Winehouse warrants scorn, not sympathy

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Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Amy Winehouse was the latest in a series of famous musical talents to binge themselves into a premature grave. It is said by police that the cause of her demise is “as yet unexplained,” but it does not take a genius to infer that she died of a drugs overdose or some drug-related condition. Other talented artists to have walked down this clichéd path of sex, drugs and rock n roll include cult icons such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones. So, how does Amy Winehouse rank among these bastions of the ‘live fast, die young’ ideology?

The presiding view of Amy Winehouse’s death is that it is a huge loss to the music industry and that she will go down in history as one of the all-time greats in terms of solo artists. I’m indifferent to her music on the whole but I can’t help but believe that her death and the widespread enshrining of her musical talents will lead to a distorted view of her in the future.

Two albums that sold well and were critically acclaimed does not constitute greatness. Greatness is about standing the test of time and being consistently at a high level of acclaim. Moreover, her impact on music was nowhere near as large as that of Hendrix and Cobain. Instead I understand that Winehouse’s epitaph will read as one of aspiring to embody the ‘live fast, die young’ philosophy, but not reaching a legendary status enough to warrant acclaim as an all-time great.

Indeed it is wasted talent but any human being virtually committing suicide is tragically wasted talent. Many argue that Amy Winehouse’s drug problem was not of her own making. A lot of blame has been attached to Blake Fielder-Civil, her former husband, but unless he attacked and forced her wholly against her will to adopt a lifestyle plagued by drugs then I’m afraid that Miss Winehouse simply has no excuse.

She could have sought help, she could have quit or she simply could have said no to drugs in the first place. Many artists handle the adulation of the masses without drugs. Moreover, perhaps as a compromise, there are countless examples of famed musical artists dabbling in drugs in relative moderation and not killing themselves, The Beatles in the mid-60s as a prime example. John Lennon developed a heroin addiction in the late 60s and the overcoming of this inspired the single ‘Cold Turkey.’

Lennon was wise enough to recognise his impending mortality due to this addiction and overcame it by going cold turkey. Albeit unpleasant, it’s a far sight better than Amy Winehouse’s method. For a more up to date example, Muse bassist Chris Wolstenholme developed an alcohol addiction as the band became more and more popular. Granted he is not as famous as Winehouse and probably never will be, but it would have been very easy for him to spiral into a hole of alcoholism and depression. However, he sought help by looking inwardly rather than seek attention from the media by looking outwards.

Why then is Amy Winehouse worthy of our pity? What kind of example does this set to young singers and undiscovered talent? Drug culture should not be glorified, enshrined or even tolerated. This selfish behaviour is worthy of our scorn, not our tears and tributes. Amy Winehouse pressed her own self-destruct button and no matter how we phrase it she died because of her own stupidity. The dangers of heavy drugs aren’t exactly a myth and I believe it is imperative that society only shows sympathy to those that seek help and not to those who show a total disregard for their problems and their long reaching impact.

Amy Winehouse’s death was nothing short of suicide. Rather than enshrine her career in glory and ignore her blatant drug use, we should condemn her dark private life and abysmal attitude towards rectifying her wrongs.

Read more: Who are you to judge Amy Winehouse’s problems?

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12 Comments

  1. Okay, put down the Daily Mail and back away from the right-wing prejudice. ‘It doesn’t take a genius to infer that she died of some drug-related condition.’ A genius? Not necessarily. A doctor? Yes. Assuming that you aren’t the pathologist involved in the post-mortem of Winehouse, I recommend keeping Jan Moir-esque comments like that to the late-night article-editing sessions, assuming you actually do edit your articles. If you don’t, I would advise that you do – your piece will become more credible in the end and you could maybe catch a few more of those pesky ill-informed knee jerks before they go to print.

    I would also presume that, as well as not being medically qualified, you have no first or second-hand experience of drug use. Other things included which I’m hazarding a guess you have no first-hand experience of: the pressures of the music industry, the pressures of fame (particularly for a young, enigmatic female artist), the ability of charismatic and domineering individuals to affect such young, whimsically-minded people and the preponderance of drug use in the artistic circles of Camden. All this you ignore and simply argue that because, say, Lulu and Cilla Black have managed to avoid killing themselves through substance abuse, that Winehouse (and by extension everybody who dies of their addiction) not only doesn’t warrant sympathy, but warrants its positive polar opposite – scorn.

    This article is one of the least elucidating articles I’ve read in a long time. Presumably, you chose The Beatles as an example because you have a fairly poor knowledge of culture and they’re your only reference point, but it’s a bad example to use anyway. Lennon only really used heroin a couple of times and he never injected it – it wasn’t a drug that fulfilled any sort of psychological need for him, so going ‘Cold Turkey’ for him being surrounded by a loving family and being one of the most revered artists and activists in the world was probably pretty easy – hardly comparable to the life and death of Amy Winehouse. The effects of heroin are numbing – a friend once described it to me as feeling like ‘being wrapped up in a ball of cotton wool whilst floating on a cloud.’ An extremely dangerous state of consciousness to have readily available even if it didn’t have such horrendous side-effects and obviously an extremely seductive narcotic to someone as fragile and emotionally damaged as Winehouse. Besides, I don’t see what makes you want to paint all artists with the same brush – just because The Beatles didn’t get addicted to drugs, doesn’t say anything about anything at all.

