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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

January - A Time for Prohibitionist Propaganda

Nearly all of this BBC Magazine article written by Tom de Castella and titled "Alcohol-free January: Where can you go to avoid people drinking?" pisses me off.  I read it yesterday afternoon, and tried to avoid thinking about it, but then later I saw it was the eighth-most read article as of 11:30 p.m. last night (14 Jan 2013) and I couldn't ignore it any longer.

Where to start? How about the beginning: 
 January is a time for sobriety.
Says fucking who? January is merely the first month of the year. That's it. Wikipedia fails to mention anything about January being a time for sobriety. So does everywhere else. If anything, January is the month when New Year's resolutions are broken in spades.  I've never made a New Year's resolution, by the way.  It's not that I'm afraid of failing; it's more to do with whenever I decide to do or change something, I don't feel this daft need to wait until the beginning of the next year to do it. I'll do it immediately, or maybe the next day if I feel like procrastinating. A week tops.

It's the only time of year in the UK when a lot of people bond over not drinking.
No it isn't.  Ever hear of Alcoholics Anonymous? They do it year-round. Although membership statistics are hard to discern, the Plymouth AA site estimates about 40,000 UK members. That's "a lot" of people, who are bonding over not drinking.

Oh, this is a good one:
Those responding to campaigns like this can face a tricky month. Nobody wants to avoid socialising for a whole month, but with the British mania for social lubrication it's hard to avoid temptation.
OK, who ever said you have to avoid socialising in order to be sober?  And "British mania for social lubrication"? That makes it sound like every last one of us belongs in AA.  This is confusing the "traditional" pint with mates with mania -- and that's asinine.
Occasions that seem to have no particular connection to drinking are still alcohol-laden occasions in British society. Sport's associated with health, but how many people gather for a game of five-a-side football and hit the bar immediately afterwards?
Big deal. So do a lot professional athletes after a game.  Yet people aren't drinking whilst they're playing sports ... most of them, anyway.  Is it a fucking crime to have a pint or two after a match?  Perhaps a little something to help ease the pain of being kicked in shins for an hour? C'mon, give the people a break.
Five-a-side centres typically have a bar to cater for this desire and Carling launched a 2% beer for the post-football drinkers.
Sounds like a good business plan to me -- why let potential customers take their business elsewhere? And, oh my god, a 2% Carling for the post-football drinkers!  Ooh, those clever Big Alcohol people targeting the vulnerable post-football drinkers. That'll be their undoing, certainly.

In the "What you reading fer?" category: 
Book club usually means drinking. Many base themselves in pubs and even a Sunday lunchtime meeting can still mean endless glasses of cheap white wine.
I did not know that book clubs gather in pubs or that they were "alcohol-laden" events. Those that do gather in a pub probably do so because the pub is the traditional meeting place in most villages, towns and cities (again, excepting smokers these days).  It's been that way for centuries.  But this: "Endless glasses of cheap white wine."  Really?  Are you certain that "endless" is not a bit of an exaggeration, Tom?  Endless?  Fuck me. Endless. Who knew?
It's possible to turn a drink down, especially if you have religious dispensation. But for everyone else, eyebrows may be raised if one is not driving, pregnant, or on antibiotics.
Oh, noes! Not the raised eyebrows! How could anyone ever show their face in public again after being subjected to a raised eyebrow. Mortified, they'll likely hang themselves and make the news. There is almost a hint of conspiracy there, too.  It's all a sinister plot to get you to have a drink. Everyone else is drinking. If you don't, then you're not one of us, you're one of them.  It's all very Body Snatchers.

There's a rounds culture once you get there. You are buying into the collective.Anyone abstaining is sending a message to the group. "If someone opts out from the group it's almost like a rejection," says social anthropologist Kate Fox, author of Watching the English. "Others will get drunk and silly and the one opting out will look on a bit pious and disapproving." 
Well, there is that.  Of course, you can still buy a round for your mates even if you're on the tonic water with lime.  In fact, if you're worried about how others might perceive your abstinence, you can fib and tell them that your drink is a double gin and tonic.
So what can the alcohol abstainer do without becoming a hermit? Lobby group Drink Aware suggests karaoke [...]
Heh. You could, but do you really want to? The only time I ever did karaoke was in 1991, in Japan, and we were all absolutely thrashed, which I understand is the preferred Japanese method.  I think most people only ever attempt karaoke after a few drinks, because that's when you feel like a rock star the most.

While we're on the topic of suggested things to do whilst sober, these gems appeared in the BBC article in the sidebar:
  • Ride around on London Underground, where alcohol has been banned since June 2008
Are you fucking kidding me?  Ride around on the Tube. We only take the Tube when we have to take the Tube. Why the hell would we willingly subject ourselves to being sardined with a bunch of people who have just come from the pub?  Think this one through, BBC.  Think it through...
  • Visit Fitzpatrick's in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, UK's last temperance bar, serving wide range of cordials
There's a reason why it's the last temperance bar in the UK.  I'll give you one guess.
  • Rave at Breakin' Out in Wales, alcohol-free music festival (2012 headliners included Tinchy Stryder)
To begin, let's set aside that it's in Wales (and why am I not surprised at all by that?). Let's also avoid asking the question: who the fuck is Tinchy Stryder? (Sorry. I asked it anyway.) And this is the real important bit, it happened last fucking year, in September!  Ain't nothing planned for this year yet, certainly not in January, when "a lot of people" want to bond over not drinking, apparently. Way to be timely, BBC and Tom.

The BBC's idea of a good time? Jeez.

There's plenty more in the article to sneer at, but I've covered enough.

It comes down to this: If you don't want to drink on a night out, then don't. You don't have to be pregnant or on antibiotics to say no thanks. You don't need to make excuses.  The only person you need to answer to is yourself.  Articles like the above from the BBC often reinforce the warped agenda of the prohibitionists, that you are all victims and helpless addicts, unable to take control of your life, or that there is something inherently wrong about the British way of life and you.

It's sad that there are those who seek to destroy British culture and traditions in the name of paternalism and socialism.  They want you to feel ashamed for who you are and the things you choose to do.  But you don't need to feel ashamed because you want to have a pint (or "endless glasses of cheap white wine") and a fag. Before the smoking ban, the heart of almost all communities was the pub and it was a natural place to meet up even if you were going somewhere else. The anti-smokers ripped out that heart and stamped on it.  Now some of the same people have moved on to alcohol control. And they won't be satisfied until every last one of us is forced to conform and adhere to their beliefs.

I don't believe that Britain has a drinking problem. The one problem we do have is that we lack the national will to once again round up all of the puritans, march them up the gangway, hoist anchor and ship them off to another country where they can torment each other with their misguided religious beliefs and leave us in peace to live out our lives as we see fit.

Maybe history will repeat itself...  one can only hope... for really rough seas... and a bit of scurvy, too.

UPDATE:  I've just seen that Frank Davis also wrote about this article, which you can read here.  It gave him the creeps, too.