Friend's Suicide Raises Questions About What makes Life Worth Living
Investigative reporter and former LAPD cop Michael C. Ruppert committed suicide on April 13, 2014, after an edition of his Internet radio show, ironically called “The Lifeboat Hour”. I found out two days later.
Mike was the first guest on Guns and Butter, a public affairs show I started on KPFA-FM with Bonnie Faulkner one month after the 9/11 attacks. In that show, he linked the CIA to Wall Street. I kept in regular contact with him by phone and e-mail from that point on through about the middle of 2005. I saw his lectures in person about six times, from Portland to Los Angeles. I saw him a couple of other times when he was in Berkeley on other business.
He was the editor and publisher of the newsletter From the Wilderness, and author of Crossing the Rubicon, a 600-page, 1000-footnote book that made the case that 9/11 was not an anomalous situation in which all of the government’s air defenses happened to fail simultaneously. He understood the looming energy crisis to be the reason our government, hell-bent on maintaining economic and military hegemony, would sacrifice over 3000 people. If you still think that is some crazy conspiracy theory, consider all that has happened to the United States and the world since then.
Mike and I slowly drifted apart in the middle of the decade. He moved to Oregon; he moved to Venezuela; he moved to New York. Business problems, health problems, and fears that were not entirely paranoid that government agents were out to get him, kept him on the move. One of Mike’s flaws was that he was too trusting of people who had a military or intelligence resume. He had come from such a family background so he was willing to give such people the benefit of the doubt. The last time I saw Mike was in Berkeley; he wanted me to meet two new FTW employees. He was excited about their military and intelligence backgrounds. I met them and, though I did not tell Mike, I told Bonnie that I did not feel right about them. Sure enough, they didn’t last. It seems that Mike always had a “mole” problem in his publication.
The last time I had any contact with Mike was on July 2, 2013 via e-mail. I had heard that he was in financial distress. I wrote to him offering a small amount of money if he would give me his PayPal address. He wrote back thanking me, telling me he was covered and that I needed the money. He wished me good luck. It was terse and he did not answer my follow up. Only as I was finishing this article did I discover that he was contemplating suicide then, and that his pattern whenever he got suicidal was to push away his friends.
He did not acknowledge that February’s birthday greeting, and he did not acknowledge the birthday greeting I sent to him this February. In the latter years, I had gotten into the habit of writing him an e-mail on his birthday. It was our yearly “catch-up” session, in which we traded two or three e-mail rounds. I almost didn’t send one this year because I figured that his failure to respond in 2013 meant that he did not want to deal with me any longer.
If that was the truth, the early cause may have been the disagreement we had over his website CollapseNet. Its stated purpose was to help people build physical and spiritual “lifeboats” for the coming crises of energy and food. Our disagreement over CollapseNet was not about the inevitability of collapse, but the way the website chose to approach it. Although there was a significant portion of free material, especially news, most of the survival information was reserved for paying members. Additionally, there were offers of things such as an urban tracker school for $720 and a system for growing vegetables in an apartment window, the guts of which costs $700 according to another website featuring such systems. I was furious, because I saw this as elitist, which typically was not Mike’s attitude.
I wrote a letter to the administrator after I continued to get e-mails when my month’s paid subscription had ended and I chose not to renew. Although another person was administering the website, I felt sure that Mike would find out what I had written. I criticized the site’s hawking of expensive urban tracker schools and gardening systems while not being upfront with poor inner-city people about their likelihood of surviving climate catastrophe or an energy crisis that destroys the city’s electrical grid, because they simply don’t have the money to buy arable land, gold and silver, or six months of emergency rations.
I have recently discovered that a number of Mike’s friends helped him start the website as a way for him to have income. That explains the rationale for a paid membership site containing exclusive articles, but not their content. I offered to write for CollapseNet, provided that my blog was openly available to the public. I suggested that it could be a “loss leader” that he could advertise as just a sample of what awaited paying members inside. But I never heard from him, and to this day I do not know if he was ashamed to admit that I was right about the survivability of poor people, or if he had just written me off as a zombie. (CollapseNet had a section called the “zombie free zone.”) I hate to think that Mike ever thought of me as a zombie.
I did not listen to “The Lifeboat Hour” until after Mike’s death. I do not like that metaphor; it reminds me of the Titanic.
Mike’s suicide has me thinking “why now?” I am questioning everything I’ve ever read about scientific discoveries of what contributes to longevity. Having a life partner, owning a dog, having a spiritual belief, having a lot of friends, and having a sense of purpose, are all supposed to help you live longer. Mike Ruppert had all of these. In fact, two weeks before his death, he told his listeners that he was doing okay financially, but that he would be grateful if anyone wanted to help him find a home for him and his lady. The relief of financial stress and the prospect of being with the woman he loved should have driven away all thoughts of suicide.
His friend and landlord, Jack, can be seen on a video narrating the circumstances of Mike’s death to allay fears that Mike was “suicided” by the government. In this video, Jack says that Mike had told him that he saw himself changing from warrior to teacher. At age 63, such a transition is a very appropriate. But what was he teaching by killing himself?
One of his suicide notes, published on CollapseNet, said that he was doing it “for the children”. I don’t understand it. The only thing he could teach children by killing himself is how to have a clean death when life is no longer possible. A quick self-administered end would be better than to die slowly of radiation-poisoning, or of starvation or thirst in a climate catastrophe; Mike believed humanity’s inability to deal safely with radioactivity has doomed our species.
All of us who knew Mike have our theories. I believe that in the end, despite all he had to live for personally, Michael C. Ruppert lacked the most important survival tool of all – hope for the world’s future. Since he believed in Prof. Guy McPherson’s thesis of humanity’s Near-Term Extinction, then he might have believed that all of his work, and all the suffering he endured to do that work, was for naught. So perhaps his pain was so great that death was preferable even to the life he could have enjoyed with his partner and his friends. Or perhaps his death was characteristic of something I knew about him from his lectures: Mike was incapable of enjoying a life built solely around his own needs and pleasures.
There may have been another rationale to his suicide “for the children”. That there would not be extinction per se, but a great die-off, after which future generations would struggle for survival in a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome post-apocalyptic world. Perhaps the children could construct a better way of living if they started now to understand what Mike had been teaching about our future if we continue with war, fossil fuels and radiation. Perhaps he thought that his death would move people to read Crossing the Rubicon or to view the film Collapse, and think of ways to live peaceably, prosperously and sustainably with the other species on our planet. Whether he thought this way or not, these would be wise things for all people of any age to do.
Kéllia Ramares-Watson (@endofmoney, theendofmoney[at]gmail.com) is an independent journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is also a member of demonetize.it, a European-based website and email discussion list dedicated to alternative economics such as non-market socialism, the gift economy, the commons, and de-growth solidarity. She dedicates her work on these subjects to the memory of her friend and colleague, Michael C. Ruppert.