Rip Your Heart in Two

The Sunday papers often have sad stories. People with cancer, children needing transplants. Tug-at-the-heart-strings-over-your-tea-and-Cornflakes stuff.
This Sunday’s Observer was different, though. The story of Noel Martin doesn’t tug at your heartstrings — it rips them out of your body, shreds them and stuffs them in your face as you bawl steaming hot tears of pain and anguish.
Titled “Why I just can’t go on living“, it tells how Martin, a Jamaican-born Brit, was chased by neo-Nazis shouting “nigger piss off” as he was driving through Mahlow, a small town south of Berlin. They threw a 44-lb concrete block through the window of his car, forcing him to crash into a tree. He went into a coma, and when he woke up he discovered he was paralysed from the neck down.
This was ten years ago. After a decade of living in what he describes as a “prison”, needing round-the-clock care, taking four hours to get up every morning, and also watching his wife die of cancer, he now plans to travel to Switzerland, which has liberal suicide laws, drink a cocktail of drugs and “shut my eyes and wake up in another world.”
The response of a neo-Nazi interviewed on German TV? ‘It’s fine by us if he goes and buries his carcass in Switzerland.’
If you’re not bawling yet, go and read the article. Then, if you still have any heart-strings left, buy Noel Martin’s book, “Call it my Life” (although I can’t find it on Amazon or anywhere, except in German). This story is so horrific it’s taken me days to write about it, and even now I don’t think I’ve done it justice. The way life has treated him I’m not surprised he wants to kill himself — I probably would have done it a lot sooner. I hope he finds something to live for before he gets that cocktail down his throat though.

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There are 5 comments

  1. Holy shit. How much more this man can take?

    I wonder if he’ll actually go through with the suicide? I gathered from the article that this man still has some fire left in him yet – he’s got kids, he’s involved in the anti-racism movement, etc.

    On the one hand I think, it would be awful if he did suicide because then those bastards who made him this way would have won!

    On the other hand, if some one desperately wants to die, does society have the right to tell them they can’t???

    I knew a woman who suffered the most violent, brutal, sadistic rape you could imagine. She survived, but she had some hideous physical reminders of her ordeal that could never be put right (not to mention the emotional scars).

    She suicided, and although I wanted to inflict damage on the men who’d done this to her, I couldn’t be sad for her. She had the choice between trying to rebuild her shattered life, or peaceful oblivion. I respected her decision, although I was sad for her family.

    I don’t discuss suicide often because my opinions are not the popular view…and it’s such a touchy, personal subject.

    So now that my rant is out the way, tell me a bit about your work as a journalist. Do you work in broadcast or print, are you freelance or on staff…? Do you specialist in any thing?

    Have a great day,

    PS. You were right about the cricket. I’d obviously blotted the traumatic episode from my mind (we lost by 9 wickets – ouch!!).

  2. Hi Eugenie,

    Good to see you back again!

    You raise some very good points. As far as I’m concerned, suicide is a matter for the individual person and his or her conscience. If a life becomes unbearable, I don’t see why governments, churches or individuals have the right to intervene. And, ultimately, intervention is useless anyway – if someone wants to do it they will find a bridge high enough or a bottle of pills big enough. All “society” can do by passing laws or judgements is make it harder to find painless, dignified ways of doing it.

    Thank you for telling me about your friend. It’s a horrific story, and I agree with your reaction (including the desire to inflict damage on those men – that’s exactly what I felt when I read it!). I often think about how the tiniest things make me depressed – money worries, a bad reaction to something I’ve written, an argument with a friend. I think if I had *really* bad things happen to me like she did or like Noel Martin did, I simply wouldn’t be strong enough to cope with it. Just thinking about it makes me despair about the world.

    As for your question on the journalism, I’d prefer to leave it unanswered for now, if you don’t mind. Not that I’m trying to be all mysterious or anything! It’s just that I am really enjoying writing this blog with the freedom to say whatever I want. And I think that I’m only able to do that right now because of the anonymity. One of the things I like about your blog is that you seem able to write very freely, while being open about who you are. I hope to get to that stage eventually, but I’m not there yet. The blogging thing is very new to me, and I don’t want to spoil it by starting to wonder if my editors are reading my posts and what they think of them. Then I might start self-censoring almost as much as I do in my journalistic writing…

  3. My apologies, LeftAlign.

    I didn’t mean to pry – okay, I did. Hey – I’m a journalist, I can’t help it!! 🙂

    I understand your wish for anonymity, especially as you’re new to blogging.

    Believe it or not, I’m quite paranoid about being found out, especially as I some times put rather, um, personal stuff on my blog. NZ has such a small population, and journalists are a pretty tight-knit group. There’s probably only a couple of hundred of us in the whole country. So there’s a real risk some one might read this who knows me.

    So that’s why I’ve changed every name except one on my blog (even my own name isn’t real). And I’m just assuming no-one who knows me is likely to stumble across my blog. *crosses fingers*

    Please try to not censor yourself on this blog! You won’t enjoy it as much if you do.

  4. No problem, Eugenie! I didn’t see it as prying. Changing names is a good idea, although still I think the things you talk about can make it easy for people to guess who you are.

    Luckily it seems that in my experience journalists are about five years behind every technological trend, so you’re probably right that nobody from the paper will find my blog — at least until about 2010, by which time I’ll probably have plucked up the courage to put up my real name and to hell with the consequences.

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