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Are we getting it right on alcohol?

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856702.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:48 pm Reply with quote

Skid, sorry to have doubted you, it must be the caffeine.
But they are not gonna ban Red Bull, Nero or Starbucks are they?
"Too much caffeine in my bloodstream and a lack of real spice in my life."

856708.  Tue Oct 18, 2011 9:16 pm Reply with quote

Neotenic said:
Personally, I think that a big part of the problem is lack of choice. Pretty much all civilisations throughout history have needed two main things - some form of deity to explain the unknowable, and the means to, from time to time, get completely off one's face.

For many and various reasons - most of them remarkably recent decisions - alcohol has become the one and only legitimate conduit for, er, off-facedness. And, for some people (myself probably included) it's not the right one. And the other options currently make these people criminals.

and I wholeheartedly agree. Drinking is somehow more socially acceptable than consuming other substances. He/she also said:
One has to wonder, in the context of my previous point, just how different the world would be if rather than Jesus saying 'drink this - it is my blood', he'd said 'smoke this - it's, like, my aura, man'.

which amused me greatly.

As I write this, I am sipping my nightly Jamesons. I spent years of my youth enjoying a few other substances, primarily marijuana. I honestly don't understand why one is illegal and the other is not. I've read and heard a myriad of reasons explaining the attitude. Maybe it did come down to marketing and money (alcohol and tobacco companies).

Tomorrow I might be randomly tested for certain drugs at work. If I had a positive result from those drugs I could lose my job. Yet I could consume this entire bottle of Jamesons--and traces of that drug would not cost me my job. Don't understand the double standard at all.

I also have a few thoughts about behavior and alcohol. They are personal and unscientific observations, but I wonder if others here have similar experiences and what they might be.

Both of my grandfathers were alcoholics. Sometimes they were jolly and fun-loving. Many times they were angry and violent. One Christmas, at the heart of a celebration, grandpa picked up the tree and all the trimmings and threw it out the front door. Many gift packages followed the tree. One Easter, the other grandpa swept the entire feast off the table and onto the floor. The many loud fights, angry words and bruises to be found on either grandma at times profoundly affected two generations. My parents generation rarely drank beyond one or two 'social' drinks. My generation is more freewheeling. We drink more, are occasionally drunk, and experimented with drugs in our youth. We've all talked about how those scenes from our youth stay in our minds any time we feel we are drinking to excess--and rein ourselves in.

However, the new generation (the great-grandchildren) are drinking to excess. They are in their twenties---born long after both grandfathers died. This generation seems to spend most of their time getting drunk. They are the most educated, the ones raised in the nicest surroundings, sent to good schools. In other words, far from the working class background of my youth.

I know that alcoholism runs in families. I just wonder if the cycle in our family was similar to any others here.

856767.  Wed Oct 19, 2011 4:27 am Reply with quote

Grim wrote:
Thereís also the fact that when primarily all you need is water, yeast, sugar and a bit of patience itís particularly difficult to exert any control over manufacture compared to other drugs requiring more specialist equipment or raw materials.

Like this?

856780.  Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:18 am Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
And as we all know, it's the reprobate minority that gets the headlines.

Absolutely it is. And ruins it for the rest of us. As noted above, I cannot take a few friends, some food and a bottle of wine to a park any more because some tools liked to drink Buckfast there so now nobody can drink anything. It shouldn't be the possession of or the drinking of alcohol that's the crime it should be the behaviour having done so. If a policeman wandered through the park and saw some people having a quiet picnic and some neds having a fight is it really beyond his wit to know which one to deal with without government instruction?

And that's not just a personal whine, it makes a point about the way we've always tried to tackle alcohol abuse in this country and the way we've always got it wrong. Knee-jerk bans, micro-managing interference in people's lives, and so forth.

856791.  Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:55 am Reply with quote

No plach, as far as I know any alhocol use was/is purely social in my family, with no violence attached to it - again, as far as I know. But I've come to realise that there quite a few skellingtons hidden in the various family closets.
The fact that both my grandmothers would sometimes show up wearing sunglasses when the weather did not require such, had simply to do with grandfathers' extremely foul moods and bullyish natures.
Again - that's something I only learned much later, after all involved had passed away.