    All of this is a moot point anyway because the headline gets the emotion wrong that you’re supposed to feel. It’s not sympathy that’s being expressed by those discussing her tragic death, but empathy. Then again, I’m at fault because I can’t really empathise with people that, upon learning of the tragic death of a 27-year old woman, decide to write about how we should actually be heaping more hatred and negativity on her. Leave the poor girl alone, she won’t be bothering you anymore.

  2. ^^ Well said, that man.

  3. Thank you for that long and eloquent comment Alex. A few points on things you mentioned.

    1. I do not edit my articles, that would be the Comments Editor(s).
    2. I feel I should make it clear I do not read the Daily Mail.
    3. I do not have any medical qualifications.
    4. I’m not a pop star, yet. X-Factor audition pending.
    5. None of my friends take hard drugs.
    6. When I last took one of those Facebook quizes, I was not right wing on the political spectrum.
    7. You raise some good points but I’m not really keen to be one of *those* people who argue over the internet.
    8. I’m running out of credible numbers.

    You will find Ronnie’s article more elucidating.

  4. 1. He means self editing before the final submission. Redrafts as it were.

    2. Hyperbole. Your attitude in the article reflected the ‘lets throw our hat in before we begin to understand’ outlook of Daily Mail readers, though admittedly it was a bit of stereotyping on Alex’s part.

    3. There you go, then.

    4. There you go, then.

    5. There you go, then.

    6. Again, ill-advised stereotyping on the commenter’s part. Right-wing is occasionally used as a substitute for ‘reactionary’, so take it in that way.

    7. Depends on the forum. This is a respectable forum where you won’t be called a ‘gay noob’ – Alex is a smart guy. Give both barrels back, it won’t be reduced to name-calling, even if you have effectively called Alex ‘one of *those* people’. Opinions aren’t laughable just because they’re on the internet. Just like in the real world, opinions are rendered laughable by the way they’re expressed, not by where they are aired.

    8. Me too.

    RR

  5. I will heed Alex’s last line, “Leave the poor girl alone, she won?t be bothering you anymore.” The article is what it is, I would be beating the dead horse to recycle what I’ve already said and say it in a different way. Ronnie, you wrote a very good article on the opposite side of the issue I don’t really have anything else to add. I’ll go back to my copy of the Daily Mail and work on my pop career and drug addiction.

  6. “I’ll… work on my pop career and drug addiction.” – I didn’t suggest that you work on that. I suggested that you work on your understanding of what it does to people, and how public remarks such as yours contribute to self-loathing and deeper decline amongst sufferers. You’re not helping by encouraging others to flip off those not blessed with a mind as strong as yours. I was making the point that you haven’t been there (although nicotine is my only claim), and by your own admission you’ve not been linked to someone with such afflictions. Even if I’d experienced neither, ESPECIALLY if I’d experienced neither, it’d pay me well to remember that it’s best not to show off a non-understanding of what an absolute cow addiction can be.

    Do you think that the bi-polar should just cheer up, that anorexics should just get a bit of mash down them? Do you look at ADHD sufferers and think “Why can’t they pay attention to anything? I CAN!” It is exactly, exactly the same thing.

    RR

  7. Why should I be understanding of an addiction when I’ve been smart enough and strong willed enough in my life, so far, to avoid becoming addicted? Of course you can retort with ‘addiction is a disease’ etc but I’m fairly sure if I avoid sticking needles in myself, snorting that white powder or not bother with that 20 Lambert and Butler that I have found a cure. Inform the Nobel committee. Look at all the stars that handle being in the intense media spotlight just fine without feeling the need to kill themselves. Sympathy and empathy for what is essentially a self inflicted bullet to the foot baffles me. You can say she didn’t have a choice in all this but I’m fairly sure she knew the word ‘No’. Also, with the money Winehouse had, why not go to the best rehab facility in the world to cure her from her addiction. I refuse to believe she was a hopeless case, nobody is.

  8. ‘Why should I be understanding of an addiction when I?ve been smart enough and strong willed enough in my life, so far, to avoid becoming addicted?’ – Yeah why bother with facts and medical proof and personal cases and reading a book once in a while when I can just start dancing on someone’s grave. Circumstance, old boy. Circumstances are like fingerprints; Everyone’s are different and they get you into trouble.

    ‘I?m fairly sure if I avoid sticking needles in myself, snorting that white powder or *not bother with that 20 Lambert and Butler* that I have found a cure.’ – Alright I’ll just put them in the bin and stop it. No wait, it isn’t as easy as that. I know the health risks yet I still do it. MAYBE, there is a certain grip involved here that is largely beyond my control?

