Why aren't we Sober about Alcohol?
Our Approach to Alcohol
Alcohol and is effects have always been a dear topic of our society. 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 are some of the reactions of the society, aimed at controlling this behavior. These reactions have been, either concentrating on the drinkers, with focus on, health effects, social degradation or appearance of public sobriety, or on alcohol, with focus on, availability of alcohol and rationing, taking the profit out of selling alcohol or, other approaches to control its production. Functionally, our attack on the ill effects of alcohol consumption can be thought of as belonging to any of the following:
The Reigning View
a) The Colonial View: that it is only a pleasant custom, overindulgence shows weakness of character
b) The Temperance View: that it is alcohol, which controls the drinker, hence, rather than attacking our brothers, a restriction in its sale should be the tactic.
c) The Alcoholism View: that this is a disease, hence, what is needed is neither contempt nor tactic, but sympathetic treatment.
d) The Epigenetic View: that this is influenced by ones genetic make up, possible methods of alteration need be studied.
I think it is evident; the colonial view is a natural one. It is quite similar to how we think about all other issues. Someone follows incorrect diet, sports unhealthy sleeping habits or otherwise entertains behavioral quirks that are dangerous to one’s health, we do not immediately jump to, say, environmental or other abstract causes led to it. We take the most probable cause, which, in this case being, just carelessness. And issue appropriate strictures, impose restrictions or award punishment. But when it came to alcohol, we changed our viewpoint and we moved from the natural path. Why?
I remember an incident from my student days. We were strolling down the country road to his home, when he (one of my classmates) had to face a serious scolding from his neighbor. He stopped, changed his direction, took us to a near by 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 in choicest expletives, threatened those people with very serious consequences to follow if they don’t apologize immediately, and left that place only after getting all that he asked for. Back at home when I asked whether the detour for toddy was essential, my friends reply was, “The ambience of a drunken personality radically alters the effect of whatever I am going to say, making it many fold”.
I think that is the reason. Those at the receiving end will feel things with greater impact, if coming from a drunken source. “Why did you argue with a drunk?”, is a common refrain, to belittle the injuries one receive from a person who is not sober. And those doing wrongs will get a lesser blame, if they are in a drunken state. Those at the other end can also be greatly relieved; they won’t have to assess their kin, neighbors or good friends as bad people. For, being drunk is a well tolerated excuse; it permits one to engage in bad deeds, without the risk of losing one’s character. All these add to, what is giving the drinkers the drive to drink.
But it is a fact that people behave awfully low, when they are drunk. Unimaginable cruelties, merciless and harsh brutalities and other deeds of unbelievable inhumanity are associated with the drunken. What can we do? If we are to show our reactions correctly, many known people, friends, relatives and, at least some of our idols will have to be termed unsociable. We then take a safe path. Direct our ire against the next obvious culprit, alcohol, and free our near and dear from the blame. Many new, different approaches to this topic are, I think a necessity, to keep the discussion alive, away from the initial view.
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.