Friday, December 12, 2008

Some thoughts on suicide

I've been doing a lot of thinking of late about the entire ethical question of suicide, and it boils down to a few key points, which I will summarize here before opening the floor to comments. There seems to be a very limited scope by way of arguments put forward against suicide, and it makes me wonder how much people actually look at the topic from a neutral point of view. We are ALL going to die sometime - death is the only certainty in life. Why is it regarded as an aberration to have any decision on how and when we die? Here are the main arguments I've come up against, feel free to add others by way of comment.

  1. Suicide is the most selfish act one can perform. I find it interesting that the only reason people can give for this is "what about the ones left behind?". Well, what about them? Close friends or family may mourn for a time, but again, we're all going to die. We might die by violent means at the hands of another, we might try and cross the road and get hit by a bus whose driver wasn't paying attention. Even if we don't, one day we'll die because our bodies simply shut down. Why is it a particularly selfish act to say "The circumstances no longer give me quality of life. I therefore, with love and respect for my friends and family, wish them all the best and withdraw from this life before I become a burden on them." I still fail to see how this can be selfish, other than to those who simply want the person to stay alive because they, personally, don't want to miss that person - in which case I'm bound to ask, who is the selfish one in this scenario?
  2. Suicide is a sin, forbidden by God. It depends on your beliefs. Yes, if you're a Christian, the Bible says that suicide is the ultimate "playing God" scenario, which is one of the worst sins you can execute - but what if you're not Christian. I, for example, am Wiccan. Our beliefs don't hold that there's a God who judges everyone for their acts, or who will be waiting to don wig and gavel the second someone departs the mortal coil. To a Wiccan, death is part of the cycle of things - death is neither friend nor enemy, it just is. It's certainly not a sin. In a world where there is supposed to be religious freedom, why is it immediately assumed that just because the God of Christians says it's a sin to commit suicide, this automatically makes it a sin for everyone else?
  3. Suicide is a mental illness. Don't commit suicide, get councelling. This is another common thing that I hear, and again, I don't see that a very broad label can be applied. In some cases, yes, some people who have a mental illness or problem will contemplate suicide. I happen to think that genuine depression is not a mental illness. Even the happiest of people can be driven into depression by a set of circumstances relevant to their condition or situation, That does not automatically make those people mentally ill. Councelling can only help if there is a solution. If a quite sane person, driven by circumstances has assessed every part of their situation and found that there is no viable outcome, just as if a vet tries every solution on an animal and it still remains ill - councelling isn't going to help. Councelling has its place, without a doubt, and nobody should die alone or make the decision alone. But at the end of the day, when one passes the age of majority and becomes lawfully an adult, one takes responsibility for ones own destiny, ones own actions. Ultimately I believe that gives one the right to choose, in full awareness and acceptance of the consequences and the responsibilities, when they leave this life.
The circumstances of the suicidal person should always be taken into consideration when debating how "right" or "wrong" such a thing is. This is an area where blanket rules can't and won't work. I'm interested on peoples feedback on this, so the floors open. What's your opinion on suicide?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Letter of Resignation to Support for Healing

Dear folks,

I have given this whole matter a great deal of thought. To write these words hurts deeply, and to actually need to write them hurts even more.

The fact is, Zafu Diamond has stopped communicating with the management team. In fact, except for Industria Dowler who has been landed with the unenviable task of trying to hold things together, I haven't heard from ANY of the other management team members in a while. Despite Twickle Rosebud's recent notice, there is no evidence that the island will continue beyond the end of June, especially given that there is no way for Zafu to collect donations directly to keep the island going.

As anyone who has been monitoring Jira Ticket MISC-1154 is aware, the island tier has to be paid by the account holder only, Linden Labs won't talk to anyone else about it. This means that we're stuck in a perpetual cycle of sending money to a paypal address apparently owned by Zafu without any feedback, and just hoping that the money will eventually receive LL on time. In addition, since the closure of this address is apparently a private one and it is NOT paypal verified.

I am sure other members would feel very upset if they sent donations only to find the island vanished anyway. They would most likely want their money back, and I wouldn't blame them for that, which leaves poor Industria Dowler stuck in the middle, as the in-world person who collects the money she is likely to be crtiticised by angry members wanting their money back, but if she's already sent it to Zafu she won't have the money to refund.

