Thursday, February 07, 2008

Define "Accidental"

Read this yesterday online:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of six prescription drugs, with a combination of painkillers, tranquilizers and sleeping aids found in his system, officials said on Wednesday.

"We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications," the New York City Medical Examiner's Office said in a statement.

"Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine," the statement said.

This is really sad. Here's a guy who had just achieved enormous success in his chosen field, and yet he was apparently very unhappy. So unhappy, so disturbed, that it is very likely that he engaged in "doctor shopping" so that he could obtain prescriptions for that amazing and ultimately deadly array of drugs without anyone getting suspicious. Clearly, he abused these drugs and it killed him.

Why would he do this? Why do we hear so often about actors and actresses, often very popular ones, being so incredibly messed up?

I think that it must have something to do with the very nature of the celebrity culture, particularly as it applies to actors and actresses. They get an enormous amount of recognition and adulation, and often large sums of money.

But for what? For pretending to be someone other than themselves.

I am fortunate enough to be well regarded by many PL/SQL developers. Oracle Corporation, in fact, calls me a "celebrity" when they organize trainings with me. I find that very amusing. But, OK, I will accept that in my very small subculture of PL/SQL, I am a celebrity. And why is that? Precisely and only because people value what I say, do and believe.

Thus, any kudos and ego strokes I receive reinforce to me my basic sense of self esteem (well, my wife would say it bloats up my ego so that I can barely fit my head through the front door).

But the message that someone like Heath Ledger gets from the over-the-top adulation is:

"We love you for being able to pretend to be someone else. In fact, we have NO IDEA what you are really like and who you really are. And we don't really care. Party on, Heath!"

I can see that really twisting up a person's thinking, the way they see themselves. I can see it leading to excessive drug use and getting completely lost.

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