Joni Mitchell’s recent health issues are capturing headlines. Speculation is to be expected when the person in question is an icon.
It was reported she was taken to hospital a few weeks ago, condition unknown. I’ve watched concern pile up among music lovers and here in my own small heart because Joni Mitchell is, well, Joni Mitchell. Her work stands alone. News of her being unwell reminds me of all the things I take for granted, the things I think about sporadically or intensely or sometimes not at all for long stretches; Joni’s music is a friend of mine.
But I also watched one paper publish an opinion piece along the lines of What Joni Has Always Meant to Me that read more like an obituary. I thought that was the height of bad taste until I read another that flat out stated if she was suffering mental health issues, we needed to be told because how else will we ever reduce the stigma if someone like Joni Mitchell won’t discuss her personal issues? It made the near-obituary look a wise editorial decision. It wasn’t, but there’s nothing like terrible to make bad look better.
You’ve heard of peak oil, the terminal decline in readily available oil, terminology now being applied to water. Have we reached peak garbage yet? Maybe our brains are at last so saturated in nonsense that we can finally stop entertaining ourselves to death and start to have conversations about things that matter. Joni Mitchell is no real housewife, no fame whore kindling notoriety into headlines because talent was just too elusive.
Yet, a newspaper article in one of this country’s major players opines she owes us more. She owes us the nitty gritty, down and dirty details of what might be playing out with her health. Specifically, her mental health. Because Mitchell – intensely private – has alluded to struggles in the past, we deserve details. A 75-year-old heavy smoker is taken to hospital; speculate on that if you require fodder. Don’t pretend her mental health is about education and information by deciding within a moral vacuum what she owes us.
I talk openly about being bipolar. I spill pretty much everything if I think it might nudge others to find help, or gain a little empathy. I live out loud, but never in a million years do I think anyone else is obliged to. You don’t demand someone share details of their life because you think it’s the right thing to do. You don’t get to decide that Joni Mitchell owes you anything.
I love when people say they’re just tryin’ to reduce the stigma, helpful little busybodies that they are. Discussing an individual’s mental health in a conversation they are not participating in is not about boosting awareness, it’s about chasing ratings. There’s stigma about a lot of things, like adultery or hemorrhoids. By a certain age, you’ve probably dealt with one of them. Shall we speculate, so we can remove the stigma? Care to have people publically debate your association with either of those topics?
Car manufacturers have started making something they call “infotainment” systems. It’s a horrible word, colliding information and entertainment together as if we’re too stupid to be able to process one without the other. At least they’re just trying to physically maximize space with the idea. I’m tired of news sources hiding behind a veneer of advocacy that is simply sensationalism, little ‘info’ to go with the ‘tainment’.
Before you take part in this kind of speculation, first decide what you would owe a bunch of strangers.