Okay it's sad but don't forget it was self afflicted these people can not cope with life without the use of drugs results of to much money and not enough common sense.
- Ron, Nottingham
...is fairly typical of the know-nothing tits who've polluted the latest Mail story about Mark Speight's death with their smug, aren't-I-better-than-you views about drugs and drug-taking. But maybe I'm being too harsh. Do they really have a point?
As I mentioned yesterday, the Mail has been keen to emphasise the role that illegal recreational drugs played in the death of Natasha Collins (whom they labelled 'BBC drugs death girl') and Mark Speight.
In the spirit of trying to understand people who don't want to understand other people, I'm trying to get to the bottom of the Mailites' attitude as regards taking drugs. As a self-confessed bleeding-heart, I'm trying to work out how human beings could possibly have such a complete and total lack of empathy for other human beings. Is it really possible for them not to be able to understand that other people may experience things differently? Is it really possible for people to be so ignorant, so deluded, so crushingly arrogant that they think because they have experienced something in one way, everyone else, regardless of context, should do, and is able to do, exactly as they have done? Is this really the dark heart of the Mail readership: people without any social skills whatsoever, people without any ability to put themselves in another's place, people totally lacking in compassion, people who simply don't compute when they see what others have done, if they believe they wouldn't have done exactly the same thing under the same circumstances? Are these the kind of people who litter messageboards with their nonsensical judgmental "I wouldn't do that so you mustn't" knee-jerking? Or do they prefer the 'I grew up on a council estate but I didn't turn out bad, not like those bastards' view of Allison Pearson?
I find it hard to understand people who have those views; but if I don't try to understand, then it makes me just as bad as them. If I dismiss them as being witless buffoons who are lacking in social skills, presumably cruelly brought up in an overly punitive regime that shamed and bullied them into acting in a highly disciplined and uncreative way, that would make me just as much of an idiot as they are.
No, the hard thing to do is try to see where they're coming from. I doubt it's going to be easy, but let's try.
Where does the idea come from that you have a simple choice in life: to take drugs or not to take drugs? That idea supposes that it is a straightforward, existential life. If you don't want to get in trouble, don't take drugs. I didn't take drugs, therefore you shouldn't. (Or, in David Cameron's case, the position is: I did take drugs, but I shouldn't have done.) Aren't there other factors involved in drugs, such as a person's predisposition to certain mental illnesses, and the likely 'self-medication' that could result from trying to correct those symptoms without resorting to the more traditional route of the doctor's surgery, psychotherapy or antidepressants? Isn't that something worth considering? Is that something that the Mailites would even think about?
How about cultural factors? What about peer pressure? What about going through a trauma - such as the one suffered by Natasha Collins, when her chances of getting a dream job were shattered by a random automobile accident - and finding no other way of dealing with the panic, anxiety, stress and clawing unhappiness other than getting obliterated? Why do Mailites think that pubs exist - for the tooth fairy? Just for bad people who all make a choice to drink alcohol, because they are all bad people? Isn't it just some structured way for people to become intoxicated in as regimented and ordered way as a state can construct?
Or, must we all just 'pull our socks up' and get on with life? No sense in letting the team down, dry those tears, stiff upper lip, I fought through the pain and so should you. It's the kind of attitude espoused by a lot of people who've been through a private-school upbringing (see this excellent article by George Monbiot), an especially cruel and nasty way of making people suffer when they're at their most vulnerable. Do people who have been through that kind of emotional brutality, separation and unhappiness feel that, because they have suffered and it 'made them a better person', everyone else who can't cope is therefore weak, letting them team down and not pulling their socks up enough. As I've written before here, that kind of attitude really doesn't work with everyone, not when it comes to mental illness and serious psychological problems.
Where does this idea come from that drugs are just a bad thing that kill you, and if you experiment with them, or take them recreationally, then you're the architect of your own downfall and therefore deserve everything you get? Do we let smokers die because they chose to start smoking? Do ambulances refuse to take speeding idiots into hospital? Do we criticise gap-year students for travelling on slightly more dangerous roads than they'd find in the UK? Of course not; that's not the way it works.
But there is, under the surface, especially among the flat-tax fans, an idea that people who, for whatever reason, haven't come up to scratch, should be cast adrift. People on benefits? Let them starve. Drug takers? It was their choice. Drinkers? Same deal. Is that the way we want society to progress? Is that the way we want things to be? Some people must suffer so that the rich can continue to thrive and be protected? If some people make choices that others of us didn't make, must they be continually punished until they somehow either drag themselves out of the hole or suffer and die? Is that compassionate society? Is that society at all? Yet it is an argument I have read time and time and time again from the know-it-alls on the Mail messageboard, and elsewhere: they knew what they were doing, therefore, it's all their fault, and no-one should feel any sympathy for anyone other than their families. Is that the way we want it?
I keep trying, and trying, and trying to understand. I really want to know what it is about these people that keeps them sniping, biting and attacking. What is it that keeps them attacking people they've never met, who have done them no harm, who have often suffered horrible and unimaginable personal tragedies in circumstances that few can barely begin to contemplate? What gives them the ability to swiftly detach themselves from emotion, line up the scope and take aim? What kind of person does it take to be able to do that?
They'd probably want to know what it is about me that makes me keep attacking the Mail and those other newspapers. I think that the answer is quite simple. For me, it's anger that comes from seeing such a lack of depth, such a void of empathy, such an absence of compassion, in reporting, commenting and column-writing; it makes me despair, and rage, and hate a profession that pretends to serve the public interest, but actually only reinforces hatred, prejudice and a simplistic analysis. So much talent enters journalism; so little is used.
Those who have played a part in attacking characters like Mark Speight and Natasha Collins should really be ashamed of themselves. What have they achieved - a hard-hitting message about drugs? Not a bit of it. They haven't even scratched the surface, deliberately so, purposely avoiding the complex issues that surround drug-taking and reducing it to a simple yes-or-no choice. Oh, if only it were that simple. If only it were.
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