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The far too oft quoted stand-up comedian Bill Hicks once said: “what business is it of yours what I do, read, buy, see, or take into my body as long as I do not harm another human being on this planet?”
He died aged 32 of pancreatic cancer, which may or may not have been caused by his chain-smoking and heavy drinking. He struck a chord, and whether his vices contributed to his early death or not, whose business is it of anyone to judge and make statements under the assumption that you know better than a doctor or a friend? Answer: it is the business of a doctor or a friend.
Such outspokenness falls far outside the remit of posturing social-networking numpties, pathetically attempting to exhibit the sharpness of their ‘edge’, to nail into the ground their absence from whichever convoy of media bandwagons is rolling across the highway at that point.
It’s glaringly obvious that the last thing a grieving family, friend or fan wants to come across is a barrage of relish in someone’s death. And yet, anything which offers a soapbox to stand on (Facebook, Twitter, web forums, the pub) is being used as a mouthpiece, emitting comments about the recently deceased singer Amy Winehouse. Comments like “just another smackhead off our streets,” “she doesn’t deserve pity” and “she had plenty of chances and she blew it.”
The latter is particularly ignorant, displaying a total lack of understanding of how addiction works, and is no different to saying “these anorexics just need to get some stew down them.” It is not as simple as just walking away from addiction. Some will stall countless times before eventually cleaning themselves up. Some have nothing but false starts until it’s too late. People can say “well I’d just stop there and then” until they’re blue in the face, but unfortunately we’re not all as ‘strong minded’ as the person saying it, so one mustn’t assume to know it all unless you’ve been, or been close to, a drug addict (as I have). They just don’t understand, they just don’t care, and boy do they love to brazenly show that off.
These ignoramuses are oblivious not only to how utterly wrong they are, but also to the wider influence that their comments have over other drug users. The realisation that their lives are held in such low esteem by the majority, no matter how thick the judges are, is kicking them further into depression. How much longer is an unstable mind going to last with even lower self-worth? And to think that they have the front to accuse Amy Winehouse of setting people off on a path to destruction. Pathetic.
Winehouse’s excessive drug use is supposedly an excuse to devalue her life, conceding that such habits strip a superstar (or anyone, for that matter) of their humanity and kindness of character. But Amy Winehouse was a ‘troubled star,’ whose lifestyle was sadly of more importance than her talent to the tabloid media and its readers. That she was a ‘bad role model’ is the fault of the media which perpetuated not only her negative public image, but undoubtedly contributed to her downward spiral. After all, the constant exposure that fame brings can have a catastrophic effect on the vulnerable, and the shark-like media has sniffed blood when it sees someone who doesn’t seem the sort to hit out against criticism.
And what of those who are considered to be capable of holding their own in a media spar? The former heroin addict Will Self, the formerly cocaine-reliant Stephen Fry and the whiskey-soaked Christopher Hitchens have never had their contributions to their respective ‘scenes’ overshadowed by drug and alcohol intake. Why? Because they’re not pretty and their work is considered high-brow. Ergo, they don’t fit the description of what a glossy splash should consist of, and we see the casual elitism at work in the suggestion that a ‘mere’ singer couldn’t possibly be intelligent enough to show a shred of respect for.
“She has no right to live”? Who decides who stays and who goes? For all its 700 words, this entire argument can be neatly summed up in 24. She never did anything to harm you. If you’ve no understanding of the mental logistics of addiction and compulsion, shut up and sod off.
Read more: Winehouse warrants scorn, not sympathy