Whitney Houston: “Just Another Dead Drug Addict”


As you’ve all undoubtedly heard by now, pop star Whitney Houston passed away on Saturday in Beverly Hills, likely as a result of a drug overdose.

When I heard this news, I braced myself for the inevitable. I knew exactly what I was about to be subjected to, because it happens every time a celebrity dies as a result of an ongoing addiction. I was going to hear, over and over and over, variations of “just another dead junkie”, “yeah, I saw it coming”, “she deserved it, brought it on herself”, “hard to feel sympathy for someone like that”, “threw her whole life away”, etc.

Happens every time.

Personally, I hate this. I hate it so much. It sickens me, and reminds me again just how much our society regards people struggling with addiction as completely subhuman and undeserving of any compassion. It reminds me how little people are willing to understand, and how quick they are to judge. It reminds me just how easy it is for people to completely shut down their compassion when it requires extending it towards a suitably stigmatized group. It reminds me just how willing people are to disregard empathy and sympathy when their culture is giving them an excuse.

I’ve lost many people to addiction. People I loved. I’ve seen what addiction is. I know it intimately, and am at least as aware as anyone else as to where it leads. And I care deeply about people who are dealing with that illness. To see them so publicly and openly spat upon every single time we’re given a collective opportunity is…well…”disappointing” would be the understatement of the century.

Here’s a sampling of the tweets and Facebook updates I came across in just the first few hours, just casually browsing through my normal, usual feeds. No real research required. And aside from one re-tweet, these are all from my friends, colleagues and people I follow, all people I genuinely respect and care about:

 

‘I’d rather be alone than unhappy.’ You marry a drug addict,then you become an addict,then you die.You’re not even 50.

I have to admit, some small part of me wants to say: How much sympathy can you have for someone beautiful, talented, famous and rich … who pisses it all away? Whitney Houston, you idiot.

Jeebus, I’m gonna hafta unfollow everyone. Seriously, some pop star dies? How about Syria, democracy, USian insanity?? Pandas, anyone?

Well at least cocaine will be cheaper now since there isn’t a huge drain on the market

Wow, Whitney Houston is dead. Can’t be terribly shocked, she was clearly messed up.

This may sound mean and heartless… but for some reason I’m not surprised by Ms. Houston’s death (nor Ms. Winehouse’s – even if ruled from different causes)… they both lived pretty hard lives while pushing their stardom… as Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner spoke “those who burn twice as brightly, burn half as long”

 

Yeah, yeah. You’re all so not surprised. Congratulations. I’ll fetch some gold stars for everyone.

So, when Christopher Hitchens died after a struggle with cancer (almost certainly caused by his own addictions, I might add), did you all feel the need to point out how you saw it coming?

Why is it that with this one particular illness it is acceptable to show so little respect and sympathy for the deceased? Why is it that when someone dies of this illness, but no other, it’s okay to openly show-off how nonchalant you can be?

Why is it okay to treat it as all so ho-hum or boring or vaguely funny?

It’s not really all that funny or boring for those of us who have lost the lives of friends and loved ones to addiction. Addicts are not subhumans. They are people, with lives, connections, friends and family, consequences of their existence. There are people who care for them, and who are hurt by their absence. They played a role in this world the same as anyone did.

It’s not funny or boring for those of us who’ve almost lost our lives to that same illness either. Is this how you’d speak of me, if I relapsed and overdosed?

We’ll mourn a suicide. We’ll recognize it (rightly) as a tragedy and a loss that should have been prevented. We’ll think about the hurt it must have caused the friends and family. We recognize it as a product of illness or misfortune beyond the deceased’s control. We’ll look at and think about the social forces that may have contributed to their death. We don’t act like they deserved it. But for drug addicts? Nope. Their own fault. Who cares. Just a dead junkie.

We’ll mourn a death from an eating disorder. We’ll mourn the death of a smoker from lung cancer. We’ll mourn an accidental death resultant from mental illness. We’ll mourn a mountain-climber killed in an accident. We’ll mourn a car accident. We’ll mourn almost any death, regardless of the degree to which it was linked to the victim’s actions. But we reserve a special disregard and lack of compassion for drug addicts. They, more than anyone, “deserve” to die.

And what’s especially disgusting? The degree to which the addict actually didn’t have full control over their actions. We know that the pathology of addiction strips the sufferer of their agency and capacity to control their own choices. We know it’s incredibly difficult, bordering on the impossible, to fully shake a serious substance addiction. We know that addicts typically come from lives filled with trauma, abuse, neglect, pain and loss. We know all of those things but still we persist in just not caring. Still we refuse to regard a drug addict as equally human, and still we perceive the addiction as a shameful moral failing. Idiots, all of them, right?

Most of the time, addicts are just human beings who’ve seen and endured more than the human heart is able. What I’ve learned from my many conversations with the people who live and use and ‘work’ in Vancouver’s Hastings Corridor, most of the time these are people who have seen and been given exactly the worst life has to offer, and have nothing left at all. They’re just looking for what is literally the only way they can find any comfort and happiness. They may know it’s going to kill them, but it’s all they have, and the poverty and streets will kill them anyway.

So those of you who think it’s clever, edgy, cool, funny or a demonstration of cynical, worldly wisdom to openly announce how little you care about the death of a drug addict?

Fuck. You.

It’s fine if you don’t care. That’s understandable. I’m not heartbroken over this either. It’s impossible to mourn every death that occurs on this planet, every second of every minute of every hour of every day. But to wear your dispassion like a badge of honour, like the degree to which you withhold compassion for a specific class of people who died from a specific illness somehow renders you this intellectual ubermensch above the mere sentiment of mankind is disgusting. Don’t you dare act like the life of a drug addict doesn’t count. Every human life counts, every death has meaning, and all of them were inevitable. If you’re going to dole out human worth in accordance with a fucking actuary table, you are beneath my contempt.

Next time, please take a moment to actually think it through before parading around your lack of empathy.

Goodbye, Whitney.

(for the record, I do still respect and care about those people whose tweets and facebook statuses I quoted. The angrier and more vitriolic statements in the later parts of this post were directed towards those who engage in the more extreme and blatant forms of this behaviour… particularly those in the mainstream media who do so)

Comments

  1. teh_faust says

    I very much applaud the message of compassion, but I’m not sure if the disregard you describe is only reserved for people with substance addictions. To me it seems like there is a broader lack of compassion for people who suffer from anything behaviour-based.
    I’ve heard similar comments about cardiovascular diseases and eating disorders and stds.

    • MaNonny says

      I agree with teh_faust that it seems behavior-related deaths are considered moral failings, not just specifically addiction.

      I disagree that people tend to forgive suicides. As someone who has lost multiple friends and family, it has been hard to watch people blame the victim and say that they must be SO SELFISH to try to ease their own pain through suicide, even though these people did nothing to help the victim with that pain and/or can’t see that the victim honestly thought they would end everyone’s pain by no longer being a hassle to deal with. Not everyone is so enlightened as to realize that mental illness should not be blamed on the victim.

