paul suicide forest controversy
An interesting and disturbing controversy has surfaced in the past day with a famous youtube vlogger Logan Paul. Basically Logan Paul (and a few of his friends) walked into the suicide forest, deliberately went into the restricted area and came across a hanging dead body. And what did they do? Well they did what any view-hungry ego-centric fools would do and film the body up close and acting all traumatised and nervously laughing.
Despite this being inappropriate material for youtube he still uploaded the vlog. And then received a massive backlash from various people on the internet (though has yet to receive any official reprimand from Youtube). Logan has since taken the video down and written an apology on twitter, but what I find more interesting is how his audience reacted and what people in general found disturbing. This blog revolving around god and religion, of course I’m more interested in examining what the various reactions tell us about the state of the people and their position towards death.
The majority demographic of Logan’s audience are teenagers and Phil Defranco commented that before Logan took down his video, it had over 600 thousand likes. And Joey from the Anime Man channel observed that the video had more likes than dislikes.
In fact in the video Logan says to like if you feel sad. Apparently his young audience followed suit.
Logan did say suicide is not a joke. Perhaps he felt that he had a message to give to his audience about suicide. Maybe he wanted to provide some shock treatment. But by showing the actual hung body, he actually caused far more harm than he probably intended.
Humans are wired in a weird way, that if they see or hear about something, it becomes more appealing. This is why in the suicide prevention guidelines, you can’t show explicit details of the actual suicide or describe it in any way, or show the techniques that one could use to off themselves. This is also why “13 reasons why” was a very bad series as it didn’t deal with the subject matter in any realistic fashion and rather made it dramatic, and showed the actual suicide (obviously acted but still harmful for impressionable people).
Both Logan and his audience showed great disrespect for the dead and Logan didn’t even use this as a teaching moment to teach his audience about living life well because death is coming for all of us.
Criticism from the internet
Various youtubers have made videos commenting on this controversy (The Anime Man, Comedyshortsgamer and Pewdiepie) and generally they are in agreement that what Logan did was vile and disrespectful. I certainly agree with their sentiment.
But I found it interesting that they were disturbed by the showing off of the corpse and I thought there was certainly an element of shock and fear from actually being exposed to footage of a dead body that’s playing through their videos.
The real significance of death for us
It’s interesting to see how on the one hand Logan and his audience are too numb in their hearts to have been greatly affected by this encounter, and others are more disturbed that such content and acts could be allowed in the first place.
What I’ve personally taken away from all this is that I really have a lot of life to live and I can’t waste it. Each day is precious, though for some people their lives seem to be hell on earth.
Before modern medicine and hygiene improved life expectancies globally, people in the past had a very different relationship with death. For many people, death was a constant companion, always ready to take them away. Many were obsessed with immortality and hence why we have the myth of the fountain of Youth and the various stories featuring undead or coming back to life (Frankenstein, Dorian Grey, Dracula).
For the muslims (especially those at the time of the Prophet Muhammad) they were told to pray each prayer as if it was their last. This meant to pray each prayer fully consciously and with full attention, though its full significance didn’t sink in till I saw how often many people died in the desert. Being alive the next day was no more certain to them than what was going on the other side of the world.
Contrast this with the modern time, where the majority now take their safe longevity for granted. I have great certainty of being around next week, and certainly next year. With the turning of the new year most people have made their new year’s resolutions as if knowing they have at least the full year to live. Our relationship with death is now a distant one, where we are only reminded of its reality through death in action films or horror games.
In fact if it weren’t for even this level of exposure few of us would be in direct contact with a corpse unless it involved our jobs. I realised I had never seen a human corpse up close and personal, and I get the feeling that if I do, it will be a very surreal experience.
Death, both as a concept and a physical reality was used by muslims to come to terms with their short life and to help them detach from this life’s inherent emptiness and “pleasures” and prepare for the Afterlife.
Imam Ghazali writes a book on the remembrance of death and the afterlife in his “Revival of the religious sciences”. He writes that remembrance of death is meritorious as it makes one disdain the pleasures of this life (which are fleeting) for the eternal pleasures of the next world. Imam Ghazali writes that the Prophet Muhammad said:
“Remember often the Ender of Pleasures.”
The Prophet once passed by a group of people laughing on his way to the mosque. “Remember Death!” he said. “By Him in Whose Hand lies my soul, if you knew what I know you would laugh little and weep much.”
These are very sobering words to reflect on. In truth, how can we laugh if we don’t know what our position is with God? If God is happy with us, then we can laugh and be merry. But we don’t know, so we must be awake and vigilant rather than empty-headed and heedless.
Seeing death, especially caused by suicide should remind us how precious our lives are, and how precious little of it we have left. Death should remind us to prefer the eternal over the fleeting.