856951.  Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:27 am Reply with quote

rocky wrote:
Skid, sorry to have doubted you, it must be the caffeine.
But they are not gonna ban Red Bull, Nero or Starbucks are they?
"Too much caffeine in my bloodstream and a lack of real spice in my life."

They just banned a drink called Four Loko here. It is a largish can of alcohol and caffeine (about a pint of liquid that contains the equivalent of about 6 shots of alcohol and 4 cups of coffee). Nasty stuff and makes you go a bit crazy.

856963.  Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:50 am Reply with quote

exnihilo wrote:
I think it interesting to look at the attitude to alcohol in different countries. What the WHO shows is that Americans drink far more beer and far less wine than their European counterparts. I've often been struck by an attitude in the US that distinguishes clearly between "hard liquor" and beer and which seems not to frown too much on having a few beers and drinking. So, the point is that although perhaps not the greatest consumers of alcohol they are the most likely to be in a road accident involving alcohol and that some of that can be attributed to attitudes toward alcohol - or what the thread's about.

We have a TV series on Prohibition by a well-known documentary maker, Ken Burns, being broadcast at the moment, so there is a fair amount of interest in the era around here right now. Anti-Prohibition arguments are also being heavily deployed regarding the legalization of marijuana.

This comment from exnihilo reminded me of an excerpt from a book called Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent, so I'm pasting it below:

By the end of the nineteenth century, production of whiskey and other distilled spirits had declined substantially, to a per capita figure not radically dissimilar from what it would be a full hundred years later.

But this change in habit disguised the cold fact that something had come along to replace the rotgut, moonshine, grain alcohol, and all those other cheap elixirs, as potent as battery acid, that had been the basic stock of the down-at-heels saloon. ... In 1850 Americans drank 36 million gallons of beer; by 1890 annual consumption had exploded to 855 million gallons. During that four-decade span, while the population tripled, that population's capacity for beer had increased twenty-four-fold.

There was nothing mysterious about this change. Immigration was responsible, of course, at first from Ireland and Germany. The Germans brought not only beer itself but a generation of men who knew how to make it, how to market it, and how to pretend it was something it was not. The four-year-old United States Brewers' Association declared in 1866 that hard liquor caused 'domestic misery, pauperism, disease and crime.' On the other hand, the brewers maintained, beer was "liquid bread."*

It also was the substance that composed the ocean upon which a vast new armada of saloons was launched. As the cities filled with immigrants; as a similar settlement of the West accelerated, particularly in the predom≠inantly male lumber camps and mining towns (the states in the North≠west, wrote historian John Higham, 'were competing with each other for Europeans to people their vacant lands and develop their economies'); and as a clever and worldly young brewer named Adolphus Busch figured out that pasteurization kept beer fresh enough to ship across the country on the newly completed transcontinental railroad, it became the national beverage.

That the proliferation of saloons was abetted by immigrants (usually German or Bohemian), largely for immigrants (members of those nation≠alities, but also Irish, Slavs, Scandinavians, and many, many others), was not lost on the moralists of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and other temperance organizations. As early as 1876, [temperance leader] Frances Willard had referred in a speech to 'the infidel foreign population of our country.' Near the end of her career, Willard called on Congress to pass immigration restrictions to keep out 'the scum of the Old World.'

In the Mesabi and Vermilion ranges of northern Min≠nesota, congressional investigators counted 256 saloons in fifteen mining towns, their owners representing eighteen distinct immigrant nationali≠ties. 'If a new colony of foreigners appears' in Chicago, the muckraker George Kibbe Turner wrote in 1909, 'some compatriot is set at once to selling them liquor. Italians, Greeks, Lithuanians, Poles - all the rough and hairy tribes which have been drawn to Chicago - have their trade exploited to the utmost.' U.S. census figures indicated that 80 percent of licensed saloons were owned by first-generation Americans.

*Some temperance activists did acknowledge that beer was not as dangerous as the hard stuff. Rev. Lyman Beecher (father of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe) said that beer "enables the victim to come down to his grave .. . with more of the good-natured stupidity of the idiot, and less of the demonic frenzy of the madman."