    ‘Look at all the stars that handle being in the intense media spotlight just fine without feeling the need to kill themselves.’ – So?

    ‘You can say she didn?t have a choice in all this but I?m fairly sure she knew the word ?No?’. – Do you have no empathy for beaten wives because they could just leave whenever they wanted really?

    ‘why not go to the best rehab facility in the world’ – She did. False starts, as I said.

    Do you think that the bi-polar should just cheer up, that anorexics should just get a bit of mash down them? Do you look at ADHD sufferers and think ?Why can?t they pay attention to anything? I CAN!? It is exactly, exactly the same thing.

    Behind something as simple looking as a wristwatch, there are wheels and mechanics that people can’t fathom. You do not understand at all, and articles like yours are extremely damaging and dangerous.

  9. ‘Alright I?ll just put them in the bin and stop it. No wait, it isn?t as easy as that. I know the health risks yet I still do it. MAYBE, there is a certain grip involved here that is largely beyond my control?’ – I mean don’t start the habit in the first place, when your mind is free from what the high is. Maybe read the warning on the packet. Or read the several medical journals that describe the harmful side effects of narcotics before dabbling. It’s the side effects of the drugs that scares the hell out of me.

    ‘Do you think that the bi-polar should just cheer up, that anorexics should just get a bit of mash down them? Do you look at ADHD sufferers and think ?Why can?t they pay attention to anything? I CAN!? It is exactly, exactly the same thing.’ – I don’t recall seeing packets of Bi Polar disorder and anorexia behind the counter in Bargain Booze, much less ADHD dealers on the streets.

    ‘Do you have no empathy for beaten wives because they could just leave whenever they wanted really?’ Fair point, life sucks.

  10. “I mean don?t start the habit in the first place” – Not easy. But let me just tell you this; many addicts are fully aware that they shouldn’t start. It’s a combination of temptation and foolishness for some, peer pressure and drastic resorts for others, and perhaps many more that I don’t even know about. Everyone *acknowledges* that it’s a silly thing to do. But only some take the focus away from something that the addict cannot undo.

    ‘I don?t recall seeing packets of Bi Polar disorder and anorexia behind the counter in Bargain Booze, much less ADHD dealers on the streets.’ – By your logic, the anorexics could just say ‘Yes’ to food and start eating. The bi-polar could just say ‘yes’ to cheering up. There is food in Bargain Booze, and funny drunkards. Hell why don’t they turn BB into a chemist? Again – Not simple.

    ‘Fair point, life sucks.’ – For real. If it didn’t suck there would be no-one to debate this with.

    RR

  11. I don’t understand why you say that I’ve raised some good points that you’re not interested in responding to for fear of being a nerd, but then you’re perfectly happy to respond to Ronnie’s antagonism. All due respect, but you haven’t answered anything I’ve said and you’ve in fact reiterated a couple of points that were challenged in the first place. ‘The article is what it is’, sure, but you’re someone who’s presumably interested in journalism and furthermore presumably interested in being a good comment writer, so you should be aware of when your argument is inconsistent and bigoted. You don’t need to reiterate points in response to criticism, unless you’re a politician, but you should be able to address arguments with your piece, which you haven’t done. How in any way does the fact that there are certain people who happen to be famous and yet not die of drug overdoses mean that we shouldn’t empathise with those that do? What does your own success in not being a drug addict have to do with people that are? Are you getting SCANdent points for each non-sequitur?

  12. I guess you might need to update that article, replace all the references to drugs for “alcohol”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/14898601

    Though saying “alcohol use should never be glorified” doesn’t have the same sensationalist ring to it. Of course I’m sure nobody except Amy Winehouse is ever guilty of that.

    What’s this on facebook? “PH and Wilbys Stomach Pump Party” what’s that? I thought hard drug use should never be glorified? Tolerated even. 😉

    So will you cancel this event and quit alcohol forever in light of the fact that it was ALCOHOL which killed Amy Winehouse and nothing remotely illegal?

    Some people have addictive personalities, and their genetics make them more predisposed to addiction. I smoked for years, but I managed to quit in a 1 day. I’m one of the lucky ones.

    Definition of addiction is; ?not having control over doing, taking or using something, to the point that it may be harmful.? If you could control it and had a choice, it wouldn’t be called addiction.

    Scientific evidence points to the conclusion that addicts are born, not made.
    http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/drug-addicts-born-not-made-scientists/2007/03/03/1172868811095.html

    The funny thing is, even with this newly acquired knowledge, no one is calling for this dangerous chemical to be banned, no one is abolishing freshers week making it “alcohol free” and Sugarhouse and Elements haven’t yet been forced to close down. I can tell you for a fact that if it was some new designer “legal high” the moral hysteria calling for it to be banned would have been instant.

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