This is not the way to run a support island, and my patience is finally at an end.

I therefore am left with no option but to resign my positions at Supportforhealing, effective immediately.

I shall be shutting down the vendors, removing my prims from the island and cleaning up. This unfortunately will mean the upcoming events sign, the fundraising vendors and the teleporters will shortly vanish. I apologise for this, but do not feel that I can continue without some solid evidence that the founder is behind us.

Also effective immediately, Listening Ear will no longer operate from the island. I have my own land now, and it will operate from there. IM me if you need further details on this.

Very shortly, a new website - - will become available, on which forums and other details will hopefully be posted.

Blessings to you all, and thank you for the friendships and contacts I have had over the period I've been at Support for Healing.

Untameable Wildcat
5 May 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Sometimes I wonder why people like me even bother to try and help others.

Following the problems at Support for Healing, I raised a JIRA ticket about the issue of a backup plan in the event that, for some reason, an individual sim owner doesn't manage to get a tier payment through on time.

Along come Mercia McMahon and Lex Neva (Lex isn't even a member of the Support for Healing group) and neither bothers to actually find out about the situation before they open their mouths.

Mercia first:

This is not going to be changed in the short-term and I understand that the Description is over-stated. The owner's account is still active and the island is not in immediate danger.
Management teams are fine until there is a dispute, I can understand LL restricting an island to single avatar ownership, and as private regions are not part of the mainland tier system there is no way for groups to own one. A solution would be to create a parallel system of private region tier, so that groups can own private regions and so tier payments can be shared.

Okay, let's go through the actual facts

  • First of all, Zafu's account isn't active. What Mercia did was use the beta "Search All" to look up his account, and for some reason it showed. She never bothered to look up the nonbeta "search people" system, where his account doesn't show. Incidentally, in a later posting I'll get to in a moment, she doesn't take responsiblity for or apologise for her incorrect posting; it's clearly "a problem" with the Beta system.
  • Secondly, we have no way of telling whether the island is in immediate danger, so to say it simply isn't is wrong. As we don't know (for some reason best known to himself Zafu won't tell anyone) what day tier is paid, we don't know what day we need to aim for, and thus we don't know if we need to put our hands in our own pockets as a management team to keep the island, should the tier day draw near and the donations meter still be at 25%
  • Thirdly, her "solution" simply doesn't apply to the situation here. It's not relevant to this issue at all, because this issue is about a problem that already exists not about possibly presenting it in the future.
It should also be noted, I feel, that when I was talking to another SfH member about a recent depression support group, who was there making a LOT of use of the service? Mercia McMahon. Shame she can't show a little support for the service she seems to find so valuable.

Now Lex Neva:
> the sim owner won't tell us on what day of the month tier is due.

Simply put, if you don't have full cooperation of the sim owner, I don't think it's a good idea for LL to let you step in and take over the island or island payments. Wouldn't it be messy if a quietly predatory group of "helper" managers managed to wrest control of an island away from its owner simply because they had something come up in RL and weren't able to keep current in SL? I know you assured us that's not what you're doing here... but how is LL to make that judgement in all cases? How can they do that without spending many hours of LL worker time per island?

It IS possible for non-profit corporations to hold islands and accounts in SL. I believe they can even get a discount. It seems like that kind of organization is necessary for such an important island as this one.
Let's have a look at this one.

  • In Lex's mind, or at least in his posting, if the sim owner isn't always standing right behind the management team, it's better for the sim to vanish due to nonpayment than LL to talk to the management team. Sorry, everyone who needs the help and support of Supportforhealing, but if Zafu doesn't want to continue or to even talk to the management team, then in Lex's mind LL should simply kill off the sim. Who needs it anyway?
  • Secondly, and MOST outrageous (and this really had me pissed off) - far from doing good works in trying to make sure the island didn't vanish, Indy, I and all the others in the management team are trying to take over the island. This from someone who isn't even a member of the group. Linden Labs should remove the island rather than let us take it over even if that's not what we're trying to do.
  • Thirdly, the "non-profit corporation" he's talking about requires American non-profit corporation status. Support for Healing is an English charity. It doesn't have either the means nor the legal knowhow to register for NPC status in America, nor, to be honest, does it really want to. I was told at some point that we do still get the discount - I don't know if this is true or not - but if there's no mechanism for LL to recognise non American charities, that's their failing and something they need to look at.
Following rather a strongly worded correction of Mercia's points, she did respond with

@Wildcat. "If you search for the sim owner under Search -> People there are no results returned, because that account is NOT active. " Yes, but if you search for their first name in All, they are top of the list. I should have remembered that All is Beta, so a problem has been spotted there.

