Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mike Butler: Booze culture

At the risk of being forever labeled a wowser I would like to make some observations on our booze culture. This blog was sparked by a TV One Closeup feature on the death of Kings College pupil James Webster, who sculled a bottle of vodka and was left to die by his friends and so-called responsible adults at the Grey Lynn Returned Services Club. While the item was very worthy and gut-gripping as all good television should be, the underlying assumption is that James’s death was a consequence of a teenage drinking problem. Is that so?

And why do teenagers drink? My mind drifted back to a Mission Concert about three years ago, the one where headline performer Eric Clapton spat the dummy when he saw a bottle of wine with his name on the label. Clapton is a recovering alcoholic and has spent tens of thousands of dollars towards the rehab of other recovering alcoholics, so I can understand why he was furious to see his name endorsing some fine Mission Estate wine.

The point about that Mission Concert was the concertgoers -- well-fed, middle-aged, mums and dads with ginormous chillybins full of beer, wine, and whatever, drunk out of their scones, braying at each other, and falling over on to the grass, dirt, and stones. The reason why teens have problems with binge drinking is that their parents are binge drinkers and have raised their children to do the same.

So what is the New Zealand booze culture? It’s as simple as this. If you have a birthday, you go to the liquor shop, buy some grog and invite your friends. Christmas, buy some grog and have the family over. Friday night – have a few drinks. Hard day at the office – unwind over a few drinks. Any other day -- a nightly tipple. This pattern exists across all income ranges and in all cultures that don’t have prohibitions against liquor consumption.

Maybe I have become a wowser since I have seen the hard edge of alcoholism as part of my day job in accommodation. I have seen how alcohol destroys some people. I have seen booze-fuelled arguments, assaults, savage beatings, people collapsed in their own vomit, urine, and their own excrement, sex for a bottle of gin.

The poverty action people wring their hands over homelessness but I know of many people who prefer to live under a bridge so all their benefit can go on booze.

The simple reason that politicians, police, judges, corrections officers, social workers, health workers and so on are soft on booze is that, to some extent, everyone is a drinker, and no one wants to feel like a hypocrite.


Eric Crampton said...

Lesson: teach your kids to drink SENSIBLY.

Every Friday, the two-year-old comes with me to the University staff club where I have 1 pint of beer, where everybody's having a good time but nobody's getting drunk. That's how you're supposed to do it, and that's how he'll see it being done.

Hopefully, he'll wind up being moderately disgusted by drunk classmates 13 years from now rather than wanting to join in.

Anonymous said...

For the life of me I cannot understand why everyone is jumping on the anti-booze bandwagon. Are things really much worse now than they were say 10 years ago? If not, why is a crack-down coming - what's the catalyst?

Anonymous said...

Our Binge drinking culture is disgusting ..... it is not social drinking and having a good time relaxing with friends...... it is all about how much one person can drink........ 'blotto'is the word that we used 50 years ago - for a person that had drunk himself senseless. Is the drinking culture getting worse - it certainly is.......

I had a member of the family aged 18 years who boarded with us - as her home was up north.A lovely girl smart attractive fun loving - she was a sensible drinker.... but I saw on the floor of her car in front of the passenger seat many full bottles of different spirits - too many to count.

I never did find out who consumed the bottles of spirits or why they were there.....but they all disappeared in one night.

Spirits have been called 'hard liquor' and that is exactly what it is .... why do young people need it?

It costs heaps of money and has a detrimental and lasting effect on a young brain.

My parents had the odd drink when we were young - I went to parties where there was lots and beer but we had music dance and singing and it was very seldom that any of the people at the party were 'blotto'

Why is it necessary to binge is stupid..,.expensive.... disgusting... and uncivilized.

You do not see the young people in Europe and I would think in many other counties - behaving in this manner ...yes they drink but they do not binge drink like the young people here and in Australia

We have a beautiful country and beautiful young people but their drinking culture is the pits and many of them die and kill innocent people that happen to be on the road when they drive home after their 'binging night out'

How can they possibly say they had a great night out when they can't remember what actually happened to them while they were out supposedly enjoying themselves......why do they need alcohol to enjoy themselves...IT IS SO DUMB......and the parents must also be dumb
by not educating their children to be responsible citizens when they want to go out and have fun.

Thomas said...

Alcohol simply restricts the amount of oxygen getting to the brain cells. Lack of oxygen causes the various "factories" in the brain to shut down thus we get stupor, lack of control of bodily functions, lack of cognition etc. You pee your pants because the brain can no longer tell your bladder muscles to stay tight.
Save money... simply throttle yourself to the point you pass out. Same difference.