On the entirely predictable death of Amy Winehouse

James N. writes:

I wish I could collect my thoughts sufficiently to write an intelligent comment on the fact that the death of someone called Amy Winehouse has been front page news for days in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and other Anglosphere countries.

But it seems to me that VFR might have something to say about the fact that the entirely predictable demise of a tatooed freak drug addict is in the news, on the front page no less, day after day.

LA replies:

I have a brief unfinished draft I started two days ago which deals with the fact that the media, as they do in all such cases, keep saying that she was “battling” with drug and alcohol addiction. No, she wasn’t battling her addictions, she was indulging her addictions. The media NEVER say this. No matter how much a person is taking drugs, taking as many drugs as possible, wildly indulging in public orgies of drug-taking, they say that the person is “battling” his addiction to those drugs.

Why the ubiquitous, lying, pious euphemism? Because to speak the simple truth would be judgmental. And liberalism prohibits moral judgment with regard to consensual behavior.

Beyond that, I have no thoughts about her demise or the media’s coverage of it. I really don’t know anything about her except that she looked repulsive and that it’s been obvious for years that she was headed for an early death.

- end of initial entry -

July 26

John Dempsey writes:

Your statement regarding Amy Winehouse’s battle with addiction is false. She had attempted rehab treatment several times. Just the fact that she is dead and that drugs killed her should tell you that there was at least some kind of battle. That she was not a fierce warrior in that battle is irrelevant. Her addiction was simply much stronger than she.

LA replies:

If she did battle it, then I stand corrected. But I must say that every time I’ve seen something about her in the British press for the last four years or so, she was not “battling,” she was wildly indulging, engaging in behavior that said clearly, at least to me, that she was not long for this world.

So, over the past four years, how much time was she battling, and how much time was she indulging?

LA continues:

And during the time spent battling, i.e., in rehab, was she really battling? Or was she only in rehab because a judge required her to be, and the moment she was out of rehab she was off the wagon? So again, how accurate is it to characterize her behavior over the last four years as “battling” her addictions?

In any case, none of this changes my main point, that every addicted celebrity is automatically described by the media as “battling” his addiction. No addicted celebrity is ever described as simply addicted.

Daniel H. in Seattle writes:

Here is a picture of Amy Winehouse from her prep school days. A quite pretty (not extremely pretty) young girl:

Here is a promotional picture of her when she started to try to turn herself into a star, at about age 20 or so. Note that her provocative outfit, while still not as obscene as the worst stuff out there, evokes “little girl” images, with her pink chiffon skirt, her colored-bubbly top, and her bright plastic bangles. It’s a common thing these days: the sexualization of youth. In this picture, despite the obvious attempt to arouse, she is still fresh-faced and youthful, with no horrid whorish make-up or tattoos.

Here is Amy Winehouse at her “peak” as a star. She embraced a somewhat trampy look, with her ratted-out hair or wig, and her exaggerated eye make-up. She’s also begun to cover herself with tattoos. While she is still attractive, it’s now completely sexualized—an attraction of pure animality. That’s very unappealing to some men, but one can see how she was still “attractive” by modern pop-culture standards.

Finally, here is a picture of Amy Winehouse on the eve of her 25th birthday. It is not a technically obscene photo (no nudity or such), but please be warned it is a very, very ugly picture, and apparently genuine.

Drug and alcohol addiction are very serious problems, among the most serious problems a human being can face, and they consume the lives of countless individuals every day. And it is not false that some people are genetically predisposed to be more vulnerable to addiction. But genetics or no, it’s not an insurmountable problem, or at least it doesn’t have to be.