No "oops, I was wrong". No "Aha, I've checked and yes, that is actually the state." No apology. Seems a lot of people who cruise the JIRA looking for issues to comment on don't actually feel the need to do any research about what they're commenting on, which is really annoying.

In the meantime I'm working on the possibility after my move this week of resigning from Support for Healing. There's only so much I'm prepared to fight. The only thing keeping me there is guilt about dropping poor Industria Dowler into the unenviable situation of being the ONLY one apparently pro-actively interested in keeping it going; I don't really want to do that to her.

But really, from the point of view of the rest of the way things are working out, I simply don't want to fight any more... I'm still coming across people who don't even KNOW of the JIRA ticket despite the group announcement I made (did these people simply cancel the announcement without actually reading it?) and so they aren't voting, aren't making their voices heard... and if the island DOES disappear, they'll wonder how come it got this bad and they didn't hear about it?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reflections on my time in SL (Bumped)

Once upon a time, there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours,
Think of all the great things we would do

When I first came to SL I was gobsmacked. The system held so much promise, made boundaries so much smaller. It wasn't long before I found Support for Healing, and not long after that I founded Listening Ear, for helping those who felt uncomfortable talking in a group environment. This was my home away from home, and when I lost people RL I could come here, where there was no death, and still be helpful.

There was even a darker side to SL, where I could indulge my fantasies, in the hope I might find respite from numerous ghosts that had haunted me over the years...

Then, the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If, by chance, I'd see you in the tavern,
We'd smile at one another and we'd say

Time passed. Rules changed. Arguments broke out about paid accounts vs free accounts. I moved countries, and somewhere along the way my first ever account was deleted, my land in Disl recycled, my possessions deleted. When I came back to SL after settling in another country, Support for Healing was a ghost island, regular meetings cancelled, hosts drawn from helping to dealing with RL matters. A very few people I managed to re-establish contact with. A few names I still try to look up every so often. I exchanged many a happy word with one person in particular, but I have no idea if she comes on any more... I've never actually seen her online, and now the system has changed so that you can't see the online/offline state of someone unless they allow it - which I still think is a deliberate cop-out to stop Lindens being IMd when they take no notice of the help request channel...

Just tonight, I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass, I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me?

When I first came to SL I was an escort for a while, to make enough Linden Dollars to survive. During my prowling today I was asked for sex in the usual pidgeon english that is a dead giveaway the person I'm talking to either doesn't speak good english, or is well under the age the mature grid requires, or both. With things like first land disposed of, and RL politics in the form of various countries politicians invading SL to canvass for any votes they could get... I just felt the loneliness very strongly. I looked at the glass of the monitor, and I did indeed see a strange reflection of myself, and wonder - IS this really me, is this what I've become, and all I can ever be?

Through the door, there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh, my friend, we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts, the dreams are still the same

I watch the happenings these days at places like CaRP and Support for Healing from the sidelines. I see familiar faces, hear people occasionally greet me... all the dreams are gone now, gone to dust, as time passes and Second Life gets more restrictive, more unstable and more filled with people who just want to fulfill sexual fantasies with this unmoderated medium...

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we'd choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days

Very little holds me to SL now... the few people I mention in my web profile, the occasional genuine cry for help that I can in some small way help... but very little else. Some days I just long to fade.

One day, I shall fade from SL. I will close my account, and click the magic button in control panel that officially kills me from the system. Few will notice, few will care.

It's just another lost dream, after all.

Stay safe.

(lyrics: Mary Hopkins - Those were the days, my friend)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Support for Healing is dying, and with it my SL purppose

I can't help but recognize one fact this month.

Support for healing is dying.

At the beginning of the month the domain hosting for was not renewed. It's now in its "grace period" prior to being deleted. Despite on a number of occasions me suggesting we moved it to a domain I administer, there has yet to be an answer.

