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  1. Recently there has been some talk on this forum about the ethics of suicide. In my view it is a mistake to argue that suicide is universally right or wrong, moral or immoral. Like all judgments of human behavior, context is critical. With that in mind, perhaps we can focus here on an unusual type of suicider: the captured spy. Sometimes a spy is captured, or about to be captured, by the enemy, and he or she decides to suicide rather than cope with whatever future awaits them. Let's consider a couple specific examples, which I've found on a list at Wikipedia. Meir Max Bineth was an Israeli agent who spied on Egypt in the 1950s. He got caught during a failed operation and was then tortured for months. The Egyptians wanted to put him on trial, but the night before his court date Bineth killed himself in jail. He did not want to give the Egyptians the satisfaction of publicly executing him. I think this is a perfectly justifiable reason to kill oneself. While some might argue that Bineth could have enjoyed a day or two more of imprisoned life, I would counter that such a brief and pointless extension of life might be utterly worthless compared to the final psychological satisfaction in knowing that one's suicide will deprive the enemy of a public victory. Sarah Aaronsohn, a Jew working for the British during World War 1, was part of a large network who spied on the Ottomans in the Middle East. The enemy discovered Aaronsohn and tortured her for days. She refused to reveal any secrets. Her captors then let her return to her house to change clothes. While inside she grabbed a hidden pistol from her bathroom and shot herself in the head. Aaronsohn killed herself rather than suffer more torture and possible betrayal of both her fellow conspirators and their greater cause in pursuit of a Jewish homeland. Not betraying her friends was clearly a more important value than the continued physical and psychological torment that awaited her. Such cases of captured spies killing themselves are perhaps the closest thing we have to a truly moral suicide. They are done with great and serious purpose, which might be condemned but certainly cannot be denied or evaded. The purpose is not merely to escape the pain of torture, but to deprive an enemy of the value which is the spy's own self. By killing themselves, they are maintaining the integrity of their chosen purpose in life, which is to fight the enemy and give them nothing. Spies like Bineth and Aaronsohn probably died with whatever joy they could get from knowing that they remained true to their purpose until the bitter end.
  2. In an ideal world, that Batman-movie Aurora, Colorado mass-murderer of twelve random innocent people would be openly and fairly tried, convicted, and executed within a month. This is because it's an open-and-shut case and because "justice delayed is justice denied." He would also be somewhat tortured first, because extraordinary crimes deserve extraordinary penalties. Social balance/retribution and abstract justice demand this. And friends of the victims and concerned observers would turn to philosophy and rational spirituality for comfort -- not to religion. And people would view the situation in context, and recognize that about 7000 Americans die every day, and thus not get overexercised about a mere twelve. People would rationally focus on saving the 7000 far the most. And as for preventing this type of atrocity "from ever happening again," people would have a natural and knee-jerk reaction in the direction of seeking more personal freedom in society -- not more gov't tyranny. They wouldn't consider banning guns. People would think about getting rid of gov't roads -- which literally pave the way for every madman and monster to come right up to us -- and the general public would demand that the various business venues like theaters and airlines and college campuses think about getting better security -- such as more public scrutiny, security guards, and metal detectors -- to more effectively protect their customers. They'd also think about legalizing drugs and prostitution, so the cops could focus more on preventing crimes of violence. Of course -- this is how almost everyone would react to a random, meaningless, isolated, largely-unpreventable atrocity in an ideal world. Our society and culture is very different.
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