If you are a teenager or young adult, and have a friend who has been acting weird, distant, has remained unusually aloof, and displayed a dismal countenance, stay alert. Ask if he or she needs help; be there. The sheer act of caring may save a life. Ok, that seems obvious, what kind of friends would fail to care for one another?
Now, here is the thing. If we demand that kind of caring, understanding and maturity from seventeen-year-old students, what can we say about professional counselors, dean of students, teachers – those who should be there as reliable resources for the inevitable moments of depression in teenagers? Why is their presence, or figure, so important?
Netflix’s successful show 13 Reasons Why explores one significant aspect of teenage suicide, which helps to answer the question above: negligence. Hannah Baker’s whole situation is the perfect portrayal of pure negligence.
Let us for a moment disregard the trivialities within the high school world annoyingly depicted throughout the show. Let us also disregard, please, the boys’ and girls’ Manichaeism – the writers should have spared us of such stupidity.
We should focus on, clarify, and amplify the idea of negligence. Negligence in Hannah’s case is not only about people merely turning their backs on her when she most needed them. Nor should we see it as a snowball gaining traction until it is too big to control. The fact is, Hannah Baker is disregarded as a human being worthy of dignity. That is the worst kind of neglect. Each episode denoted what she was to others, and how she felt about herself, a mean to an end. What she felt, thought, wished, aspired, hence, what makes her human, was coldly overlooked.
In the eighteenth century, Prussian Philosopher Immanuel Kant developed his moral philosophy based on the idea that we should never treat people as means to an end, but as ends in themselves. What does that mean? It means that my friendship with you is not dependent on your utility. I like you because of you, not because of what I can get out of you or what you can do for me. Simple.
In 13 Reasons Why, Hannah performed many roles, all of them with a sense of utility perceived by others. All of this culminated in Hannah neglecting her worth as well. She couldn’t see the most precious thing she possessed, her life. It got to a point where she concluded that she should neglect it. In the end, she, too, used herself as a mean to end her despair.
Ruy Vaz, Soccer Asst. Coach