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2016 IS Killing People

An open letter in response to this article which seems to be circulating like a particularly antisocial virus. Please, enough already of these poorly argued, puportedly trend-bucking articles. If you’re going to do that you have to be good. AA Gill good (RIP). This person is not good. Just self-absorbed….

Dear Special Snowflake

I have a very unpopular thing to point out to you too: Not everything is about you, sweetie. I’m sorry that you have struggled with addiction. But that does not give you the right to become a tragedy hijacker. Nobody is ‘blaming’ 2016’ for the unfair celebrity culling of some of our brightest and best. What is happening is a reaching out - a public outpouring of grief and a holding of hands. It is one of the truly good things about social media. And that is coming from somebody that has a lot of negative things to say about social media - not least about over-entitled little trolls like you.

Just because you don’t feel the same grief as others do, doesn’t make it less real or less valid. Only in your own personal orbit where anything that doesn’t revolve around you has to be shut down. There is a name for that. The modern name is Low Emotional Intelligence. In the old days we just called it Arrested Adolescence.

Let’s take your self-pitifest disguised as moral outrage paragraph by paragraph.

Para 1: Drug and Alcohol Abuse are to blame for the deaths of 2016. David Bowie: Cancer, Victoria Wood : Cancer. Caroline Aherne: Cancer, Alan Rickman: cancer…..get the drift? You could have had a rant about cancer but that is not about you though is it? No it has to be your personal demon that is to blame. Because like so much else in internet trolling, all you’re really saying is ‘what about me?’

Para 2: Well done you found some stats that say that life expectancy is decreasing. That must have been very hard to track down in a deluge of graphs pointing out that life expectancy around the world (and the US is part of that world last time I looked) is on an ever upwards trend. Obesity has been a real issue in the USA and UK because both countries have been systematically lied to by their governments about fat vs carbs since the early 1980’s. Check Time magazine and numerous else for some real research. Apart from that, our welfare systems are creaking under the strain of supporting so many people living longer. I am in my 50’s as are most of my friends. Based on on your writing I would guess you are about 17. I am going to live longer than my parents and so are my friends. Some people have addictive personalities and this is a bad thing. The fact that we have realised that and are trying to do something about it (rather than just letting the alcoholics rot like we used to) is a good thing.

Para 3.

George Michael wasn’t a personal friend but he was known to many of my friends. He certainly took some drugs. Born again addicts are always very keen to welcome anyone they can grab into the catch-all addicts club. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. But in my honest opinion as to what killed him, I would say Death by Tabloid. I don’t say that lightly. Last time I said it was Princess Diana. Tabloids are tough but most can survive them. I’ve spent a career teaching them how to. But George was particularly vulnerable and particularly persecuted. Please listen to his song “My Mother had a Brother” Here it is on Youtube: This is a painfully true story. His mother’s brother killed himself on the day that he was born. Because he was gay. George spent the first part of his life trying to keep his mother from finding out that he too was gay. Who could blame him. Once his mother died, he spent the second part of his life being proudly, defiantly gay. At great cost, tabloid wise. Within that time he took some drugs. He also had some great times. The tabloids and you have been very keen to make him out to be a tragic addict. That’s a very major and convenient assumption. Maybe, like a lot of us, he took drugs because they were fun. I have it on some authority that one of the drugs he took was GBL. It’s a very popular drug amongst us gays. And, admittedly, it can be very addictive. But I have lost a lot of friends to that drug long before they ever got to become addicted. It’s Russian Roulette with GBL - take the wrong amount or get the timing wrong and you die. Of a heart attack. To attach the cause of his death to addiction is worse to me that saying Rock Hudson died of pneumonia. He died and many of us miss him. Why can’t we leave it at that - anything else is a tabloid intrusion.

Carrie Fisher took some drugs. Because she was bi polar and bi polar people often self-medicated themselves with drugs and alcohol before their condition was even known about (as with her). She had a serious mental health problem. One which she bravely and defiantly discussed in the hope of de-stigmatising it. Ignoring that and making her out as simply an addict is simply adding to that stigma.

Oh and by the way, I was an enthusiastic cocaine user for ten years and I still like the odd line. I just paid a private physician to put his finger up my bottom (possibly just a friendly gesture) and do a full set or blood tests. My heart is fine. I’m not saying that her use of drugs didn’t damage her health but to write her off as an addict is to deny her true condition and serves only your sketchy, self-serving theory.

Right who is left? Prince had been a Jehovah’s Witness for some time and was sworn off drugs. Unfortunately, when you are as insanely rich and famous as Prince (or Michael Jackson) you are surrounded by people who only say yes to you - including your doctors. He had horrible hip pain. He was over-prescribed a perscription drug. He took too much and he died. This is not addiction, it is an altogether different problem - one of unhippocratic doctors willing to subscribe at a price. If you are really worried about route causes you might like to look at what is happening in online medicine at the moment. I’m from the UK where we have a National Health system (at time of writing at least) but I can now go on to seven or more different pharmacy sites, get an online subscription from each for the same drug and then overdose on it. This is not addiction this is a broken medical system.

So nothing in your little rant adds up. Which is fine, it’s the internet in a post-truth world, you’re not doing anything very different. However, what bugs me is this singular interest in pissing on other people’s feelings and grief just to say ‘look at me’. It’s not big and it’s not clever. It’s petulant and childish. So what are you doing it? Some people are sad. If you have nothing to say to console them why not just leave them be?

And, by the way, sadness is an important feeling (see the Pixar movie Inside Out - it might be able to explain in terms you can understand). 2016 has been a bitch. No - we are not holding the year personally responsible, we are not that stupid. But collectively, this last year or so, has been difficult for a lot of us. And losing some of our heroes has exacerbated that. If we’re to make 2017 any better we have to reach out, regroup, hold hands, share grief, learn from what happened to us - discuss what is happening and then collectively prepare a response.

If that’s not for you, fair enough. Off you go and play tragedy hipster politics and leave the big stuff to the emotionally intelligent grown-ups.

PS For the record, the death that hurt me the most was that of Leonard Cohen. He was 82. In my country we describe that as a good innings (because everyone is required to play cricket). Certainly in your narrowcast worldview, not something to get het up about. But this is what you don’t get. I’m not crying for him. I’m crying for me. For my loss. And by doing that publicly, over the likes of Facebook, I find others with whom to share that loss. And in the process find hope. Maybe you feel above (certainly beyond) hope. But I’m not. So in sycophantic reverence to my grizzly old hero who taught me more about life than you will ever know, I will give him the last word:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in.

Anthem, Leonard Cohen 1934-2016 RIP

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