      I have also heard similar victim-blaming in the fat acceptance sphere. Even though scientific evidence shows that behaviors like eating nutritious foods and exercising improve health REGARDLESS of weight, having (usually genetically predefined) fat on your body is a moral failing. This, despite it also being shown that purposefully losing weight fails 85-95% of the time and leads to poor health and weight gain. And should someone be fat AND sick (i.e. diabetes, which I’ll note also happens in thin people and has a strong genetic component), then they had it coming (see the Paula Dean debacle and Anthony Bourdain’s harrassment of her).

      But, I agree that addiction is another illness that people blame the victim for. “You CHOSE to be an addict (wtf?), you CHOOSE to keep using this drug and messing up OUR lives (self-centered, anyone?).” If a behavior you can’t control is a moral failing, that does bring up what morality could possibly mean to these people. What’s the point of morals that you don’t have the choice to follow?

      • says

        I have to disagree about Paula Deen. The problem that most people seem to have with her (and I’m one of these people) is that she hid her diabetes for three years and only let on when she was able to leverage her condition into a lucrative advertising contract.

        I’m not going to downplay the genetic component of diabetes. People without the genetic predisposition who eat nothing but sugar and fat aren’t going to get it. It’s a combination of lifestyle and genetics that brings it on, and for at least three years Deen was pushing the type of high-fat, high-sugar diet that leads to diabetes in susceptible individuals, while at the same time ostensibly aware that her diet contributed to her condition. And she’s profiting off this.

        That’s the problem for me. Diabetes is a public health issue, and her influence is one of many that contributes to the public health issue. She absolutely should not be blamed for contracting diabetes, but I think a case can rightly be made against her for knowingly promoting a diet that can lead to it in susceptible individuals, after her diagnosis, and profiting off such.

        • MaNonny says

          I see your point about taking money from a diabetes drug company, since I see advertising pharmaceuticals (instead of just having the doctor’s unbiased opinion) to be a shady business full of all sorts of ethical quandaries. That said, I don’t think anyone’s private health information SHOULD be public. Why else would we have HIPAA laws?

          Since I haven’t had a personal conversation with her, I do not know her motives. I wonder if she correctly feared a bigoted backlash (“it’s your fault you’re sick because you make food people like to eat, and food is poison to our society!”) and therefore chose to keep it private while she figured out what to do. I imagine she knew her food-related income would go down, and she needed another source of income. Although I don’t agree with pharma selling drugs directly to patients, I can see why Paula would look for another way to make money. I doubt she did it thinking “mwah ha ha, I have created diabetes patients so that I can be paid to sell drugs to them!” That’s just delusional. No one asks for a disease. And if she really believes the drug can help people, and food itself does not CAUSE diabetes (lifestyle correlates, but we really can’t point to “sugar” or “fat” as the simple culprit), then what is wrong with her speaking out to help others with diabetes? I only see it as an evil money making scheme if we a) blame the victim for getting the disease (or worse, planning to) and b) falsely assume her food causes diabetes.

          Also, it is hypocritical of the public to presume that Anthony Bourdain’s food and lifestyle (drinking/smoking, lots of fatty foods) are any better for you. He’s peddling the same wares Paula Deen is but still blames her for the country’s diabetes. Why would he be able to get away with it if people didn’t assume her fatness contributed? Or is it because she’s female and therefore more conniving? Either way I don’t like the presumption.

          If you have evidence that she a priori attempted to hide the disease for the sole purpose of increasing profits, then I will consider her situation differently. This, however, does not preclude that fat people get blamed (by their doctors even) all the time for being sick, even when they have other underlying conditions that likely caused the weight gain. I’m sorry if the Paula Deen situation wasn’t a clear example for that point.

          P.S. Sorry that was long-winded.

        • carlie says

          Wouldn’t you hide it too, knowing the crapload of “You deserve it” that you would get as soon as the news got out? I’d hide it until it made financial sense to go through that.

    • Sfc.retired says

      It is sad that so many talented people fall victim to drugs and alcohol. Millions of people die each year from drugs, it’s a waste and we only see and hear about the celebrities. Now from what I’ve read most of these people have doctors that obtain these drugs for the performers and they can get almost anything they want without even using their real names? What kind of system do they have to follow? Because their stars they have there own rules? There lies the problem, and it’s not really the doctors fault if they don’t do what they want them to do they will just get someone else to obtain the drugs. Did mj’s doctor deserve to be found at fault? Certainly not, a few years ago people wanted mj’s head for holding the child over the railing of the upstairs room. What about the families of these people? the Jackson’s didn’t speak up till after he was dead and Profited off his death, new albums, talk shows and so on. Americans think that they are special and deserve anything that they want Especially the stars. Just in case your wondering I’m a white American born in the good ‘ol us of a. And I am a Soldier retired after 27 years but still a soldier never the less. I’ve been on every continent, served 8 tours of combat duty. I’ve seen a lot of people/soldiers fall victim to D&A, and we would get them to a facility to handle the problem. “Trying to help” Now that doesn’t make me special but I’ve seen a lot of cultures, rich, dirt poor living in mud huts with more sense of right and wrong, and being thankful for what they have unlike most Americans. Most cultures don’t want the USA stuffing democracy down their throat. They live quiet lives tending to their business only, not trying to mess with the neighbors about the new tree they planted or some other pointless problem that lands them in court to prove who’s right. The American way? So what I’m trying to say is people have been addicted to D&A’s for thousands of years, and we are supposed to have the best health care in the world. So why aren’t the families and the loved ones helping these people? Maybe they’re afraid that they will be cut off? As a country we are strong confident not afraid to fight the good fight, but a lot of Americans (most) are spoiled thinking that they can and deserve to have anything they want, people will kill for it and they have. Now take the stars rich far beyond anything that average American will ever would or could ever have, yet people look the other way md’s, family members everyone till someone dies of a substance abuse incident. Then the tears flow, the oh my gods “How could this happen to them” We as a people allow this to happen we thrive on tragedy. Now books will be written, new CD’s, memorial funds will be set up. But a lot of pocket will be lined. And all the people who “Could” have helped but didn’t are now crying. Do they deserve it? Not at all, but they did it to themselves or got a little help. Do I feel bad? not really, sometimes, maybe but that’s beside the point. SO the bottom-line is? Their DEAD and no one helped them.

  2. DLC says

    I have to say that afik there has not yet been a determination of cause of death, so any blaming it on her addiction issues is premature. But look. let’s just say for the sake of argument that she did O.D. Yes, it happens. It sucks, and it’s never a good thing when it does, and anyone who thinks it’s okay to crack wise about it can explain that to her friends and family, who’re grieving for the loss of someone they cared for.

  3. carlie says

    It appears to have been that dangerous but no one really realizes it combo of prescribed drugs and alcohol.

    But regardless, everything you said, yes.

    What’s really depressing is that she went downhill in full view of the public, over decades, as a direct result of the influence of an abusive husband who himself got a free pass on it from the media and the music industry. She had every possible assistance she could afford at her disposal, but it wasn’t enough. Either because she didn’t have personal support from all those people who knew what was happening, or was too far gone to come back from it, or what, but even someone with those kinds of resources couldn’t control it. I can’t believe people can’t see how that means the problem is truly that difficult to handle.

