Society is built on alcohol. People live for the night, and the night -- more often than not – involves drink. A walk down Market Street at three o’clock is all the evidence you’d ever need to certify this as fact. Swamped by the drunken pallid masses, every night, an anarchic haze descends upon our otherwise sleepy seaside bubble.
Young people like to question most things - and rightfully so - but we have a blind spot for changes that might be painful or personal to us. For this reason, I’ve rarely heard it asked of alcohol that clarion call of the young – could we do better?
To quote both Jose Mourinho and Hegel, ‘the truth is the whole’. Simply stated, the idea is that everything should be considered, accepted or rejected when understanding and ascribing value to one’s life. This includes alcohol. In my view, such a calculus is not favourable to the drug.
Although alcohol does have its advantages such as as a social lubricant that can make dancing and music ‘fun’, I’m unconvinced as to why I’d want it in my life. Alcohol gives us greater access to a pure pleasure, but that’s not always a good thing.
Of course, fun has its place and I’m not against it. I am, however, opposed to the very shallow form of fun that alcohol provides. It’s a fun that is easy to rely on but hard to get anything out of. When you drink, you get a set of copy-paste feelings. Feelings a monkey could get, one’s that you’ve experienced hundreds of times before. In essence, nothing special and nothing that reveals to you anything about life.
I’m left at a loss. I can understand why alcohol might be something used every so often – like going to Amsterdam and trying magic mushrooms – but to build a society around it? It just seems a little excessive.
Alcohol is very primal. It’s a drug that strips us of rationality, self-control and communicative ability. In essence, it makes us animals. Our differences are dissolved as we engage in shared ritual. Having left the savannah in the dust, the mating dance is set to techno and the alpha male establishes dominance through a series of stupid dares.
That we do this is fine, I guess, but I would nevertheless question the worth of friendships and relationships forged through this process. If the only way you can relate to someone is when you’re belting out hits from a sub-par Swedish pop group – then I think you’ve got to ask the question, how meaningful is this friendship? I like to pick my friends because they have a cluster of characteristics that complement my character – not because we happened to get drunk together.
Again, there might not be that much of a problem with this, if it were not for the cumulative impact of many similar interactions. If you’re not valued for yourself but a drunk lowest common denominator – you’ve got to wonder what it is doing to you. Man is not an island – what you do becomes what you are. As you drink or rely on drink, it changes you, your personality and identity. Put simply, you become more animal, less human.
If this doesn’t convince you, alcohol’s not great for other reasons. Most obviously, bad things happen when alcohol is involved. For all the harm caused by a drug like cocaine or heroin, at least the damage tends to be localised to the user. This is not the case with alcohol.
There are so many types of specific harm that result from the drug. Sexual assault, domestic abuse and rape happen, far, far more regularly when drink is involved. In fact, it is more than conceivable that alcohol could be the greatest obstacle to gender equality. The risk of varying degrees of addiction is also pretty significant. A personal hell of temptation, self-hate and self-destruction awaits for an unlucky few.
It's also not very good for you personally. It's unhealthy - not just because of its high sugar content - but also, more importantly, for your brain. If you’re reading this newspaper, you’re probably a student and so under 25. Until you reach 25, your brain hasn’t achieved full maturity. Alcohol stunts brain development and so permanently and irreversibly damages your brain.
I’m not accusing anyone of any specific wrong - and although I don’t drink, I understand why people do. What I am saying is that as a society, I think we’ve got something pretty big wrong - and that we should maybe reconsider. Small changes add up - and a hope for a different way of being has to start somewhere before it gathers enough momentum for real change to become conceivable. To pretend that this must be, that alcohol is natural and right because its always has been, is to fall victim to close-minded small-c conservatism. I’d have hoped today’s youth would be more ambitious.
Image: Chris F, Pexels