Explaining Robert Downey Jr. & Other Related Mishaps hypothesizes on the drug culture.

Aquarian Weekly 5/16/01 REALITY CHECK


There are scores of bloodthirsty terrorists sitting on billions of dollars of crude oil and mounds of cocaine, using a host of major Middle Eastern cities and foreign aircrafts as violent political targets, that do far less time than Robert Downey Jr. He is unlucky. He is stupid. But he is far less guilty of anything as heinous as 99% of the people he’s shared his years of incarceration beside. He cannot even be considered a world-class drug addict by latter 20th century standards or even those in the 19th century who lived normal, even respected, lives in high tax brackets with worthier vocations than actor.

Of course the drugs Downey has a problem with are the recreational kind, not the billion-dollar prescription industry of pills dolled out in alarming tonnage to the elderly, infirmed and mentally unstable. The lucrative partnership between the medical community and the criminally avaricious prescription drug lords is another issue for another column. To dissect that line of painful waste needs a journalist with a larger paycheck and sharper typing skills.

No, these are not even the drugs of the middle class teen hipsters with their Ecstasy and marijuana, playing experimental rodent for a culture of MTV Pepsi-heads, addled with angst and hormones and trading oral sex like baseball cards with meager parental allowances.

It is every generation’s immutable law of rebellion to stir the cauldron until either death or, worse still, maturity robs youth of its spirit. From the whiskey bottle and Budweiser can to the bubbling bong and hobby glue, kids have been stealing away for the odd brain-numbing escape for eons, and all the “Just Say No” campaigns will never change that.

And those who hypothesize the genetic, pre-disposed, inherent dangers of the drug addict are missing the larger point about Downey and his ilk. Drugs come easy to Downey’s sensibilities and physical make-up because he can afford it. He has the kind of free time and cash most of us work our asses to the bone trying to compile so we can conjure new and exciting ways to entertain ourselves.

Let’s face it, the reason the middle class exists is to keep self-destruction to a minimum. If 90% of us had Downey’s money and fame we’d be lucky to stay alive for a month. I’ve personally witnessed, and occasionally contributed to, dangerous acts of treacherous debauchery for less than a grand a head. The money and time Downey’s dealing with inevitably leads to the type of behavior that cost Rome its earthly lease, and much can be learned from their super-human gluttony.

Downey falls into the category of misguided invincibility, a character whose life is an episodic limit strain of fearlessness. Drugs and alcohol are merely symptoms of the illusion. Using his case as an example of drug abuse in this country is like comparing your eighth grade composition to “The Great Gatsby”.

It seems Robert Downey Jr’s biggest problem is his inability to handle a fucking high. There are people reading this right now who know full well that it takes special drugs to get you to wander into a stranger’s house and crawl into their kid’s bed.

There are far more typical types of insatiable drug grazer.

The first of these are persons with Nothing To Lose because of economic, societal or mental handicaps. They cannot view the world with a sober eye because it holds only pain, anguish and failure. We see them on our street corners and in our schools. We’d like to help them out, but they’d only crawl right back into the bottle or grab the pipe and we desperately need to upgrade our computer and watch Survivor.

Then there are the unfortunate Dumb and Bored types, who spend money they don’t have in order to destroy a life they should be kissing the ground to maintain. These are the least interesting and less publicized druggies because they are our neighbors and friends; coke- heads, burnouts and boozers, whose life is downtime to ingestion.

We know them, and, to varying degrees, we ARE them. Most times the best we can say about these people is they’re fun, to an extent, then they become annoying, and then we don’t answer their calls anymore.

The rest of us spend the bulk of our time throwing slogans and solutions at recreational drugs, including alcohol. We oft times conveniently miss the clear correlation between drugs, guns and art. All three have been accused of causing damage, the first two for obvious reasons, and the third, for less, but far more intriguing ones.

Those heralding the right to carry firearms love to espouse the theory that guns do not harm anyone, people do. Yet they love whining about a War On Drugs. Others claim film and music tear at the fabric of morality, yet ignore their kids, except to fill them up with patriotic and religious dogma worthy of science fiction.

This brings us back to Robert Downey Jr. and the age-old question of environment. A raging alcoholic, living in a land of world-class drug abusers, raised Downey, and as he has cited in many interviews, Downey’s father handed him a joint in preadolescence and that was that. A child does not know instinctively that to “get high” is to escape reality or expand the mind. The child also does not know what is evil or fun or dangerous or illegal.

It is not merely genes or environment that lead Downey, or anyone, to the level of addict. Downey’s father fucked up and now we spend a good deal of our time wondering about the drug problem when it comes down to a Robert Downey Jr. problem.

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