This morning, the person I would have appointed as manager of the island helpers in the event that I needed to leave second life abruptly left, deleting all his prims on the island. This came as a shock to me since I have no idea why he left. He also unfriended me, so I don't know if he'll respond to my IM about it.

There's a donation meter on the island now. I'm given to understand that this months tier is okay, but so far next months tier is in doubt. The donation meter was at 20% when I last looked.

It looks like the island that drew me to SL in the first place is in its death throws, and may close within the next two months. If it does, with my new job an increasing demand on my time, I may well leave SL myself. It's sad to think about this, but I may end up moving on simply because what I loved more than anything about SL has died. Blue Angel memorial garden closed last month, and if Support for Healing goes the same way, Untameable Wildcat will quietly die with it.

I doubt anyone will notice.

Friday, March 14, 2008

MetaLIFE: New social networking tool or spam-generator?

A short while ago I was asked to try out a new social networking tool called MetaLIFE. From the outset it struck me as quite well coded, with a lot of thought having gone into it. It wasn't perfect yet (what is?) as it was still hardcoded to use channel 8 which upset other scripted items, including Psyke's security orb, which could cause the MetaHUD to become quite confused (and, it appeared to me, rather distressed) when it couldn't obey the commands it thought it was being given.

But for a social networking system it is pioneering. It allows you to "follow", or track, the activities of other residents (I do have some worries that they might fall foul of privacy rules here, but time will tell) and get little messages whenever someone you're "following" does something. Likewise, people choosing to "follow" you will be told when you buy something, choose to "follow" someone else, comment a profile or other such things.

Originally this was quite quaint fun, and I did enjoy it.

But then someone scripting the MetaHUD made a real mistake in my opinion. They altered the way it worked so that it started sending offline messages to a subscribers email. And worse than that there STILL doesn't exist the ability to regulate that from the MetaHUD itself. Again, it's hard coded. The only options you have to stop that are to stop "following" residents, or to choose to stop SL from sending you offline IM's to email (which in my case isn't an option since I must receive urgent calls relating to SupportforHealing's Listening Ear project). Of course, if you DO do that then you risk getting "capped" by SL, which has a limit to the number of offline IMs and messages it will store.

At present, I'm only "following" one resident who is particularly busy. But that single resident's activities have sent me 11 emails on March 12th, six on the 13th and (at the time of this entry) 4 today. And that's one resident. Multiply this by 10 if it did become popular and suddenly you have a serious email problem. Already due to the frequency, length and content, my Mozilla Thunderbird has started to classify incoming MetaLIFE messages as junk mail.

I'm not sure that it isn't right.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why does this come as such a surprise?

Recently, since Support for Healing declared a financial crisis when our founder, Zafu Diamond, was not able to afford to pay island tier prices to Linden Labs on his own, I've had my eyes opened to a major misperception.

I've spoken to quite a few people, on the island and off it, about fundraising. Inevitably the topic of conversation will come around to the organizations legal standing, in terms of whether support for healing is genuinely a non-profit making charitable organization. The statutory requirements of the United States are mentioned, and I'm asked about SfH's compliance with them.

Then comes the bombshell.

Support for Healing is not an American project. It never has been. Our co-founders both live in the UK. When I tell people that, particularly if they come from the US, their reaction is almost identical in every case - they never considered, for one brief moment, that an organization that does such good works would exist in any country but the United States. It takes them completely off guard that Support for Healing would have gained it's charitable status in a different country.

I have to ask myself why this does come as such a surprise. The reactions of a lot of Americans I've spoken to is quite telling, in that reflected in their (justified) national pride about the charitable works of some American organizations overseas, is the growing sentiment that only Americans would think about doing something like Support for Healing. There's less of a surprise factor in the reactions of non-US residents, and indeed less of a disbelief factor as well. Less often do I get asked "are you serious?" by a non-US resident when I say that SfH is UK based.

I've seen other support groups in Second Life, and I've seen quite a lot of commercialism in terms of any support group needing to be paid for. That will never happen at Support for Healing. We do embody the Buddhist belief of our founder in that SfH is neither religious nor discriminating. We do what we do as volunteers, because we seek to help others; no other reason than that. Surely, this can happen anywhere in the world, not just the US?