Saturday, January 29, 2005

Cultural Views on Drinking

Mr. McNeely mentioned in his e-mail regarding the Taste of Scotland outing that he planned to write and talk about responsible drinking in conjunction with the event. I thought I'd pass on a couple of interesting articles that I read recently on the topic of alcohol use in Britain.

The first article is from the British news magazine The Economist. You have to pay to view the article on-line but I'd be glad to pass on my print copy to anyone interested. The article addressed drinking as one of the largest societal problems facing Britons, primarily at the hours when the pubs shut down.

Ironically enough, the government has been thinking of addressing this issue by liberalizing the current licensing laws and removing any restrictions on when alcohol can be sold. The theory is, if there is no set time when pubs have to close, it will ease the problem of turning masses of imbiber's out onto the streets at the same time following last call. Apparently there have been incidents where patrons have skirmished over taxis and the like, not to mention the ones who are driving... the article was subtitled "Vikings in the Piazza".

The second article is the latest UCG commentary from the Church's web site; Mr. Peter Hawkins, a UCG pastor in England, writes about the problem of binge drinking in European culture. It's very interesting, and talks about the progression from social drinking, where many begin, to full out alcoholism. Here's a link to the commentary:

As a final comment, I learned something interesting in one of my classes a couple of weeks ago. The class is called Digital Media and Pop Culture, and it explores the origins and societal impact of electronic media such as television and video games. In this class the teacher was discussing the very early history of what eventually led to the movie industry; at that time period in society (1890-1910), American cities were vastly increasing in size due to large numbers of European immigrants.

Many who lived within the cities were working whatever jobs were available, and many of those required very taxing and strenuous labor for 12 to 14 hours per day. In this environment, he said that most folks were looking for "pockets of ready-made instant gratification" to serve as entertainment and stress relief in lives otherwise filled with hard work and scrapping for a living. Interestingly, he mentioned as a side-note that in that environment, the major past-time of many was ... you guessed it: drinking.

In our current culture where long hours and hard, stressful weeks have once again become the norm, it would be interesting to know how much drinking has revived as a national pastime...