These days, judging somebody is generally considered to be a very dangerous game. This is usually because we are prone to making the wrong judgements for the wrong reasons. Especially on the internet, where we can judge from the safety our bedrooms, with an anonymous Twitter handle and an avatar between us and anyone who might decide to take exception. Being someone who opinionates on the internet on a regular basis, I’m usually very careful about which battles I choose to fight, and very, very careful about who – and how – I judge.
In fact, I usually opt to not judge at all.
However. Internationally acclaimed Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was recently found dead on his bathroom floor with a needle still in his arm and evidence of serious heroin use scattered about his apartment.
And the people who immediately took to the net to spout their thoughts on his ‘choice’ to ‘throw away’ his life and talent? Who bemoaned his ‘stupid’ decision to succumb to addiction?…Just hold on a minute while I run and fetch my judgeridoo…
One of the least offensive examples of poor judgement descending on PSH came courtesy of one Jared Padalecki (@jarpad), star of Supernatural. His ill-advised (and now deleted) offering to the Twittersphere ran thusly:
When this was met with hue and cry from his followers (and especially from Supernatural fans, many of whom were outraged the actor could even think of Tweeting such a thing), Padalecki proceeded to backpedal himself yet deeper into the mire:
Oh Jared honey, back away from the shovel. And the comma key.
If that little display is an example of the least offensive comments that have been thrown around on the net, you can easily imagine for yourselves what the most offensive are like. References to ‘strung-out junkies’ abound, as does moralising about having lost all respect for PSH ‘now that we know about the drugs.’
Allow me to pop the bubble of delusion within which these paragons of humanity appear to have ensconced themselves.
Addiction is a disease, and it doesn’t just pop out of nowhere. It comes from suffering, from mental illness, from physical/mental abuse by others. It comes from something inside us, something deep and dark that we were born with, or something that was put there by someone else. No-one ever ‘chooses’ addiction.
PSH was very open about the fact that he had been struggling with substance abuse for most of his life. He nearly succumbed to it as a young man; he went into rehab, and got clean. But the struggle didn’t end there for him (as it doesn’t for most other addicts). He was battling it right up until the day he died from it, and all the while he was cracking out killer performances in brilliant movies for the rest of us to goggle at.
To those who would judge PSH in the wake of his death, the rest of us would offer the following advice. Do not judge Philip Seymour Hoffman. Do not judge his life, do not judge his death, and do not judge him. Philip Seymour Hoffman did not deprive the world of himself; the world deprived us of him.
Note: Much as I would like to take credit for the concept of a ‘judgeridoo’, the props must go to Tumblr