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Lou Reed: A gifted songwriter and performer, and an abusive scum, says this article. Victim of mental illness who deserves understanding, and a monster whose cruelty to, apparently, anyone who came near deserves disgust.

What is it about people whose work shows deep humanity but whose talk and behavior can be vile? Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Charles Dickens, Pablo Picasso — there are a lot more.

I think of people with good reputations, and I wonder: Does Tom Hanks torture doves? Is George Clooney a racist rapist? Does Jennifer Lawrence pour scalding coffee on homeless veterans?

A key quality of successful people is passionate ambition to achieve their dreams. Does this drive, this single-minded focus on making everything secondary to reaching a goal, lead them to disregard everything else, including other people’s feelings?

I’ve been in the presence of people who were brilliantly successful and who seemed, by all accounts, to be good to the people around them: Charles Schulz, Jack Kirby, Robin Williams. So it’s possible to be both great and good. Of course, Schulz and Williams suffered from depression — but they don’t seem to have turned their illness into a habit of abusing other people.

Which means that people who go out of their way to be monsters have no excuse.

 

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