I just got this comment on a previous post, and it struck me that the timing was appropriate. I was looking for something to write about at end of year, and this challenge begs a response. Read the comment first.
No offense to you, but I just do not understand why so many people have to be drunk in this country. It seems like if you are not a "drinker", then society looks down on you. Why?This screed sums up a lot of what passes for anti-alcohol, New Dry "thought:" everyone who drinks is a drunk, the only reason people drink is to get blind drunk, children will all drink alcohol at every opportunity, alcohol is an evil that society must be protected from by the government and societal strictures, and life can be enjoyed without alcohol. As such, it deserves a response. "Anonymous," here's my look at "Why We Drink."
I am 35 years old, never drank and have no desire to. I live in Maryland, a state that denies anyone to smoke in public, even considering a ban on smoking in your own home yet you can drink til the cows come home. I was at a restaurant where the manager received a complaint about a smoker standing outside the entry so he called the police and they made the person leave the property. Yet during the same visit to this place [Fuddruckers in Columbia], they sell beer to anyone who has the money. There are open containers of beer on pretty much every table in the place on a weekday afternoon. This drinker [aka: loser], he got up to go to the bathroom, and while gone, two kids maybe 11 or 12 years old walked up and drank from that bottle of booze.
During my visit there, this same person drank 2 beers and looked like he had some before getting to the restaurant too. When I complained to the guy and the manager, everyone acted as if I was from another planet. Like nothing is wrong with everybody getting boozed up and stumbling around and allowing minors to have free access to illegal products.
It seems to me that america is seriously flawed in their values now, we have major issues going on currently including a "depression" hitting the economy, jobs being lost daily, shitty healthcare standards, and so much more. Yet our leaders are focused on blocking marriage to those that want it, are entitled to it, etc. I bet a guy could marry his keg of beer though if he wanted to!!!
In closing, I just don't get it. Want is the fascination with drinking.......is life that sad that everyone would rather be lost in a liquor fog that to face realty and deal with life 1-on-1.
Why do we drink? We drink because our ancestors and forefathers drank, with traditions going back thousands of years. The first drinkers probably drank because of the mind-expanding effects of alcohol. Alcohol is not, as is commonly said, simply a depressant. It is a much more complex drug. When they drink too much, some people weep, some laugh, some fight, some become gregarious, and some fall asleep. But all have impaired judgment, impaired attention, slowed reflexes. Drinking too much can be dangerous; drinking too much, too often, can ruin your life.
Given the potential danger of alcohol, then, why do we drink? The traditions we put around alcohol, much like the rituals we put around sex, or eating, or religion, regulate our enjoyment...if we heed them. We drink with friends, we drink in groups, and we assign a stigma to drinking alone. Cultures with stronger versions of these fences around drinking generally have a healthier attitude towards drinking. Laws have been tried to substitute for these cultural strictures, generally without success, any more than a law against puppies would succeed (yet most Islamic cultures shun dogs as unclean, resulting in dogless cities without anti-dog laws...).
So we drink in moderation. This is the concept that seems to escape the New Drys like "Anonymous." To the Drys -- not non-drinkers, but the anti-drinkers -- any drinking is being drunk. To be honest, I don't understand "why so many people have to be drunk in this country" either. But I truly do not understand why some people equate moderate drinking with drunkenness. It is as if drinking is a binary switch: don't drink, and you're sober and upright; drink one beer and you're "a drunk" and a menace. Do they believe that everyone who drives floors it as soon as they get out of the driveway?
We drink for pleasure. Drinks taste good, once one has developed the taste for them. There is nothing non-alcoholic that tastes like a good beer; if there were, we'd drink it. There is nothing non-alcoholic that tastes like whisky, or gin, or wine of any quality. The non-drinker knows nothing of these tastes, the aromas. Alcohol carries aromas in spirits and wine and beer like the alcohol in perfume; there is nothing like it without the alcohol. The effects of yeasts and distillation and barrel-aging create aromas that are too delicate to survive "de-alcoholization."
We drink to bond. Drinking is best enjoyed as a social activity among friends, family, or lovers. Moderate alcohol use leads to "social lubrication," a disinhibition of shyness, a willingness to speak without the howling mania of drunkenness. A few beers, a couple hours of conversation, and you have a fine afternoon. You can have that without the beers, to be sure, but if it is pleasant with the beers...then why the antipathy? Some cultures even tend to drink weaker beers to prolong the golden period of 'lubrication.'
We drink because we can, not because we have to. I had two beers this afternoon with lunch. I'm going to go out and have another this evening. I won't be drunk, I had no intention to. I went out for a meal, and tonight I'm going out to spend some time with my wife on a holiday. I could do it without alcohol, and oftentimes I do. I don't really know of anyone who drinks with every meal, and I don't know where anti-drinkers got that idea. "You can have fun without drinking," is the constant refrain, and they're right. But you can drink without getting bust-up drunk, too. Drinking is optional, though if I'm at Oktoberfest, I'm having a beer. If I don't want a beer, I'm probably not going to go to the beer hall in the first place.
We drink despite the disapproval of non-drinkers. "Anonymous" feels left out, looked down on, because they don't drink. Yet drinkers are looked down on all the time, oppressed even: that's why there are "sin taxes" on booze, that's why there are laws that disallow drinking to all because of the actions of the few who overdo drinking. I don't know of any laws that punish non-drinkers, I don't look down on them...so long as they don't look down on me. "Anonymous" crosses that line. But you know? Despite that, I'll probably have a drink later. And more tomorrow, when we toast the New Year with family. And no one will be drunk, or "lost in a liquor fog."
We drink because we like it. Those who choose not to drink do so for their own reasons. If a person is over-served, and becomes an annoyance -- to a majority, not one whiny teetotaler -- then sanctions should be imposed: cut off, sent home, shaming. But if a person is simply enjoying a beer...where exactly is the harm? There is none. Indeed, there is a benefit. Booze means jobs: production, transport, retail, advertising, sales, marketing...even writing. Booze means taxes (unfortunately). Booze means places to go for fun, because sales keep restaurants afloat. Towns in the South that have been dry for decades are turning to booze because restaurants don't want to be in dry towns. No one forces anyone to drink, but why do some people get to force others not to?
That is why we drink. I doubt this will clear anything up for "Anonymous." But I will sign my name to it.
-- Lew Bryson 12/31/08