The inevitability of her drug induced demise is as eerie as the parallels between her tragic death and that of her mother Paula Yates who also died of a Heroin overdose aged 41.
Similar patterns of history repeating itself in such a fatal way are commonplace in society, and celebrity ‘culture’ is no exception. Celebrities, especially those who have been subjected to such circles from a young age, are synonymous with premature deaths caused by excess, namely substance and alcohol abuse. So whilst ‘we’, as a society, are shocked we should not be surprised, should we? The frequency of such occurrences among high flying members of the celebrity circuit makes it almost formulaic. That it is so predictable, shouldn’t make it any less unnerving though. Although it has come to be expected, we still feel a sense of sadness every time we read the sentionalised details of the latest tragic, ill-fated death of the doomed celebrities in the tabloid press.
Personally, I remember being holed up in a grubby hotel in Nha Trang, Vietnam, engaging in a typically raucous travelling bender when the news broke of Amy Winehouse’s passing. Of course, I didn’t have any personal attachment to her, but still I felt overcome with emotion and sympathy that she succumbed to her inescapable fate so early in life. The writing was on the wall, in bold letters. Like Amy Winehouse before her, Peaches Geldof was constantly subjected to scrutiny from the all consuming presence of the mainstream media, and her inclination for hard drugs was compounded by her disposable income and wealth which only fuelled her to indulgence to more dangerous, uncontrollable levels. Before they know it, casual recreational use has turned into a full blown addiction and the once weekly knocks on the door from the dealers soon turn into daily occurrences. Once a person enters this vicious cycle of habitual substance abuse it is a very difficult chain to break- impossible for many. For these reasons, I experienced similar feelings of sorrow for Peaches Geldof because it just feels like it was almost pre-ordained that her penchant for hard drugs would lead to her premature death. For many ‘celebrities’ thrust into the public eye at childhood or during the tumultuous teenage stage, it is a matter of when and not if they will die young, the bone of contention normally being exactly what age they will perish at.
Still, it is another tragic waste of a life. Sure, some people will say she ‘shouldn’t’ have been shooting up Heroin at all never mind around her children. But it just isn’t as simple as that. Addiction will make even the best people stoop to the very depths of humanity. As one of my childhood friends Kirstin Baillie correctly pointed out, “Addiction is an illness. It is not something you choose. All rational thought & logic leaves the person you once were.”
Yet the shallow, superficial and destructive ‘celebrity’ culture had just as much to do with Peaches Geldof death as drugs do. Think how many people have been totally fucked by ‘fame’, especially people like Peaches Geldof who grew up in the ‘public eye’ from an early age.
One of my friends, Ross Thomson, a very intelligent, articulate individual, and an engaging guy in general, commented, “Celeb culture is a stain on what would otherwise be an ‘improving’ society, not just for those actually in it, but for those who want to be. Health, crime, human rights, equality, standards of living (recession aside) – all these things are improving, and yet, on the other hand, the turbo-consumer society has led to us becoming obsessed by what the tabloid press feed us – prioritising unimportant things like wealth and looks over important ones like health, happiness and family. To me, that is wrong. You don’t have to look far to see what ‘the public eye’ can do to people, and what it can lead them to.”
On the subject of the generational repetition of patterns of abuse, Thomson stated, “Not to say it can’t be done, but breaking the cycle of addiction, or violence, or crime, or poverty, from generation to generation, cannot be that easy. Sure you might get opportunities to get out if you are lucky, Peaches probably did, but then your choice to take it is still determined by an almost infinite number of factors which began playing out the day you were born. Nobody is born with a physiological need or predisposition to take heroin, everything is learned or a product of the world around us – we are all either victims, conquerors or champions of circumstance.
The last part of that eloquent statement had particular resonance for me personally. I feel whoever is able to break the chain of this cycle of abuse so that they do not perpetuate the behaviours of their past and bestow them on others deserve great credit. Through sheer strength of will, and no small slice of fortune, they are the lucky ones. Yet there are many unlucky ones, people who do succumb to the abyss of abuse, victims exposed to patterns of behaviour in the past they felt powerless not to repeat in the present.
Yet many who posted such heartfelt messages of condolence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter when the news of Peaches death broke, were the very same people who fickly posted messages of condemnation when it became clear that her demise was caused by a Heroin overdose. In their haste to condemn, they failed to appreciate the complexities of this tragic case. I mean people were saying that she deserved to die because she was a drug addict, it is crazy. There ‘reasoning’ was that she made a conscious choice to be a Heroin addict and thus she deserves to suffer the consequences of her actions.
This conviction that she deserved to die because she was a drug abuser is as silly as it is saddening. If only things were that black and white. But they are not. Life is complex; addiction is complex- full of grey areas. To apply this faux logic of ‘she knew the dangers of what she was doing so she shouldn’t have made the same mistakes as her Mother’, it would mean that any rape victim would never become a rapist, or that any young boy exposed to domestic violence would know never become a wife beater. But these patterns repeat themselves all the time.
For example, a common theme in the narrative of Serial Killers’ backgrounds is that they were often themselves victims of abuse in their childhood and early life. This learned behaviour often defines them in their adult lives. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and not every child of every drug addict will in turn become a substance abuser themselves.
I grew up in a house which, for several years I was exposed to alcoholism and domestic violence on a frequent basis, yet I am neither an alcoholic nor a woman beater. But, still, in so many ways Peaches Geldof was a product of her own environment. Even before she was born, she was genetically predisposed to struggle with addiction because of her Mother, Paula Yates who herself had a history of drug and alcohol problems. Through no fault, or choice of her own Peaches Geldof was at risk of being plagued by addiction problems from day one.
What made Peaches Geldof’s particular case even more complex was that she grew up enmeshed in the celebrity circuit her whole life, mixing in social circles where drug abuse was rife, and addiction a la mode.
As the dust is beginning to settle on this predictably predictable tragedy we must remember that Peaches Geldof did not deserve to die. To an extent, she was doomed from the start, and faced an uphill battle from the very beginning of her life.
So instead of going on some sort of ill informed moral crusade about drugs and addictions, society must focus on ways to break the cycle of such addictions so that history doesn’t repeat itself in such awful ways anymore. For now, however, devote your energy to a prayer for her two young beautiful boys, and hope they don’t follow the ill-fated path tread by their Mother Peaches Geldof and Grandmother Paula Yates.
Thanks for Reading.
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