Bernard Darnton surveys the government's whineries, and discovers nothing but boos ...
You’d think that just once a year the do-gooders at ALAC could take a break from a hard year’s hectoring and relax with a couple of cold beers. Sadly, no. Looking irritatingly chipper the day after the ALAC Christmas party, they were straight back into the busy-bodying.
And it’s not just ALAC – the place is infested: the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council whines that “there is no safe drinking level” and it’s happily reported here, some outfit called “Alcohol Healthwatch” (a charitable trust with a reassuringly amateur website, but effectively a branch of the Ministry of Health) is constantly banging on about booze and its evils, and the Police are nagging the government to lower the drink-drive limit instead of enforcing some of the laws we’ve already got.
Where does this nonsense about “no safe drinking level” come from? Since sitting down to write this, I’ve nibbled on a couple of brandy-filled chocolates that some kind soul left on my doorstep over Christmas and I’ve noticed no ill effects. If this is living dangerously I really need to get a life. (I note from the chocolate box by the way that the French, quite sensibly and very unpuritanically, call brandy l’eau de vie – “water of life.” I wouldn’t ask a Frenchman for advice if I had an aggressive enemy on my border – take note, Israel – but if he was cooking dinner and serving drinks, then count me in. I assume that the Gaza peace negotiations are a well-catered diplomatic affair.)
The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council claims that even one drink doubles the risk of injury – presumably from five eighths of bugger all to bugger all. Two more drinks doubles the risk again. With five drinks your risk is up six times. Seven drinks and it’s ten times. Chuck all that into Excel and do some formulas and stuff and it turns out that the first drink increases your risk of injury by virtually nothing – that being the initial risk – and each subsequent drink increases your risk by less than the previous one. I regularly write these columns with a few on board but even so I’m more likely to catch mad cow flu than stab myself with the cursor.
All this chatter about risk is just a way of keeping people scared. And scared people look for someone to protect them. And who better to protect them than a bloody great big government? One conveniently full of bureaucrats babbling incessantly about how risky everything is.
ALAC’s mission is to “change social norms” – to introduce a social stigma around “drinking for effect”. Their “It’s how we’re drinking” advertisements present New Zealand’s drinking culture as an unmitigated evil.
Not everyone sees it that way. For every stereotypical party-girl who gets wasted at Friday drinks, shags someone on the photocopier, and regrets it the next day, there’s a Dennis from Accounts who thinks that binge drinking is the best thing since sliced bread, unsliced bread, soft round baps, toasty warm muffins, and hot dripping crumpets.
It is criminal that the state steals from Dennis to fund a campaign to eliminate one of the few pleasures of his dull, green-visored existence. Of course, if he’s any good as an accountant he probably keeps his dough well out of the reach of the killjoys’ sticky fingers.
Drinking is fun. That’s why people do it and have done for thousands of years. For as long as people have had minds they’ve wanted to alter them. And for as long as people have made up their own minds what to do governments have disapproved and tried to herd those minds into order.
Drinking also has its costs, as the meddlers tirelessly remind us. The answer is not to socialise those costs and then berate everyone for enjoying themselves but to privatise the costs and let each of us weigh up the hangovers and broken photocopier screens against the rowdy good times swimming in the water of life.
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