PERSONAL WEAKNESS

Posted in Rants on February 9th, 2014 by Ed

There are two things that drive me crazy about the frenzy of attention that follows celebrity deaths. One is the ludicrous efforts of self-centered people to make it about themselves somehow – it turns out that Don Cornelius was actually the most important person in their life because they watched Soul Train 20 years ago and thus they are grieving. The second is the death being yet another opportunity for (usually) right-wing loudmouths to lecture us on the decedent's responsibility for his own demise and how, as a vastly better person, the speaker would never follow the same course of action.

I had zero real feelings about the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman; he was a fine actor and I enjoyed some of his movies. However, when I heard that the police found him with a needle in his arm I hated him for a brief moment – not because I am judging his actions, but because I knew that I had about three days of "Drug addicts are weak people, good riddance" to look forward to. People who can't stop talking about how smart and wonderful they are can lay off the unemployed for a few days and talk about how they're too strong of character to succumb to the addictions of the poor and weak.

I consider myself fortunate that I don't have problems with addiction. Despite the blog name I am not a heavy drinker and I was never cool enough to be into drugs, so aside from an inability to open a pint of ice cream without eating the entire fucking thing I have no ability to empathize with what a heroin addict experiences. Nonetheless, I feel about addiction the same way I feel about poverty, which is a paraphrase of a Bill Hicks bit. It can happen to anyone; all it takes is the right bar, the right friends, and the wrong woman.

That's a comedy punchline, not to be taken literally. The reasons people get started down the road to addiction are varied and obviously it's not all about relationships gone wrong. The premise is sound, though. While empirical research suggests that some people may be more prone to chemical addiction than others, I see it as a "There but for the grace of god go I" issue. Just as the same people who condescend the poor, unemployed, and homeless fail to realize that they're about three misfortunes away from poverty themselves, talking about addiction as a sign of personal weakness sounds like a combination of raw ignorance, an inflated sense of self, and more than a bit of denial.

If it makes you feel better to revel in a celebrity death because it gives you a chance to talk about how much better you are as a person, then go nuts. Who am I to tell you how to overcompensate for your fear of mortality. It is important to recognize that you're fooling no one but yourself, though. If you're a true believer who honestly believes the nonsense about your own superiority, we'll be here waiting when you learn the hard way that this sort of thing can happen to anyone.

People hooked on drugs are sick. Neither prison nor your condescending lectures are going to help.