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Why Aren't We Sober About Alcohol?

People are always interested in the origins of the esoteric, and all that is part of human nature is one.

A variety of alcoholic drinks.

A variety of alcoholic drinks.

Our Approach to Alcohol

Alcohol and its effects have always been a hot topic in society. Society has tried to control it via strategies focusing on the supply of alcohol beverages, regulation of drinking premises, policies that shape drinking practices, and practices aimed at regulating the ‘hazardous environment’ of drinking.

These efforts have either concentrated on the drinkers (with focus on health effects, social degradation or appearance of public sobriety) or on the alcohol itself (with focus on the availability of alcohol and rationing, taking the profit out of selling alcohol or other approaches to control its production).

Views on Drinking Alcohol

Functionally, our attack on the ill effects of alcohol consumption may stem from any of the following perspectives:

  1. The Colonial View: Drinking alcohol is a pleasant custom. Overindulgence reveals a weakness of character.
  2. The Temperance View: Alcohol controls the drinker; hence, rather than trying to chastise each other, we should restrict the sale of alcohol.
  3. The Alcoholism View: Alcoholism is a disease, and alcoholics need sympathetic treatment.
  4. The Epigenetic View: Alcoholism is influenced by one's genetic makeup, so we should study possible methods of altering that.
An illustration of people drinking alcohol.

An illustration of people drinking alcohol.

Why Don't We Take the Colonial View?

I think it is evident: The colonial view is the natural one. It is quite similar to how we think about all other issues. If someone follows an incorrect diet, sports unhealthy sleeping habits or otherwise entertains behavioral quirks that are dangerous to their health, we do not immediately jump to, say, environmental or other abstract causes for it. We take the most probable cause—which, in this case, is just carelessness—and we issue appropriate strictures, impose restrictions or mete out punishment.

But with alcohol, we changed our viewpoint and strayed from the natural path. Why?

A Telling Incident

I remember an incident from my student days. We were strolling down the country road to a classmate's home when his neighbor started to give him a serious scolding. He stopped, turned around, took us to a nearby toddy shop, had a bit of the local brew, and then took us all back to the neighbor with whom he had the altercation. He replied with the choicest expletives, threatened the neighbor with very serious consequences if they didn't apologize immediately, and left only after getting all that he asked for.

Back at home, when I asked whether the detour for toddy was essential, my friend said, “The ambience of a drunken personality radically alters the effect of whatever I am going to say, making it manifold”.

A soldier puts up a warning against drunk driving.

A soldier puts up a warning against drunk driving.

My View

I think my friend's reply explains a lot about what drives us to drink. Those at the receiving end will feel things with a greater impact if they come from a drunken source. “Why did you argue with a drunk?” is a common refrain to belittle the injuries one receives from a person who is not sober. And those who commit misdeeds won't be blamed as much if they are in a drunken state when they do so.

Those on the other side of the conflict will also be relieved; they won’t have to perceive their kin, neighbors or good friends as bad people because being drunk is a well-tolerated excuse. It permits one to engage in bad deeds without the risk of losing one’s character.

We Need a New Approach

But it is a fact that people often behave poorly when they are drunk. Unimaginable cruelties, merciless and harsh brutalities and other deeds of unbelievable inhumanity are associated with those who've drunk too much. What can we do? If we react to this bad behavior, many of our friends, relatives and at least some of our idols will have to be termed unsociable.

Instead, we take a safe path. We direct our ire against the next obvious culprit—alcohol—and free our near and dear ones from the blame. I think that many new, different approaches to this topic are a necessity to keep the discussion alive.

We know alcohol is not as harmful as we proclaim. But since we do not want to admit that we are not as good as we ought to be, we continue firing our guns pointed at alcohol.

How Do You Feel?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.