Rick Dixon writes from Cambridge: Back in 2011, John Galliano, the once celebrated British fashion designer, created his very own fashion disaster: caught on camera in a cafe in Paris making anti-Semitic remarks. He was promptly fired by French company Dior and given a £5000 suspended fine by the courts. Galliano subsequently became an outcast as the world of fashion quickly distanced itself from him.
Galliano blamed an alcohol and drug addiction for his idiotic behaviour at the time. This was supposed to explain his his behaviour but it wasn’t a proper excuse really. If you’re going to introduce large amounts of booze and dope into your system, saying something incredibly stupid and offensive is probably one of the least surprising things you can do. Now Galliano is trying to dip his toe in the pool of public opinion, to test the water for his possible return, and he has a slightly different spin on his previous behaviour.
For three weeks Galliano will be taking a supporting role assisting another designer in preparing for a show during New York Fashion Week: a low-key role with the sole purpose of introducing him slowly back into the limelight. However, it appears Galliano could not simply return humbled and repentant. He has issued a statement describing his recovery from alcoholism over the past two years and claiming to have ‘descended into the madness of the disease’ in the past.
So it was a disease! Well, this changes everything, John. Why didn’t you say so before? A disease is clearly something out of your control – we should have sympathy for your tragic plight. All those years spent in exile for something that wasn’t your fault – how terrible!
No, not really. Galliano should have stuck to his original story – at least then he had the courage to effectively say, ‘I was so high I was in orbit and I’m not even sure it was around this planet. I’m sorry, I was an idiot.’
However, John isn’t the first person to attempt this loathsome revisionism and paint himself a helpless victim of a ‘disease’. When Amy Winehouse died in July 2011 of alcohol poisoning, alleged comedian Russell Brand expressed sympathy for her, saying that he too knew what it was to suffer from the ‘disease’ of alcohol and drug addiction. This helped to reinforce the image of Winehouse as a tragic, tortured artist battling with a terrible condition which threatened to rob her of her talent and ultimately her life. The idea of Winehouse losing a heroic struggle against a ‘disease’ also engendered pity and bolstered the idea of a great talent taken too early, creating a legacy she didn’t really earn.
Well John and Russell, I have some bad news for you – alcoholism and drug addiction aren’t diseases. AIDS is a disease. Leukaemia is a disease. Alcohol and drug dependency are the result of voluntarily over-indulging in substances which are known to be highly addictive and extremely harmful. If I start hoovering up mountains of Colombia’s finest white powder with my nose, that’s a clear choice on my part. It’s hardly as if the fact that drugs and alcohol are highly addictive and harmful is hidden from us – labelling subsequent addiction as ‘disease’ is simply ludicrous and a dishonest attempt to absolve yourself of any responsibility or blame.
The only instance in which any sympathy for a drunk or a junkie is warranted is for a baby born of addicted parents. I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest this is not the case with John Galliano, Russell Brand or Amy Winehouse. There is no known breed of insect capable of inflicting a craving for alcohol through its bite. There is no known strain of germ that causes uncontrollable cocaine use in its host. One drink out of the same bottle of cheap cider as an alcoholic does not put you at risk of developing alcoholism. I’m no scientist but I’m fairly confident that having unprotected sex with a heroin addict will not cause you to spontaneously start injecting yourself either. These people need to stop waving the word ‘disease’ around as some sort of ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card.
The only disease John Galliano seems to be suffering from is ‘Foot in Mouth’ disease.