  4. Timothy (TRiG) says

    I suspect this is one of those posts that’ll continue to be referred back to. It may be specifically about Whitney Houston, but it’ll continue to be relevant, as this is a story which constantly repeats itself.

    TRiG.

  5. Anders says

    It could have been me. That’s the thought that stops the cynic in me. If not for good people who helped me, it could have been me. Not because I’m an addict, but because I would have been out on the street. And then addiction comes easily.

    Goodbye Whitney. You had a wonderful voice. No one deserves to die as you did.

  6. Phledge says

    If I’ve said it once I’ll say it a thousand times: nobody chooses to be sick. Nobody deserves to have a deadly illness. Everyone dies, and everyone engages in behaviors that might cause that death prematurely. Death is not a punishment, despite what the fundagelicals will have you believe. There are worse things than death, including but not limited to suffering through something like life with a substance abuse problem. So everyone that has a finger to point at Ms Houston? Y’all got three pointing back at you. You want compassion in your suffering, at the end of your life? Try putting a little out there first.

  7. says

    Thank you. I’ve been having this same argument on Facebook with people who I think are genuinely not assholes, but for some reason think it’s just peachy to be an asshole in this case.

    And what annoys me further is that my prodding them about their callousness is construed by them to mean that I think they should be sincerely mourning over Houston. Absolutely, that is not the case– I don’t think it’s even appropriate for strangers to mourn over a death.

    I’ll give you an anecdotal example of why I think this– my grandfather died back in October. He raised me personally as I never really had a father. He was a British WWII vet, and the secretary of the local chapter of the Canadian Legion back in Michigan. My grandmother had invited the Canadian Legion to handle the service, but my mother had invited her pastor, who had never met my grandfather. The pastor ended up doing almost the entire service. As is their wont, the pastor pretended to know him and mourn him as if he were family. This angered me, because if you’re on the outside, you don’t know what people are going through. None of us know what Houston’s family is going through, and to pretend to mourn with them is just offensive. This is different from acknowledging that a person has died, and all that goes with that.

    Anyway, what I was really trying to say to those who “saw it coming,” was that what they’re doing is victim-blaming. And victim-blaming is wrong, 100% of the time, no exceptions.

  8. oldebabe says

    As life is all we have, it’s always a loss when a person that others admire, for whatever reason, dies. We all feel that.
    It’s just plain sad when it’s from lack of personal responsibility for, and control of, ones own actions.

    That being said, I hear that the latest info is that this death was from accidental drowning… so until the data is in, all this talk of drugs and suicide is relevant only as rumor or conjecture.

  9. Ace of Sevens says

    Agree 100%. One I saw that pissed me off was calling people hypocrites. They said no one posts when some homeless junkie dies. My thought was that they actually do, if they know the person.

  10. Ace of Sevens says

    I should add that for a lot of people, the appeal of celebrity gossip is they get to feel like they’re better than someone who’s more successful than them. I find this rather pathetic.

  11. says

    Thank you for pointing out the despicable way that people can treat the deaths of people who die from overdoses. I think like teh_faust that this type of victim blaming occurs with other disorders as well, examples including suicide and depression. Though there seems to be a society wide acceptance for the lack of respect surrounding substance abuse more than any other disorder. I wonder why it is that we (as a society) scapegoat our lack of sympathy onto substance abusers, what makes them seem so deserving of our condemnation?

    • says

      The clue is in the term scapegoat. Onto them we cast our own sins… the endless drive to meet internal needs with external pleasures and distractions. We’re a consumer culture, we’re collectively addicted, and a drug addict isn’t NEARLY hypocritical or subtle enough about it for our tastes.

      • Anders says

        I think you’re wrong here, Nat. I see it more as having to do with the Purity function of Heidt’s morality (I linked to it in an earlier thread). Addicts are impure. They put icky substances into their bodies and become all disfigured and disgusting. Couple this with a fear of contagion and it becomes clear why something as simple as a needle exchange program must be fought. If this plague is not burned out it will spread.

        And I think there’s something similar going on with transsexuals (stop me if my theories become too wild). From a fundamentalist’s perspective you are mutilating your bodies. In a sense you are the ultimate blasphemy – the perfect creator of the Universe gave you a body and you’re not satisfied? No wonder they hate you.

        • says

          Wait, huh? I was going to agree with your first paragraph, but then your second paragraph came out of nowhere. I’m sure you mean to be nice, but what prompts you to give an off-topic “hey, there are people who hate you too, here are my theories about that”? No idea about the OP, but on the occasions someone’s done that to me, it feels sudden and bad.

          • says

            I think he’s just trying to illustrate the point using another example. I didn’t take offense to it. But if I didn’t know him as well so as to know where he’s coming from and give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe I would have?

          • Anders says

            If I went too far then I apologize for that. I really do think that one big reason transsexuals are seen as immoral is the dimension of purity. Of what we do with our bodies.But if I’m wrong it wouldn’t be the first time.

          • Anders says

            As for topic… I’m used to the LGBTA thread, which is informally known as “we are occasionally on topic…” I’ll try to behave better in the future, except on Saturdays. Saturday is crazy day.

          • says

            Thanks Anders and Natalie, that makes sense. Anders, by the way, I can see the point you’re making and I would want to discuss it sometime; but I guess it’s a scary topic for me.

          • says

            Err sorry. “It’s a scary topic” meaning “transphobia in the form of religious ideas about purity (and, I think, God-given roles in life) is a scary topic.” Right, done now.

  12. mcbender says

    Natalie, I wonder how much of this is related to the stigmatisation that is practically required thanks to the American “War on Drugs”. Yes, this sort of victim blaming occurs with other sorts of self-destructive behaviours (though not all of them, as you’ve mentioned c.f. Hitchens), but not to nearly the same degree and not nearly as universally.

    I remember being taught by DARE and similar programmes something along the lines that drugs were evil and that drug-users were more or less terrible people who were out to get you and make you one of them (yes, I’m exaggerating for effect, but I really do think that in many ways that’s the core message of those programmes). As a result of this sort of teaching, I think a lot of people (certainly I did) internalise a dogmatic hatred/aversion to drugs and drug users (which seems to be what they are supposed to do), and this leads naturally to the reactions we’re seeing here.

    In short: I think this is a conditioned response.

    • Ace of Sevens says

      That’s what I was thinking. Though my observance on Facebook is the Ron Paul types who are always pushing to legalize drugs are also the most likely to post that a junkie got what was coming to her. That’s probably because of a general lack of empathy, though.

  13. says

    And now that I’ve finished reading it… well said. I’ve alluded to the fact that I have a couple of addicts in my family. God forbid that they ever relapse, I would hate to think that if they died of a drug overdose, that people would be just as callous as they can be when a “mere celebrity” dies of an overdose.