It also seems logical that, since those German immigrants largely migrated to the mid-West, which is prime grain-growing country but fairly unfriendly to the grape, that wine production in the US would tend to be lower purely because of the lower level of production, the majority of which came from California. There is a level of wine-making elsewhere in the USA (there's even a limited amount of wine made in New England) but nothing like the scale of that on the west coast.

856974.  Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:40 am Reply with quote

Southpaw wrote:
a large part of the younger section of society, say 35 and under (sorry 36 and up, you're getting old) really do seem to live for getting drunk on the weekend. They don't drink to 'be social', whatever that means, they drink specifically to get as drunk as possible, preferably in as short a time as possible.

If the inmates of the Big Brother house manage to complete the maze set for them by their keepers, they are often rewarded with alcohol; the joy this engenders in them is incredible, and at the same time deeply depressing. Is life so bad that only the sweet caress of alcohol-induced oblivion can make it bearable?

This is what really annoys me about alcohol generally; the attitude that there's no way to celebrate, or have fun with friends, or enjoy a relaxing evening in, or kill a bit of time without it. Not just among Young People, either; My teetotalism has inspired just as many ignorant comments (eg. 'So what do you do at parties, then?' or 'Have you ever even tried it?') from people who really should be old enough to know better. As you say, it is depressing - not just that they have such apparently empty, joyless lives but they find it so hard to comprehend why someone might not want to join them.
Though that said, I've noticed my previously hard-line attitude has suddenly + drastically slackened over the past month or so (scince I first had a spoonful of gin + thought 'Oooooh, that's quite tasty actually.') I find I do actually look forward to getting in from work + having a glass, or sipping it while watching telly or whatever; I s'pose because it's expensive + I need to show ID to buy it it feels more like a luxury than, say, a bag of sweets + is therefore more of a treat. But then, I've discovered alcohol relatively late in life + completely on my own terms. The kids who spend their teens getting as hammered as they possibly can without their parents finding out are going to forever assoiciate it with being a bit rebellious + the whole 'I'm going to do what I want to do, + there's nothing you can do about it!' stance.

856984.  Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:55 am Reply with quote

NinOfEden wrote:
(scince I first had a spoonful of gin + thought 'Oooooh, that's quite tasty actually.')

Arggghh!! She's still at it.

856989.  Wed Oct 19, 2011 12:04 pm Reply with quote

Re Plach's comment about alcoholism running in families: It also seems to have run in my family. My mother became an alcoholic when i was 13 and she died when i was 21. My sister is also an alcoholic; i think she stopped drinking a couple of years ago. i don't talk to my sister as she's a nuisance. i don't drink and i've never had an interest in drinking.

857358.  Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:23 am Reply with quote

Well in all fairness Jenny, we didn't steal the Southwest/California from Mexico until 1848, So the grape has only a few generation of natural growing.

But we are getting better at it. Slowly but surely. I also think another contribution is that the US government had enforced a 21 drinking age on our country. I didn't drink myself until 23 (Didn't like the taste)

Now I love wine, and am a big fan of the harder stuff...but lately drinking hasn't been a goal. Who know?

857591.  Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:14 am Reply with quote

It's difficult to enforce a legal drinking age of 21 when you can vote and marry at 18, but at least having it there tends to raise the minimum age. In the UK the legal age is 18, but I dare say most people in the UK will have bought an alcoholic drink in a pub before then, because they don't ID you in the same way there.

857602.  Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:27 am Reply with quote

We certainly ID them in Lidl, + I've been IDed just buying food in pubs that don't allow under 18s... most places are Think 25 now, + there's one supermarket (Asda?) Where they Think 30!

857604.  Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:35 am Reply with quote

I go places where they ID everyone, even those over 60!

It is pretty odd to meet people who are in the army, have a wife and two children, and they are about to celebrate being old enough to legally buy alcohol. And the state can't even change the law on it without giving up huge amounts of money for road projects from the government.

857605.  Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:45 am Reply with quote

Yea, English pubs increasingly do have doormen and do ask for proof of age. As yet I've not seen that thing which is increasingly common in North America - that bar staff card everyone, even white haired people who are clearly over 70 - but I dare say it will come.

(The reason that some American bars do this is twofold. One is that penalties for selling to underage persons are stiff. The other is that New York City officials who were in bars undercover, mainly looking for underage drinking, noted that some bars never carded pretty girls, and that some others only carded black people.)


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