Ever since the pungent death of beloved actor Philip Seymour Hoffman to a heroin overdose last weekend there has been a rampant call to bring his enablers to justice. The implication being that had these ‘bad people,’ these drug dealers been made to bear their ‘responsibility’ to their clientele, our hero Philip would still be alive. How bloody wrong and wishful our law system is…
Without fail every time a celebrity succumbs to the throes of addiction there is a frantic effort to find his dealers and hold them accountable. It’s a cynical approach to the notion of addiction. It’s a cynical attitude that says we finally care about addiction and as a society we are ready to deal with it. Never mind the down and out heroin addict or meth addict or crack user who is just about to overdose right now, right this minute somewhere in the USA, somewhere down the road, somewhere where you can’t hear them gasp their last brain. But then again they’re not important. They’re not rich or famous and we can’t or we won’t re fabricate a fantastic story about their journey which side steps their own fall from grace and pin their self demise on someone else- the scourge of society- yes the drug dealer.
Reflects the dailybeast this morning in a poignant essay (that I urge you all to read): It is easy to understand why the public demands homicide prosecutions against drug providers whose product caused the death of a beloved celebrity like Philip Seymour Hoffman. A person lies dead; someone must bear responsibility for his death. It is easy to scapegoat the drug provider. But is it fair to single out the provider whose heroin happened to have killed a celebrity (or anyone else)?
The answer is plainly no. All drug providers are equally culpable—as a matter of morality—regardless of whether their customer happened to live or die. Put another way, the dealer who provided heroin to Hoffman a few weeks ago is just as morally culpable as the one who provided the heroin that turned out to be lethal. To be sure, if the lethal dose had contained especially dangerous additives, and if the provider didn’t tell the customer about the added danger, that would change the moral equation.
Or if the provider sold heroin to children or to adults who he or she knew were particularly vulnerable, that, too, might be different. But there is no acceptable moral distinction between two dealers who sell the same product, in the same way, to the same people—and one of their customers, for reasons unrelated to anything the dealers did, happens to die. Nor is there any such distinction between those dealers who sell to celebrities and those who sell to obscure street addicts (except that celebrities have more resources and options to try to break the habit, so dealers who sell to street addicts may perhaps be more culpable, though they are less frequently prosecuted).
Which raises the question, why then are authorities barging around the city locking away ‘down and out’ self described low level drug dealers like Robert Vineberg?
When was the last time you saw authorities go to such avid attempts to bring in the street junkie’s supplier to ‘justice?’ Then again street junkies don’t deserve justice, they deserve what they reap. And sadly that includes noted and venerable actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Yet this too raises the following awkward questions: What are we not really admitting to ourselves when we choose to focus on whether some dealer is arrested or not? Held accountable for the death of an uber celebrity, as if they chose to actively bring that person down?
Where’s the moral culpability on the user, even a celebrated one like Philip Seymour Hoffman (please is the media in denial about his own culpability?) and where’s the culpability on society in general which lacks the courage to make real policy efforts to ‘arrest addiction’….and the trade it stems?
Sure Vineberg may have misbehaved, but where’s the due process the law ought to be able to afford him? Or is he just a scapegoat? Or is he simply a hapless washed up musician who got on the wrong side of the scene?
Not that brilliant gifted rich actors don’t also sometimes end up on the wrong side of the scene too, which might be what really surprised us about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death.
The tragedy might not necessarily be the senseless death of greats like Mr Hoffman, but the tragedy of society’s failure to understand that there are many who fall victim to mental illness and addiction, rich or poor and in the end this has nothing to do with the dealer. He or she is doing exactly the same thing big pharma is doing. It’s just one brand of addiction has been deemed legal whilst the other is not.
above image found here