    This sort of leads me to another tangent though: why is a celebrity death deemed less worthwhile than say a scientist, or poet, or politician? Who gets to decide this? It’s fucking arbitrary if you ask me. That someone bought beauty or joy to someone via music, or theater, or movie, or science, or whatever, is all that should fucking matter. Whitney Houston may not have been my particular cup of tea, but goddamned, she was way too fucking you, and she made so many people happy with her music. So yeah. FUCK YOU, naysayers. FUCK YOU.

  14. HumanisticJones says

    Reminds me of my boss, every time a political discussion comes up (read, every damn day at lunch) and it turns to drug legalization (he favors prohibition and treating addicts as criminals while I favor legalization and medical treatment for addicts like we have for alcoholics).

    At some point during the conversation he will always get in his glib jab about “Sure make it all legal in one place, build a fence around it, ship all the users there and just dump in drugs by the truckload and let them kill themselves away from the rest of us.” It’s usually after that comment that I stop talking for fear of losing my job over the string of profanities that I feel like unloading.

  15. Cynthia says

    @ Anders (comment 16),

    Looked at the link and had to go wash my hands! Ick! People really believe that crap? We lose a talented woman to her addiction illness and it’s related to the Olympics or some such garbage? Bad enough everyone is blaming her for losing the fight with her illness (if that’s truly what happened), but now they think it’s on purpose?

    And people say I’m crazy for not believing in a god.

  16. says

    there’s three parts to this:

    one is the standard victim-blaming that people are so ridiculously prone to (there was an entire sub-chapter on the causes of this in my social psychology textbook, but I’m pre-caffeinaed, so I can’t reliably recall the details. All I remember right now is that it’s connected to the just world-bias and to illusions of control).

    the second is that drug addiction flies in the face of the Countercausal Free Will myth, so people go into denial and insist that addicts are really voluntarily choosing to be addicts and to die young as a result.

    and in instances like this it’s also the capitalist/consumerist myth that money can buy happiness, and thus wealthy people have no right to negative psychological states.

    • MaNonny says

      So, I guess it makes sense that this sort of thing happens, then. But, it doesn’t mean it should.

      I guess my question is (directed to the world at large), besides education (through venues like this blog or in individual conversations, if not more formal settings), what else can we do? How else can we call out victim-blaming after overdoses or other big stories involving addiction in an effective way and get the public conscious to acknowledge it exists? (i.e. what’s the solution? I guess some people will always be assholes, but at least they’d choose that path instead of ignorantly spreading hate.)

      Although, I suppose this can go for any sort of bigotry. Why can’t people just get along?

  17. MaNonny says

    Thoughts on Wendy Williams’ Whitney spot?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oar7ix92nkI

    I thought she did well at focusing on the family’s pain and that people with addiction need support, not to be left to die, but “calling them out on [getting high]” could be construed as victim blaming. But, at least it’s a media portrayal that didn’t discount Whitney’s contributions (or humanity) because of the addiction.

  18. says

    We know that the pathology of addiction strips the sufferer of their agency and capacity to control their own choices. We know it’s incredibly difficult, bordering on the impossible, to fully shake a serious substance addiction. We know that addicts typically come from lives filled with trauma, abuse, neglect, pain and loss. We know all of those things but still we persist in just not caring.

    What I’ve learned from my many conversations with the people who live and use and ‘work’ in Vancouver’s Hastings Corridor, most of the time these are people who have seen and been given exactly the worst life has to offer, and have nothing left at all.

    And yet, someone admitted to me, as if it were the ultimate shame, “My son’s a druggie!” No. He was a kid in agony. (He’s free now.) My response; if your kid broke a hip, you’d do anything to support him through the healing. You’d feed him, comfort him, make sure he got help. You’d not turn your back on him, turn him out of the house, shame him, blame him. Even if he caused his own accident through foolish behaviour. This is the same.

    I have known some of those kids on Hastings. The amount of abuse and pain they have gone through already, before they ended up there, is mind-boggling. And I admire and respect the courage and determination it took to get free; it happens more often than we are told.

  19. says

    And what’s especially disgusting? The degree to which the addict actually didn’t have full control over their actions. We know that the pathology of addiction strips the sufferer of their agency and capacity to control their own choices. We know it’s incredibly difficult, bordering on the impossible, to fully shake a serious substance addiction. We know that addicts typically come from lives filled with trauma, abuse, neglect, pain and loss. We know all of those things but still we persist in just not caring. Still we refuse to regard a drug addict as equally human, and still we perceive the addiction as a shameful moral failing. Idiots, all of them, right?

    I think this is the key part, but I have to disagree with you on part of this: “We” don’t know all this. You know this. Public health experts (presumably) know this. Thanks to reading a past post on your blog, I know this.

    The people saying “Just another dead drug addict”? I’d wager they don’t know this. Drug use is seen, particularly by those without first-hand experience of it, as something perfectly controllable. “Wait, you’re addicted? Well, you never should have started in the first place, and done enough of it to get addicted.”

    I’m in no way saying this is a reasonable way of thinking; I’m simply saying that I believe this is the reality we have to contend with, as it’s what leads to treating drug addiction as a personal failing. They don’t want to believe that bad things can happen to good people (whether out of religious beliefs, subconscious motivations, or whatever), so if something bad happens to someone, they must therefore be a bad person.

    (Disclaimer: I’m not writing this based off of hard evidence, but based more on my sum experience of how more privileged people tend to see less privileged people who get into trouble. I would be interested in seeing if anyone’s studied this, though. Perhaps I’ll skim Google Scholar and get back if I find something.)

  20. Toasted Rye says

    I haven’t read the comments as I am fairly short on time today. I just wanted to state my perspective on this. I am generally a highly empathetic person but I am not perfect. I have been scarred by past experiences enough that sometimes I get jaded. I find it hard to feel remorse for those addicted to drugs. I find it hard because for the last few years I have watched drug addiction tear apart a side of my family. I have watched addicts be enabled over and over again till they had the gall to steal from me and my children. So I get bitter sometimes and sometimes that bitterness comes out in my apathy at another dead drug addict. It isn’t my most proud moments. I am not standing on a pulpit and proclaiming the righteousness of my position. I am just trying to explain why I and maybe some other people may make these kinds of claims from time to time. I will try to do better though. I will try to be more aware of the effect of my words at these times.

  21. RD47 says

    I saw it coming … I kid, I didn’t see it coming, but that is because I tuned whitney houston out in, oh, i’m gonna say 1991.

    So, another rich and famous junkie accidentally killed themselves. Same S, different day. Ho hum. But this woman left her teenaged daughter without a mother for no other reason than that she wanted to be juiced up on pills and booze all the time. Selfish, no? Who’s lacking empathy here? Whitney “the juice” Houston.

    “Every human life counts, every death has meaning, and all of them were inevitable.” Sure, every death is inevitable, including yours and mine. Every life counts? Sure, they “count” in the birth registry, but beyond that …? Every death has meaning? What meaning …?

    She lived, she juiced, she died. Ya’, there is some meaning there somewhere, I guess …

    • says

      Thank you for so beautifully illustrating exactly what I was talking about.

      Fun hint: your own sphere of insight and effect is not the sum total of meaning in the universe.

