When Kate Middleton first appeared in royal circles, some of our dissipated aristos smirked behind her back: “Doors to manual”.
That snobbish reference to her mother who used to be an airline stewardess was supposed to be funny, but the joke was on the jokers. For the Princess of Wales, as Kate now is, has shown that one doesn’t have to be born noble to be noble.
What a contrast with the seriously aristocratic Diana and the mildly aristocratic Fergie. Unlike them, Kate understands that she has entered a life of service, where her personality is subsumed by her job. And she has gone about her job with dignity, grace – and mercifully, until now, relative silence.
Alas, she has now broken that pattern by uttering unmitigated woke bilge on the subject of drug addiction. That’s the sort of thing one would expect from any young woman of her generation, and there I was, thinking Kate wasn’t just any young woman of her generation.
Addiction, said Kate, is nothing to be ashamed of. “[It] is a serious mental health condition that can happen to anyone, no matter what age, gender, race or nationality.”
A reference to age, gender, race or nationality is a glaring non sequitur here, but no public speech can these days be complete without one. I’m not even sure the redundant phrase is factually correct. For example, how many people first become addicted to drugs in their 60s or 70s? I don’t know, but then probably neither does Kate.
“No one chooses to become an addict,” she added. “Recovery is possible,” provided addicts are treated with compassion and understanding.
And then: “Please do not let shame hold you back from getting the help you so desperately need.” What’s there to be ashamed of anyway? It’s just a disease, like any other.
Every one of those statements, other than recovery being possible, is false. Addiction isn’t a disease like any other. It is something to be ashamed of. Every addict does choose to become one.
Addiction is self-inflicted, the destination of a journey embarked on in the full knowledge of the consequences. Do you think anyone who mainlines heroin doesn’t realise that addiction beckons? He’d have to be an alien on a flying visit from another planet.
That a condition is self-inflicted shouldn’t disqualify a person from treatment. Smokers, for example, are treated for lung cancer, even though they may have brought it on themselves. But there is a valid difference.
Ever since Nazi physicians discovered the causative link with cancer, smokers have known the risks they take by lighting up. Yet many consider the risks worth taking, and some of those intrepid individuals will end up with lung cancer or emphysema.
Once a smoker is stricken, that’s it. Doctors may be able to help him, but he can no longer help himself. His life is out of his hands.
That’s because lung cancer and emphysema are genuine, if self-inflicted, medical conditions. Drug addiction is self-inflicted too, but it isn’t genuinely medical: the addicts can cure themselves by giving up narcotics.
If they don’t stop, it’s not because they can’t but because they don’t want to. Most of them will mask that reluctance by talking your ear off about the nightmarish withdrawal symptoms, drawing a mental picture worthy of Goya at his most macabre.
They lie, as I can testify from personal experience with opiate addiction. Mine was iatrogenic, caused by hospital doctors who kept me hooked up to a heroin (dimorphine, in scientific) IV for a month. They then discharged me with an ample supply of OxyContin tablets, another opiate. (It has acquired much street cred under the cuddly nickname of ‘Oxy’.)
How anyone can possibly find those substances pleasurable escapes me. They addle one’s brain, keeping one in a permanent semi-somnolent state. That negates the advantages of being human, or at least that’s how I felt.
When the pain was no longer too bad, I went off Oxy and immediately developed withdrawal symptoms. Since I had written on that subject before, I knew them for what they were. I also knew they were trivial, similar to cold symptoms.
I went back on and gradually titrated the dose down to nothing over a week. That was it. No more addiction, no more withdrawal symptoms. I was clean because I wanted to be.
Speaking of advantages of being human, one of them is a unique property of Homo sapiens: free will, an ability to make free choices between good and evil, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong. As a corollary to that, we get kudos for choosing right and take responsibility for choosing wrong.
That’s why I find the Princess’s speech dehumanising. Kate seems to deny free will, which suggests that she missed the whole point of her grandmother-in-law’s moving funeral. That was above all a sacred rite of a religion that holds free will as its key philosophical postulate.
As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, such negligence can numb a mind and produce downright silly statements. “No one chooses to become an addict”, Your Royal Highness?
That’s like saying that a chap playing Russian roulette doesn’t choose to shoot himself. He is just out for some cheap thrills, but then the hammer just happens to fall on the loaded chamber.
An addict ought to be ashamed of his stupidity, hedonism, absence of self-restraint, irresponsibility. These are his real problems, and none of them is medical. Medicalising this failure of character is tantamount to legitimising it, which is exactly what Kate did.
Her show of compassion may drive more people to addiction. After all, they have been absolved of guilt.