How much of Amy Winehouse’s ultimate submission to the horrors of addiction is attributable to the way she progressively sexualized herself? Humans are not meant to do this to themselves, to treat their own selfhood as an opportunity for whoring in exchange for fame, money, and adulation. It eats away at the core of potential goodness that resides in every human soul. When Amy Winehouse became addicted to drugs, she was at the same time in the process of denying her own basic worth as a woman and a human. What then did she have to fall back on in the midst of her addicted hell? Although of course I do not know this person, and may very well be wrong, it seems very plausible to me that her inability to pull herself out of the death-spiral of addiction had a lot to do with her progressive embrace of a sexualized existence.

Matthew H. writes:

I have noted Amy Winehouse’s existence for several years, mostly through seeing her photos in the sidebars of Daily Mail articles. I saw a video of one of her “performances,” which was awful. As you say, she seemed like one headed for an early death. It’s very sad what happened to the attractive young woman in the school photo.

There is no special moral to be gleaned from her personal crash other than the obvious: Stay away from dope and the people who use it. Dope does not merely wreck the body (and the face), it kills the soul, a person’s dignity and honor. Sadly, some people are more susceptible to addiction than others.

But her story does prompt larger questions:

Why was this poor woman kept in the limelight for so long?

What sober and shrewd individuals carefully arranged to have her images constantly in the press?

Who profited from her ghastly “career”?

How did our society get to the point where such a “career” is even possible?

What interest did the press have in broadcasting her wretchedness?

If the answer is, “Because that’s what people want,” then why aren’t they in the drugs, porn and prostitution businesses, too? (Or maybe they are.)

Is there no recognition that by making this person “famous” the press and her promoters (who all know damned well what they are doing) are guaranteeing that other girls will want to follow suit (anonymously, without even the shabby “glamour” that Winehouse enjoyed)?

And most importantly, what sort of a depraved society would tolerate, indeed, eagerly consume, the whole Amy Winehouse phenomenon?

Marilyn Monroe was similarly exploited and met a similar end. But her public persona (despite the seamy hidden facts) was at least one of lusty, even arguably wholesome, “sexiness.” Her fame suggested a sensibility among the public of the 1950s that while foolish and indulgent was still relatively innocent. Amy Winehouse’s image reflects the filth and degradation of our own.

Monroe’s death was the (seemingly) anomalous end of an apparently beautiful and vivacious woman. With Winehouse it was the tawdry death-in-life that was her main appeal.

Jim C. writes:

She was a talented, tortured soul who was not only an alcoholic and drug addict, but most likely suffered from a serious psychiatric condition like bipolar disorder. She produced one good CD, and that will remain her legacy. She was a very good musician, and she learned from the best. RIP.

Jim C. continues:

She indeed suffered from manic depression.

Anna writes:

The media attention and public interest bespeaks the need of people to hear of life stories that are worse, similar or unknown to them. In each case, they feel better. Success does not make headlines, it’s daunting. Failure makes headlines, it’s comforting.

Patrick H. writes:

About “battling addiction”: Alcoholics Anonymous and its offshoot Narcotics Anonymous have helped many thousands overcome addictive behaviours, but not by “battling” addiction. AA was rooted in an evangelical Christian movement called the Oxford Groups (not the Newman/Keble Oxford Movement) and its startling message is: you cannot “battle” your addiction. You will always lose. Sooner or later, but always, you will lose. Instead, AA describes the beginning of sobriety as being the opposite of battle: surrender, defeat, the acceptance of one’s utter incapacity to hold the line against addiction. Acceptance is the key word, a deep inner realization of one’s own insanity and wretchedness. But that’s not enough to lead to recovery. Something more is needed than the recognition that one needs help. One must also come to believe that help is available. Help from “Higher Power,” a.k.a. God. And that if God is asked, sincerely, from the depths of one’s being, for help, that help will be given. But without the initial acceptance of defeat, the request for help is not a true one; instead it is a kind of bargaining.

