Friday, August 17, 2007

Alcohol and Culture

In England there is a sudden focus on problems caused by alcohol, from people not knowing who they are, to binge drinking among women, to violent crimes committed under the influence of alcohol, drink driving as well as anti-social behavior.
Some time ago the laws were changed to allow pubs to be open 24 hours, sometime ago they also scrutinized the low prices at which alcohol is sold, the benefits of buying large quantities for less and the reason why people drink so much.
Now they are thinking about raising the minimum drinking age to 21, they are also trying to pull in parents whose underage children have been drinking and penalizing them for bad parenting or neglect and lack of care.
I live very close to a busy city center and across the road from a pub. On weekends I hear people singing loudly and drunkenly on the way back. Saying the Brits enjoy a bit of a drink is an understatement. Most people go out knowing they want to get drunk and most succeed in their plans. As a student I attended 'house parties' where the fruit punch was toxic and alcohol was consumed like it was going out of fashion, the place was trashed in the morning with people being sick all over the house, including sadly the pet cat! It was a disgusting, once in a lifetime experiment.
Yes there is also peer pressure to be blamed. But what about the fact that media glowingly portrays people like Pete Doherty and Amie Winehouse as well as the English darling Kate Moss as 'icons' who all have serious drug and alcohol abuse problems. They are looked up to and when they get caught with illegal alcohol levels or drug possession, its news, but a bit of tutting and a slap on the wrist and they are off again to repeat perform. Ok, you would say what is Rock without the darkness behind it with a whiff of alcohol, tantrums and the occasional fairy dust. But who else is there for young people to look upto who is actually clean, David Cameron? I dont think so.
Alcohol is something people drink occasionally, it comes with responsibility. But its almost a must that you should drink. Out of all the people I know, and I know many in varied capacities, I know only 2 people who do not drink, as a matter of choice. They are young, married and happy and will not drink. Which is good, I suppose if they don't give into peer pressure and sneaky comments of 'goody-two-shoes'. Recently a person I know closely was picked on by others for not drinking because he was afraid of consequences if his wife found out. It was weird, but I am wandering off the point here.
The point being, there is a tradition of drinking in the country. You meet people for 'drinks', you invite them home for a 'drink'. When some one comes home you ask them what they would like to 'drink'. One chills with a 'drink', you watch TV with a 'drink', there is a bottle of wine in everyone's house, even my hair dresser asks me if I want a 'drink' while I wait for her to finish what she is doing. All parties have alcohol, you drink to cool down with a beer in the summer, you drink to warm up with a Vodka in the winter. You drink. Period. Its part of the culture. So if it goes out of hand, who should the blame go to, the retailers who sell for cheap, the parents who don't notice the occasional empty/missing bottle that their teenage child might pick up, the low legal age to drink? Who?
And why is this not a problem in the rest of Europe? I do wonder.
I would compare this to India...but how many young people (and I mean women) go out with their parents to someone else's house and ask for a Scotch on the rocks?

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