Amy Winehouse: Non Cogitat, Non Est

The world apparently mourns the death of Amy Winehouse. As I write this, the post-mortem report has not been made public, so it cannot be said that Amy Winehouse died from using drugs. In fact, even when the post-mortem report comes in and confirms the obvious, we can never say that Amy Winehouse died from using drugs.

This is because using drugs is a symptom of death, not a cause. Winehouse died long before she ever ingested drugs.

Someone asked me why I don't see this eventuality as being "sad." It is not sad, because it was inevitable. Winehouse was a known cocaine user. While many people in the world seem to have forgotten the constant, unyielding, hellish risk that cocaine really is, I have not. While the mainstream media continues to hum and haw and dance around the fact that drugs are incredibly dangerous and mention Winehouse's "troubles" or "struggles with substance abuse," there are still a few of us left in the world who have enough courage to say it like it is: cocaine can kill you every time you ingest it. It is not just a "dangerous drug," it is the temptation of fate. In order to ingest cocaine, one has to literally set aside the fact that it might very well be the last thing they ever do. Every heavy cocaine user has a scary story about a close call.

In short, Amy Winehouse didn't care if she died. Why should I?

In the libertarian framework - most notably in Mises' praxeology or Ayn Rand's Objectivism, but dating back much further than that - a fundamental assumption is that thinking is living. Cogito ergo sum. No thought, no existence. It is in this way that drugs are an act of self-abnegation. You could think of them as a temporary suicide, which is exactly what they are. Each and every time a person consumes drugs, they have lost the will to live - and often for incredibly trivial reasons like "boredom."

Drug use is a conscious act of self-abnegation. As such, every time a person takes a drug - any drug - they are turning their backs on their own lives. This is not merely because drugs are deadly (and they are). This is because the original motivation to consume drugs in the first place is an act of self-abnegation. Oneself, one's own thoughts, one's own life becomes temporarily insufficient (on any level, even a trivial one), and the drug becomes the remedy. Long day? Don't work it out, forget about it - take drugs. Party not fun enough for you? Don't take it upon yourself to liven up your social situation, forget about it - take drugs. Bored? Don't develop an interesting hobby or creative pursuit, forget about it - take drugs. Not feeling adequate? Have some problems? Take the easy way out, take drugs...

Such is the motivation behind each and every instance of drug use, from a child sniffing glue to the death of a famous singer. In all instances, the solution to a personal problem is resolved not by thoughts, choices, and actions, but by a short-acting drug that delays the working out of a solution. The goal is always to stop thinking as a stand-alone being - to either become one with the drugs or to not think at all.

This is death.

We do not need stricter rules on drug use, nor do we need to create "safe havens" for drugs to be taken with the oversight of a social worker. We do not need to wage further war against poverty-stricken farmers, nor do we need an abundance of grow-ops. Drug use is not a legal problem, nor a shortcoming of our rules and policies. Drug use is a personal, individual scourge that can only be combated on a personal, individual level.

We cannot save a future Amy Winehouse with a revamped drug policy, nor is brainwashing drug addicts to believe addiction "isn't their fault" a useful strategy.

The fact of the matter is that reasonable, happy, self-confident people who are excited about life and their prospects for it don't do drugs. At all. Now is the point of my argument where the millions of drug users come out and proclaim that they are perfectly happy and self-confident and they do drugs. This argument fails for two reasons:
  1. Nothing they do that pertains to living a good, exciting life is done while they are on drugs.
  2. They have no idea how they would look at life if they weren't taking drugs at all.
So, for all you drug-users out there who think that this is all just dandy - that Amy Winehouse's death wasn't about drugs, but about not taking them intelligently - who think everything I've written is a bunch of quasi-intellectual mumbo-jumbo and that the truth is that drugs are just fun but really dangerous, my answer to you is simple and indisputable:

Cogito ergo sum


  1. I don’t agree with you, Ryan, on this topic. I kind of fundamentally disagree with you on this topic. Drugs and any type of addiction is indeed a conscious choice, however a lot of artists have some sort of mental problems and as the results of those mental problems they hurt themselves in various ways, including drugs, alcohol or even suicide. You know those examples very well, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Hemingway and many, many others. I my opinion real art require sort of complete catharsis, at the edge of losing yourself, losing the strings to the society, to the norms and standards…
    You are trying to apply a standard logic that an economist should follow to an artist. I am not gonna argue how big AW’s legacy will be, but still she was not an ordinary girl. IMHO

  2. Two things:

    First, we all have problems. Living means facing up to them. Hiding behind self-medication is at best cowardly. She gets no special excuses over and above the rest of us just because she calls herself an "artist."

    Second, this idea that you have to be some kind of bipolar nutjob to be a great artist is absolutely incorrect. The annuls of history are replete with great artists who were perfectly mentally healthy, well-adjusted, drug-free, and logical... And every bit the great artist that (*ahem*) Amy Winehouse was. I can cite examples if I have to. :)

    Art and insanity do not go together. Neither does genius and insanity. This is a pop culture lie we've been taught to make us feel less intimidated by genius. If geniuses have some kind major flaw, they seem more human to us. The truth is, geniuses aren't the ones who are less human than us -- We're the ones who are less human than they.

    At least, that's how I see it.

  3. Nobody ever said that you "have to be" some kind of bipolar nut-job to be a great artist, it's merely been stated that some artists happened to be bipolar "weirdoes" in their spare time. Often we hear of artists we are remembered for their eccentricities as well as their art. Somebody who is insane is by definition not a genius and in keeping with the definition, any insane person who happened to produce something regarded as a work of art must have done so without adequate knowledge of sed alleged artworks intellectual ramifications.
    Now I agree with your notions, broadly. They ring true to me as generalizations about a very undefined ‘some random group’ of people that you’re generalizing about. However any time you try to speak about an entire classification of people as a whole, then you can’t make all encompassing statements like those which you are making. People are people… period. They will come from any direction imaginable and do things for any reason imaginable and judgments like those you are choosing to lie down could only be made on a person to person basis. More so, those types of judgments could only be made by somebody who knows the subject very closely and even then you would have a personal bias. You are making assumptions about stereotypes… hardly informative about anything at all except for your own personal motivations and hardly insightful into the minds of either addicts or artists.
    I do agree with you that the larger portion of artists and intellectuals/geniuses are displaying/displayed a higher state of mind. They are displaying a state of mind that is indeed cultivated and earned, not achieved by running from one’s own cognoscente reality. The only caveat I could think of here was that drugs are one of many ways to see the space and content of your mind in a different light and that insight could and has been used to understand higher thinking. If I were to dip back into your pool of stereotypes and generalizations then I might also include the more popular and potential negative effects of drug use… but more specifically the use of drugs by those who seek to escape cognoscente reality anyhow. This is a primary difference and only one example of the negative ramifications of making broad assumptions.