All of this only to say that the entire discussion of Amy Winehouse either “battling” or “indulging” her addiction rests on a fundamental error: that addiction is amenable to management by the human will, by human therapies. This is completely mistaken. Only God, sought sincerely and openly by a soul driven to a deep interior admission of its utter wretchedness, can win in the battle against addiction. Poor Amy Winehouse—who was a talented singer, by the way—would not have been salvageable by any method of therapy, nor any amount of effort on her part to “battle” her addiction. Only the act of complete trust in God can do that. And you can only trust in God if you have faith in him. Sad, lost Amy Winehouse may very well have come to accept her own powerlessness over her addictions. But she could not find in her heart any faith that God was there to help. Or perhaps, what she could not believe was that he was there to help her.

I speak from personal experience in these matters. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict. My entire family was destroyed by alcohol. To give only the saddest example: my sister died at 36 from her addiction. I speak from my own life when I say that the only “cure” for addiction is also the only cure for what ails the West and modernity in general: recovery from the sickness at the heart of the addict and the sickness at the heart of liberalism needs the same, one needful thing: faith in God, and trust in his saving power. Amy Winehouse was simply an explicit sign of the rot at the heart of the world today. May she rest in peace, and be an example to all of us.

Ruth B. writes:

Self-destruction and death is the “in” thing these days. A lot of mediocre artists elevate themselves through pathetic living and ultimately death. They acquire a legend for themselves. We should have a James Dean Award to give out each year to the most self-destructive artist (Charlie Sheen, Amy Winehouse, etc.). Unlike artists like Frank Sinatra, who built a body of work through a lifetime of achievements, today it’s several years and out (of life). Winehouse was actually booed off-stage in Lower Slobovia last week and knew her career was over. Why not martyr herself in her own cause and create the Amy Winehouse legend? “She died before her time.” Predictable, of course, and this pattern is boring by now.

LA writes:

By the way, as soon as I heard that Winehouse was 27 I recalled how three big stars of the Sixties who died of drug and alcohol related problems—Janis Joplin, Jimmi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison—were all 27 when they died. Then I heard that Kurt Cobain (who I don’t know anything about other than his death) was also 27 when he died.

John Dempsey writes:

The first step in battling addiction is to recognize and admit to that addiction, a step which Amy Winehouse took. Of course, we know that taking that first step is not sufficient to win the larger war against addiction, but it is the step that takes us into the battle. Hopefully, it will lead us toward the short biological skirmish we must then fight. I think she made it this far several times, once for almost three years.

But then comes the much larger and longer spiritual war to which we must commit, if we are to have any hopes of snapping out of our miserable state. There must follow a fundamental change in the way we live our lives; a radical change in thought and action, if we are to defeat this hideous monster, one day at a time. And therein lies the key. It is obvious that she never committed herself to this larger war. Instead, she succumbed after the first few battles, running right into the jaws of the patiently waiting monster, which devoured the young Amy Winehouse without much of a fight.

May God’s peace finally be with her.

Thank you for replying to my objection.

John Dempsey writes:

I just read Patrick H.’s excellent post, detailing what must be done. But I continue to assert that it is a battle, one which must be fought every day. It sounds something like, “my will, or His?”

Alan Levine writes:

You were exactly right in your comment that the problem was precisely that Winehouse was not confronting her illness, wrestling with “demons” or whatever. But then, no one seems to be willing to confront the proven, practical, cheap solution to the drug problem, which worked marvelously well in Japan. (1) Execute anyone selling or smuggling narcotics (2) Beat up the addict and throw him, her, or it into a dungeon to go cold turkey.

I was surprised to see, however, some commentators allude to the deaths of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe as examples of the same syndrome, as Winehouse, or something similar. Dean died in a car crash. I believe there were rumors that he was in a bad mental state because the actress he loved had jilted him, but as far as I know there is no evidence that he was either drugged or suicidal. Marilyn Monroe was a sick woman, but there is good reason to think that her death was neither suicide or accidental self-inflicted overdose. She was either the victim of an incompetent therapist, or, possibly, murder.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 25, 2011 10:36 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):