    • says

      and here we have the demonstration of at least two of the things I mentioned earlier: rich people have no right to negative psychological states; and people “chose” to be drug addicts. Idiots are rather predictable this way.

      Like I said, this is what happens when a brain not well-trained in deconstructing society and its own socio-psychological constructs hits something that challenges one’s reality: gut-reactions, denial, victim-blaming. I’d like to think that teaching more people to critically analyze everything, including their own mind and their society, would make this less common, but I worry that it won’t. Making compassion and helping into a social norm, and making victim-blaming into a taboo, is probably more likely to work, cynical as it may be.

  22. grumpyoldfart says

    for the record, I do still respect and care about those people whose tweets and facebook statuses I quoted.

    Nice save…

    • says

      What? Are you…um… making fun of my attempt to make sure I don’t hurt the feelings of my friends and colleagues and clarify that this post wasn’t intended as a personal attack?

      • Anders says

        You didn’t realize that people must be either all-bad or all-good? That unless friends are morally perfect they must be cut off and thrown into the everlasting fire?

        Shame on you, Natalie.

  23. ryan says

    I have plenty of empathy, just not when it comes to celebs. My overwhelming feeling on hearing about Amy Whinehouse, Whitney Houstoun or anyone else is honestly, “Who gives a fuck.” Sure it’s sad for the family and friends and frankly thats the way it should be. But bawling your eyes out for say someone like Steve Jobs is hypocritical to say the least. Keep it your sympathy for those you know and can touch and feel their pain, or people who genuinely deserve it, anything else is bull.

      • ryan says

        Got nothing to do with tribalism. People are heavily influenced by their personal lives – obviously. Saying that people have no sympathy with drug addicts because they don’t mourn a Whitney Houston is a major stretch of logic. We still don’t even know how she died, but regardless because I choose not to feel anything for her or Winehouse dosn’t mean that I don’t have any sympathy for people who genuinely don’t have choices. It’s pretty pathetic that you are somehow making her a victim.
        There are enough people in the world who are real victims, and have no choices at all. And I’ll save my sympathy for them.

        • says

          Yeah, nothing fucked up at all about you standing in judgment of who does and does not deserve sympathy and who are and aren’t the “real” victims. Nothing arrogant or self-righteous about that at all.

          If you’d read my article properly, you’d notice that I’m not saying everyone who doesn’t mourn Houston is unsympathetic to drug addiction. I’m chastising those who feel the need to announce and brag about their lack of empathy or concern, and make arrogant, judgmental statements like yours.

  24. Bruce Gorton says

    ‘Dead junkie’

    There are none as boring as the bored
    That over their apathy crow
    Disinterest their only excuse to lord
    Over they who have more to show

    And school their eyes against the shine
    Of enthusiasm and interest
    Their voices take upon them a whine
    As their cold empty words attest

    To take absence of warmth to be cool
    They seek to hover above it all
    Vultures circling blue skies ever cruel
    They who await the living to fall

  25. Ana says

    I remember the first time I was chocked by this. I was driving somewhere with a friend of mine and we passed a street where there was a van and tons of people waiting around it. She asked what it was and I answered, it was a methadone distribution van. She was shocked, appalled at how the state was spending money giving drugs to addicts instead of caring for those who REALLY needed it, etc… I was speechless. I knew those people; I spent years working on a charity close by, giving them hot dinners, clothes and some comfort. Many of them were homeless, old, destroyed. All of them were fighting hard to get away from drugs – that’s what methadone is used for. I tried to explain that to her, that methadone is not a drug but a way to not do drugs, but her heart was so closed…it broke mine.
    It’s easy to judge, to say addicts bring death to themselves, to forget there is a person behind the addiction, a life that could have gone another way. Easier still when that person was rich and famous and we feel a tinge of jealousy, so when they fail we feel avenged. It just makes me think that we, as a people, are seriously lacking in compassion.

  26. says

    Here’s something depressing…

    My site stats have this little list of search terms people have punched into google or whatever and used to find my blog. Most of the time they’re just sort of funny like “should a trans woman wear a push-up bra to a job interview?” or “gay my little pony interest”. Sometimes slightly creepy “sexy canadian transsexual”.

    But today, we’ve got “who cares that whitney houston is dead she was a drug addict”, “whitney houston a druggie”, “whitney just an addict”, etc.

    Why is this impulse so huge people feel the need to display it to their SEARCH ENGINES?!

      • Anders says

        Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
        Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

      • Anders says

        And another apropos Tolkien quote:

        Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.

      • jeffengel says

        People are dropping that verbal excrement into search engines and ending up finding an eloquent plea for understanding and compassion, backed up with critical thinking about why we suffer compassion failure.

        Stick around this planet, Natalie. The poor thing needs people like you.

      • says

        Current List of top search terms:

        whitney houston was a junkie
        who cares about whitney houston
        who got whitney huston addicted to drugs
        we love ponies mare-a-thon
        how did whitney become a drug addict?
        whitney houston drug addict
        whitney houston who cares
        whitney houston was a druggie
        intitle:whitney sympathy
        was whitney houston an addict

        Yesterday’s:

        mlp mare a thon
        natalie reed
        sincerely natalie reed
        whitney houston just a junkie
        whitney houston was just a junkie
        whitney a junkie
        transgender my little pony
        whitney drug addict
        my little pony mare a thon
        whitney houston addict

  27. carolw says

    When I heard about Ms. Houston’s death all I thought was, “How sad. She was not that much older than I am.” I thought she had been getting her addiction(s) under control. I figured her poor heart had given out on her, that her body had been abused too much by the drugs. I hadn’t heard at that time that she had been found in her bath. I feel bad for her family. When I was in junior high, she was just hitting it big, and my friends and I would have given our right legs to sing like her. We definitely lost a phenomenal talent.

  28. says

    It’s always sad when someone dies, no matter the cause — they were somebody’s mother or father, somebody’s sibling, somebody’s child, somebody’s friend.

    That said, I think what many people are thinking is that, well, nobody was holding a gun to her head and forcing Whitney to smoke, snort, inject, or otherwise ingest anything, so it must have been self-inflicted. And I agree, somewhat — she wasn’t forced to use drugs, no. She did, indeed, choose to use hard drugs, for whatever reason, I’m not gonna judge. But at some point, what likely started as casual use developed into a habit, and then a compulsion, and now? Dead.

    The thing about compulsive behavior is that, at that point, it becomes a mental health issue, and I think treating that along with the chemical dependency and any underlying issues that led to, y’know, self-medicating, um, that just might be the key to really getting at the root of addiction.

    I’m not an expert or anything, those are just, you know, my thoughts, feel free to take ‘em or leave ‘em.

  29. John Greg says

    Good post Natalie.

    “Why is it okay to treat it as all so ho-hum or boring or vaguely funny?”

    I think one of the reasons that so many people treat this and other forms of accidental early death in the way you describe is fear. Many people have a tendency to be willfully dismissive about things they fear and/or do not understand. That’s not a defence, just a possible explanation. And, in my opinion, that kind of behaviour is even more on display when the sufferer is rich and/or a celebrity. People are fickle about their one-time idols, and any failing in the idol seems to be seen by a lot of people as some kind of personal betrayal.

