There are plenty of memories circling the internet in response to the unfortunate death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. For all the recognition he (rightfully) deserves, there are still plenty of comments regarding the fact the guy died with a needle in his arm.
Junkies never learn was the basic thesis of most of the random comments I read on various forums reporting on the death of the actor. But really, we’re all junkies up on a cross who are never going to learn.
Sure, a spectacular illustration of alcoholism in The West Wing is always applicable, but substance abuse isn’t as dominant as vice when it comes to culture. To call an addict a dumb junkie is generally spoken by those who don’t understand what addiction is; the same way one could blanket-insult the faithful because they don’t understand faith.
I’m currently on week six of being booze-free, but that doesn’t change my brain’s reaction to every day things. It’s a challenge to turn down free drinks or to order ginger ale with dinner. Every thought or action is preceded in my head with It’d be better with whiskey. Some people don’t understand that concept, and chances are if I died with a bottle in my hand there would be those that would remark upon me deserving it.
But not being able to understand people is not a reason to disparage them. I do not understand people of faith. Like, I have no concept of how a rational person could actually believe in Jesus Christ as anything other than a dude who was around 2,000 years ago. I have no concept of how someone can actually rationalize to themselves most of the tales told in the Bible. But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong and I’m right, nor does it mean I’m some beacon of a functioning brain and they aren’t. There are just differences in the way people are, because the brain is a crazy fascinating and complex place.
Christians and addicts alike are just two of many labels people can be associated with (by themselves or by others). What’s unfortunate is that these divisions of concept and meaning then are associated to a personality as opposed to being left alone and instead focusing on greater issues. Instead of talking about Christians, we should be debating the relevancy of organized religion in education or whether or not the “War on Drugs” is a viable solution to, well, anything.
We all take to certain crutches to hobble through life with; some take the form of a cross and some take the form of a bottle and some take the form of Facebook and the list can just keep going. But the idea of addiction, the concept of an internal reliance or struggle, should serve no purpose in the public debate other than to inform better overall policy on how to govern properly. Christians should not be assailed, but the idea of teaching Christian concepts in public schools should be rigorously fought. Addicts should not be vilified, but the incarceration rate as well as poor response to treatment in America by the Department of Justice should be a topic of conversation.
Because there are things we don’t understand in the world. There are people who would have no clue how my brain works, how I react with a salivated mouth to the mention of a nice glass of wine. How every decision I make needs to be pre-empted by one to not drink first. This is similar to how I can’t understand for the life of me how people can go to church and not just revolt, or how I can’t comprehend a brain that is actually convinced of something like the virgin birth or resurrection. But that’s okay.
What isn’t okay is when our various preferences in life are used by others to then divide us; Karl Rove style tactics across the board, making sure people are always scared, even if they don’t know exactly why or of what. Our society has a way of mechanizing fear and abstracting social norms to the point where there’s a justification to being scared of just about anything or everything. This is what we should be fighting on the internet about (and in the streets); not whether or not a great artist threw their life away.
Thusly, I think I’ll watch The Master tonight, as it deals with most of these ideas and is one of Hoffman’s better roles (although I mean, dude made a Mission: Impossible villain be a memorable character, so really there are just too many great works to try and count).