Thursday 13 October 2011

Forbidden fruit

There’s an interesting article here by Kate Fox – surprisingly on the BBC website – in which she argues that, to a large extent, “the effects of alcohol on behaviour are determined by cultural rules and norms, not by the chemical actions of ethanol.” She points out that in many societies – specifically those bordering the Mediterranean – per capita alcohol consumption is higher than the UK, but there isn’t the same association with violence and sexual abandon. In the 1960s, the French on average drank getting on for four times as much as the British did then, but the streets weren’t full of drunken yobbery and girls throwing up.

I have read that there is a major alcohol problem amongst aboriginal people in Australia, but their typical response to alcohol is apparently a state of zonked-out stupefaction that in this country you would more associate with smoking cannabis.

In recent years, although overall alcohol consumption has been falling in Britain, at the same time we have become more disapproving and censorious about it, so the association with irresponsible and uninhibited behaviour has if anything increased, resulting in lurid exposés like this in the Daily Mail. Perhaps if we were more accepting of moderate drinking in an everyday social context we would have a more mature and relaxed attitude to alcohol in general. Fat chance of that happening then.


  1. I'm sure I read somewhere, no idea where, that some aboriginal populations have genetically caused much heightened reactions to alcohol as compared to white europeans.

  2. I was thinking along similar lines on my own rubbish, however when you say "Fat chance of that happening then.” is a depressing point to end on. It is the point of admitting defeat.

    Whilst blogging isn't going to change the world, the expression of opinion creates noise and in a small way influences others. The Kate Fox article is likely to influence to a degree far greater than any number of inconsequential bloggers. I claim no influence, but enjoy challenging and contradicting orthodoxies. If one person reads my crap and thinks, yeh minimum pricing is bollocks, beery pretention is bollocks, enjoy what you enjoy and let others do so, I will have exceeded any expectation I started with, for all it really amounts to is getting things off your chest.

    Maybe the chance is greater than you think; I hope it is, otherwise what is the point? We are then just moaning about the inevitable, and would make us smelly old flat capped pub bores lamenting our wasted lives in the tap room of a dumpy old mans pub, waiting for our game of chess with Azrael.

    Optimism, Mudge. The final whistle hasn’t blown.

  3. Well, what is the meaning of life? As I say, the prime reason for writing this is to get things off my chest. Whether it will actually do anything to change public policy or attitudes is very doubtful. But it may help to disseminate certain ideas and it's reassuring in a way to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way as I do.

    And, at the end of the day, even if the cause is lost, I will be able to say "I stood up and spoke out; I did not go gentle into that good night."

    Change does happen in unpredictable ways, but on the general theme of alcohol policy I fear things will get much worse before they get any better, and many good pubs and much sociability will be lost in the process. If it wasn't for the joys of Schadenfreude, the future would look very bleak indeed ;-)

  4. It's frustrating that the Daily Mail view of alcohol 'abuse' seems to hold sway across the media. Kate Fox's article is very interesting and makes a lot of sense even though it is counter to everything we've been led to believe. But how do you get people to believe that what they've thought for years is, in fact, a load of tosh?

    I find it sad/ironic that, in an age when science & technology have a greater than ever influence on our lives , the general populace readily succumb to myth and superstition. It seems as though the 'Witchfinder General' has been replaced by the 'Health Police'!

    Just goes to show; it doesn't matter who is right or wrong, just who has the most believable bullshit!

  5. "It doesn't matter who is right or wrong, just who has the most believable bullshit!"

    A perfect summary of politics in general.

  6. Hi PC,

    As you may know, Kate Fox wrote a very good guide to English pubs, which is online. In her book 'Watching the English', the research on attitudes to drink being a primary factor on behaviour is repeated, as well as much of the guide.



Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. Unregistered comments will generally be rejected unless I recognise the author. If you want to comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.