    Also, I am going to agree with teh_faust and MaNonny (http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/02/13/whitney-huston-just-another-dead-drug-addict/#comment-2832). I’ve known many people who are even more dismissive and intolerant regarding suicide and eating disorders than they are regarding addictions.

    We humans have a pretty strong tendency to be dissimissive and hostile toward things we don’t understand. It is easier to dismiss than it is to understand.

    And, oh my, but isn’t that Hastings corridor just about one of the saddest places on Earth? I used to work in that area too, back in the early 90s (FYI: I also used to work catter-corner to the Railway club). What a discouraging, despairing place it is. And that fucking assassin Campbell just made it so much worse.

    WMDKitty, a person may choose or decide to start taking drugs, though that too is often debatable, but once that person becomes addicted, it really is no longer just a simple matter of choice, nor habit, nor compulsion.

    • says

      Did you work at the “international student housing” hostel or whatever it’s called?

      Yeah, Hastings can be a dark place. But honestly, I’ve also seen some tremendous grace, compassion and humanity there. It’s actually rather beautiful the degree to which people in that kind of situation will try to look out for one another. I’d be willing to bet $100 that if someone lay down pretending to be passed out from drugs or something in an alley just off of West Robson in view of the passerby, it would take at least five times as long before anyone asked if she was okay than someone doing the same experiment off of Hastings between Abbott and Main.

      You statement about “that assassin Campbell”… well, my agreement would depend on which Campbell you’re talking about. If you mean Gordo, sure, but I think Larry did a pretty amazing job all things considered.

      • John Greg says

        “Did you work at the “international student housing” hostel or whatever it’s called?”

        No, I worked at the St. Regis hotel for about 3 years, from 87ish to 89-90ish.

        “I’d be willing to bet $100 that if someone lay down pretending to be passed out from drugs or something in an alley just off of West Robson in view of the passerby, it would take at least five times as long before anyone asked if she was okay than someone doing the same experiment off of Hastings between Abbott and Main.”

        You’ve got that right.

        “You statement about “that assassin Campbell”… well, my agreement would depend on which Campbell you’re talking about. If you mean Gordo, sure, but I think Larry did a pretty amazing job all things considered.”

        Yes, Gordo. I have mixed feelings about Larry. Indeed he did some very good stuff, but then he sold out for the Olympics and his chance to be a senator. At any rate, that’s my take on it.

        • says

          I think the St. Regis isn’t even a hotel any more, actually. Unless I’m mixing it up with the Golden Archway or whatever it’s called.

          But yeah, I think we’re pretty much on the same page about Gordo.

    • says

      By the way, I noticed the Pharwrongula wiki entry today.

      It’s funny to me that the person who wrote the entry went to the trouble of calculating my average wordcount, but didn’t take the five minutes to do some fact-checking. I was not brought on Skepchick due to my participation at SGU’s forums. Rebecca doesn’t even read those anymore. I was noticed as a commenter at Skepchick and initially invited to do some guest posts after meeting Surly Amy at Geek Girl Con in Seattle. Around the same time, they also put up a “Help Wanted” post, looking for new writers to apply. It contained a little nod my way, so while I was working on the guest posts (which ended up used as my first and fourth posts there) I also threw my name in the hat. Eventually me and Heina Dadabhoy were selected, and a few other applicants became Queereka’s set of contributors. SGU forums had nothing to do with it, and it would have taken five minutes for the facts to have been checked. This is why most Wikis have a policy of citing sources.

      Also… I noticed your assumption that I must be comfortably middle-class since I have access to the internet. That may have been true in 1996, but in 2012, even homeless people can get online pretty easily (libraries). I live off of income assistance from The BC Ministry of Housing and Social Development (as a “person with persistent multiple barriers to employment”…gorgeous understatement, that) and get most of my groceries from the foodbank. Internet is included in my rent (at a shitty month-to-month rooming house) along with other utilities. I think it’s worth noting that there’s a bit of classism in assuming that just because someone is educated and intelligent that they must be middle-class.

      The “so-and-so is privileged in one respect so she shouldn’t be allowed to speak about social inequities in another area” argument isn’t a very good one anyway, but it becomes especially weak when the privilege in question isn’t really there. I certainly do have some privilege. I’m white and able-bodied. I have conditional straight-privilege, a degree of passing-privilege, and my gender expression fits fairly well into social conventions for my presented gender. I am, as said, educated, I don’t suffer from any severe mental health problems, and I have the benefit of living in a very liberal, tolerant, queer-friendly city. I also live in a country with a strong social safety net, I have shelter and food, and all my medical expenses are fully covered. But I am NOT middle-class. And I’m perfectly entitled to speak about the privileges I do lack. I even have the right to speak up about social inequities I don’t suffer from, like racism and able-ism (though I admittedly can’t speak on behalf of those people). I’m not much interested in the “we can only address one problem at a time” / “there are worse things somewhere else” arguments.

      I also noticed the claim that I started threatening bannings and moderation on my very first post at Skepchick. That’s also false, and also can be verified with five minutes of fact-checking. My first post was “Transkeptuality: Gatekeeping And The Value Of Critical Thought”.

      Finally, the line in my bio about my Y chromosome is just a fun way of pointing out I’m trans. It does not mean I’m unaware of the fact that I still have a Y chromosome. It takes a special kind of dedication to misreading, and an amazingly distorted and negative set of preconceptions, to assume a trans person has absolutely no understanding of how human sex and gender operate. I am also well aware of the fact that Y chromosomes don’t have asses, in case you were wondering. It is also not some kind of coded statement about misandrist female-supremacist views. Please tell your friends at ERV that real life is not the DaVinci Code. It’s just a way of saying “hey, I’m trans by the way, so don’t be shocked if a whole bunch of my posts are about trans stuff”.

      Anyway, just wanted to clear that stuff up.

      All things considered though, if the worst criticism someone has of me is that I’m a bit excessively prolific and verbose, I think I’m doing pretty good.

      Thank you, by the way, for not trolling here. Seriously. I appreciate that. You’re totally welcome to criticize me elsewhere, and you guys are well within your rights to set up that Phawrongula article (unless you start posting things that are both false AND highly negative AND clearly meant to be interpreted as fact, in which case it becomes libel). But I am genuinely appreciative of keeping it away from here. So thanks.

  30. John Greg says

    Natalie said:

    “It’s funny to me that the person who wrote the entry went to the trouble of calculating my average wordcount, but didn’t take the five minutes to do some fact-checking.”

    I didn’t write that one, though I am guilty of the satirical paragraph. Perhaps you could log on and post the corrections, or include a comment clarifying the facts. The various authors there, myself included, do try for factual accuracy. We especially want to avoid what we peceive as historical revisionism and editorial cleansing as practiced by Myers, Laden, Benson, and Zvan.

    “I noticed your assumption that I must be comfortably middle-class since I have access to the internet.”

    I honestly do not recall making any such statement, and I really don’t believe I would say any such thing, even if I was in my cups; it’s just not my style. Could you please post a link?

    “… even homeless people can get online pretty easily (libraries).”

    I know. I was homeless myself from November 2005 to November 2006. And I spent a lot of time at the downtown library reading, snoozing, and Internetting.

    “I think it’s worth noting that there’s a bit of classism in assuming that just because someone is educated and intelligent that they must be middle-class.”

    I agree, which is one reason why I cannot imagine myself saying anything about your financial/class status. Such things are just not of much importance to me.

    “I also noticed the claim that I started threatening bannings and moderation on my very first post at Skepchick.”

    Okay, fair enough. Which post was it where you said to one of the commentors that you were thinking about not allowing their comments to be published, and putting them into moderation? Second? Third? I can no longer find it on Skepchick, so perhaps it’s been editorialized for the sake of historical cleansing. And please note, I am not saying that you are guilty of such editorial cleansing, just that it seems possible that someone might have done so.

    “Please tell your friends at ERV that real life is not the DaVinci Code.”

    That’s a bit beneath you isn’t it? I mean, yes, I like some of the commentors on ERV, but there are and have been in the past several who I neither liked, nor whose comments I agreed with or respected.

    “Finally, the line in my bio about my Y chromosome is just a fun way of pointing out I’m trans. It does not mean I’m unaware of the fact that I still have a Y chromosome. It takes a special kind of dedication to misreading, and an amazingly distorted and negative set of preconceptions, to assume a trans person has absolutely no understanding of how human sex and gender operate.”

    Yes, I’ll grant you that. It was a cheap shot, wasn’t it. You see, contrary to the general perspective at several of the FfTB blogs, neither I, nor most of the commentors at ERV are monsters, sexists, misogynists, rape apologists, and so forth. Sure, some of them are pretty crude and pretty angry, but then that goes for several pro FfTB commentors at almost all of the FfTB blogs I’ve visited too.

    Natalie, I posted this at LousyCanuck’s blog:

    “Why not post a list of the top ten, or five, whatever, issues you think define feminism and/or feminists. I’ll respond by noting which issues I agree with and support, and which issues I do not agree with and do not support. And I absolutely promise to play fair. That should help clarify whether or not I meet your, not my, but your definition of what a feminist is.

    “You can even have fun with it by perhaps posting a second list: Top ten reasons why John Greg is an anti-feminist.”

    He, Jason, who repeatedly calls me an anti-feminist, has not yet taken me up on it, and I rather suspect he won’t. But perhaps if you think I am some raging sexist misogynist, you could.

    And, like I said in my email to you, I gained my perspective about over-long posts from my extensive first-hand experience. Arf.

    • says

      I wasn’t accusing you of having written that wiki article, and the only one of the statements that I remember being specifically yours was the one about assuming I’m middle class. I’m pretty sure it was you, but there’s a slim chance I was misreading how authors are attributed there. It was in the periodic table of swearing thread, which I noticed when my site stats started indicating a bunch of hits coming from it.

      At Skepchick, I didn’t have to do any moderator-ish things until my fourth post, when someone with whom I had a prior history began insisting on his right to use the slurs “shemale” and “tranny” and refused to let up. It was spillover from a conflict elsewhere, he continuously pushed back against my efforts to be patient with him, and I think I was well within my rights to ultimately issue a warning on it. I actually ended up NOT putting him on moderation, despite the fact that some of the other folks at Skepchick suggested I just ban him outright, since the repeated use of offensive slurs after you’ve been asked to stop is a pretty rude thing to do. Would you blame a gay blogger for issuing a warning against a straight commenter insisting on his right to use the term “faggot” in the comments, or a black blogger for issuing a similar warning in regards to the use of the term “nigger”?

      I’ve only ever actually banned (or deleted the comments of) one person. He was the guy who later used a bot to spam Pharyngula with german song lyrics, and got individually banned from Greta, Jen, Stephanie and Jason’s blogs, then started sock-puppeting and threatened to sue FTB, and finally got more or less outright banned from the entire network, with a “troll alert” warning having to be issued. During that time, he admitted to suffering from some kind of “psychopathy”.

      I haven’t yet had to do any mod things here except for regulating commercial spam and choosing not to approve a comment from a family member of mine about a personal matter.

      I don’t like deleting comments or banning people. Thankfully, I haven’t much had to do that because I’ve actually had a pretty terrific overall response. Most comments I get have been very supportive and kind, or productive and intelligent contributions to the topic. I really really like my readers. And even the people who disagree with me are usually very civil about it. I was pretty surprised, in that I was expecting I’d have to deal with far worse than what ended up being the case.

      Anyway, I don’t think ERV folk are monsters. But I do think that several of the people who hang out there, and edit things like the Phawrongula wiki, have such a negative and hostile view towards Skepchick and FTB that reality is kind of getting pushed aside in the name of their animosity. Like jumping to the conclusion that the casual, jokey way I chose to reference my gender status was some kind of evil misandrist message. I mean, yeah, the DaVinci Code line was rather snarky, but honestly some of the stuff I noticed in that thread (periodic table of swearing) is seriously approaching conspiracy-theorist mentality, where all available information is being made to fit the conclusions that have been drawn beforehand (“evil nasty hivemind”).

      Personally, I haven’t yet seen you say or do anything I regard as anti-feminist or misogynist, so I’d be unable to take you up on that right now. I won’t jump to any conclusions, but I do trust Jason, and as a general thing he’s usually pretty insightful about these things. I don’t always agree with him, but I’d be surprised if him saying something like that was totally groundless. But since I don’t personally know anything about what you or he said, I’m’a just withhold judgment. Like I said before, I’m not going to put you on moderation or ban you or start attacking you unless you give me reason to. So far you’ve been pretty civil and courteous here, other than the satirization of my comment policy, so we’re on okay terms. But I still think the assumptions about my class were kind of silly.

      P.S. I haven’t read the e-mail yet. I don’t check my blog’s e-mail as often as I should. Sorry! I’ll get to it before bed, though.

  31. John Greg says

    Natalie said:

    “Would you blame a gay blogger for issuing a warning against a straight commenter insisting on his right to use the term “faggot” in the comments, or a black blogger for issuing a similar warning in regards to the use of the term “nigger”?”

    That is a valid question Natalie, for which I can only answer that in my opinion such decisions can only be made on a case-by-case basis, and I think cannot be argued succesfully, either pro or con, in the hypothetical.

    “But I do think that several of the people who hang out there, and edit things like the Phawrongula wiki, have such a negative and hostile view towards Skepchick and FTB that reality is kind of getting pushed aside in the name of their animosity.”

    I don’t think I can argue completely against that either. Yes, I agree, some of the commentors at ERV are so angry as to have lost some semblance of reason from time-to-time. And I think others, such as myself, encounter the occasional moment of over-reaching anger and make unreasonable, and perhaps factually incorrect posts, also from time-to-time.

    “But I still think the assumptions about my class were kind of silly.”

    I agree, and really, I’d be very, very surprised if it was actually me that said that.

    The email was from a while ago. Probably more or less irrelevant now anyway.

  32. says

    I have heard people say “She had a drug addiction problem, we think she probably overdosed”, but as an explanation rather than condemnation; generally everyone I’ve heard mention Whitney Houston in the last couple days has been sad she’s gone and/or paying tribute to her music. Then again I haven’t got out much, and this has been in person rather than on the Internet. Goodbye Whitney. :(

    I suppose people treat drug addicts now like they once did lepers. That is, as far as I can tell where the condemnation comes from is the fear of contagion, or rather, the fear that if you care for someone who has a serious addiction, you will be drawn into either enabling them or trying to help them, until your own resources are drained. (Or for those who only know what they learned from anti-drug education, you might think you’ll become an addict.)

    Society tends to force a black-and-white choice between being sympathetic/pitying to a person with an ailment (and giving them attention and/or help) and dehumanizing/condemning the person (and thus putting them into some kind of prison or quarantine or program to change them). This dichotomy is ridiculous; everyone is human, and it is really frustrating when the narrative of drug addicts being People To Shun is so pervasive that it erases individual stories. But the dichotomy is there I think: when being sympathetic is seen as too dangerous, then condemnation is the other popular option.

    Or maybe it’s just the people who profit from the prison system who are circulating the narrative that drug addicts are “criminals”, note how dehumanizing that word is.

    • Decorum says

      Hallofrage said:

      “I suppose people treat drug addicts now like they once did lepers. That is, as far as I can tell where the condemnation comes from is the fear of contagion, or rather, the fear that if you care for someone who has a serious addiction, you will be drawn into either enabling them or trying to help them, until your own resources are drained. (Or for those who only know what they learned from anti-drug education, you might think you’ll become an addict.)”

      I’ve been trying to understand why I don’t feel as I probably should about WH’s death. This quote captures it except I think my own fear is that given another set of circumstances, that could be me.

      “And when you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks back at you” -Friedrich Nietzsche

      As humans we have the seeds of our own destruction inside. Perhaps, for me I fear poking about the abyss.

      Sorry for the darkness of the comment.

  33. davroslives says

    The Fundamental Attribution Error strikes again. Well, partly. That person did something bad because they were a bad person; if I make a mistake, it was because of the situation. It also has a bit of the Just World fallacy, wanting everyone to deserve what they get. Both of which lead directly to victim blaming, which this is a textbook example of.

    I don’t get the negativity towards drug addicts. Is it because of this image of drugs=hedonism? And they reap their just deserts? Or something? Or is it the totally alien nature of it (for some people)? “I can imagine becoming addicted to alcohol, but I would never smock crack.”

    Maybe it’s all a consequence of D.A.R.E.

  34. Ashley says

    I agree with some of what you’re saying but disagree with a lot of it too. You cannot compare smoking to a drug addiction. They’re just two different things, and you can get cancer even if you’ve never smoked. And when I found out about Whitney, I was sad, because a loss of a life, especially one so talented and much too young to die, is a tragedy. But I can’t sympathize as much as I can with people who die from diseases that can’t be prevented, or soldiers who fight for our country. Because I know that an addiction is a disease, but an addiction starts with all the wrong choices. Addiction doesn’t just happen. So don’t act like she had absolutely no control over it. She did. Obviously that doesn’t mean she deserved to die, but still. I disagree with the people who don’t view it as a tragedy, but there just is no denying that she made the wrong decisions repeatedly and that is the reason that she died. Furthermore, after she started the addiction, she had every means to get help. Rehab. And don’t tell me that its impossible for an addict to make the choice to get themselves clean because addiction is a disease, because look at all the celebrities (not to mention regular people) who have gone to rehab and gotten themselves clean. So; yes, its sad. But obviously its easier to sympathize with, for example, Farrah Fawcett, who had a disease that she didn’t actually bring on herself. Be condescending and criticize me, if thats what you want to do; I couldn’t care less. My opinion.

  35. says

    I can’t thank you enough for this article. I have legitimately changed my mind about some people during the course of this week. Forget the celebrity, forget the media, think about the person who just lost their life and the family and friends they leave behind. It’s heartbreaking and people’s responses have truly shown just how evil people can be. I mean, to make fun of someone’s death and so soon? It’s poor taste, very poor taste. They say to each his own but there is still right and wrong and it is simply wrong.

  36. John Greg says

    Ashley said:

    “You cannot compare smoking to a drug addiction. They’re just two different things….”

    With all due respect, Ashley, it is, in some ways, a fair comparison. Nicotine works on the receptor sites in the brain in an almost identical fashion to any other drug, licit or not.

    In point of fact, nicotine is, in one way, worse in its addiction characteristics than all illicit drugs, in that (and please note, it has been over 12 years since I worked on this in College so my terminology is not right) it performs its nasty addiction actions on two, rather than the usual single, receptor sites in the brain. That is why nicotine addiction is so difficult to kick. You are, in effect, kicking two addictions at once.

    Now, of course, in social terms and in behavioural terms, addiction to nicotine is very different from most other drugs. But you weren’t specific in your comment, so if you meant the social and behavioural aspects, rather than the physical characteristics of the addiction, please ignore my interruption.

    “And don’t tell me that its impossible for an addict to make the choice to get themselves clean because addiction is a disease, because look at all the celebrities (not to mention regular people) who have gone to rehab and gotten themselves clean.”

    Yes, you are quite right, it is not impossible. But clearly, evidence shows that for some individuals it is insurmountabley difficult.

    And while I understand your comments about making decisions, it does seem a tad harsh. Decisions involve a lot of stuff before they are made. And some of us, for a variety of reasons both within and without our control simply don’t have the right stuff to make the right decisions. And I am not sure we should be “blamed” for that shortcoming.

  37. BretSimpson says

    You all yak too much…been drinkin’ since ’76..problem is this piece of shit gumit and moderin’ lifestile..Mitt will make it all better…fire some Mormans.

  38. Rod says

    It’s such a complex issue.
    I am smart, I am generally happy and successful.
    But, I live on the brink…every minute. It doesn’t make sense.

  39. Jane says

    It bothers you that addicts are treated subhuman? Apparently you haven’t had an addict screw your life up. They get treated how they treat others, they show no compassion towards others, nothing but selfish, self indulgent worthless creatures that are better off dead than walking around dead anyway.

    You crack me up (no pun intended) but honestly you are comparing a smoker to people with hardcore drug addiction? Get a clue. Addicts steal, they lie, they cheat, they screw people over all in the name of the drug and many of them just plain old enjoy the lifestyle. I have no respect for any addict after dealing with several and no desire to waste my time caring about them. My opinion is that they are better off dead than living and continuing to put themselves and everyone else through pain. Whitney Houston wasted her life and her career and I feel no compassion towards her what so ever only to the family and friends who had to deal with her dumb ass decision to be a crackhead. As the principal said to that kid in “Lean on me” he said; “you smoke crack don’t you boy? Well jump, go on jump, you’re killing yourself anyway you might as well do it expeditiously.”

    Come back and blog when you had an addict take everything from you!

    • says

      I’m approving this comment simply as a demonstration of the loathsome, arrogant, fucked-up opinions people openly have towards addicts and addiction.

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