The Culture and Policy of Symptom Control









While a second bailout package to whip the liability called Greece into shape to prevent a further deterioration of the eurozone crisis is being finalised, Prime Minister Cameron has conjured up a plan to address another pressing matter that lies on a more national level. As the second bail-out package is to save the euro in its current state, Cameron’s plan is to save the nation’s liver by tackling Britain’s binge drinking culture. However, more money and austerity for Greece and less cheap booze for the Brits seem more like symptom control rather than a solution to the actual problem.

Many a foreigner is intrigued, amused and/or disgusted by the Brits’ attitude towards the consumption of alcohol. Even if you have never set foot on the British Isles, a visit to one of those sunny, inexpensive holiday destinations that are scattered along the the Mediterranean coast popular with the 16-to-25-year-old of all nationalities forces one to concluded that: A) the Brits drink too much B) the Brits can’t hold their drink C) the Brits don’t care about holding themselves when they have a drink or 10 D) all of the above. Although I have adapted considerably to my second home land, do allow me to give you a Continental insight into British drinking culture.

In a murky past when I was waiting tables, while still not able to pay my rent, I once waited on a large table of people in their mid-twenties celebrating someone’s birthday. All had dressed up and were in the mood for some food and drinks and a general good time. To voice this general mood someone shouted; ‘what are we gonna do?’ To which the crowd replied: ‘We’re gonna get shit-faced!’ ‘What are we gonna do?’ ‘We’re gonna get shit-faced! ‘What! Are! We! Gonna! Do!’ ‘We’re gonna get shit-faaaaaced!’ They might as well have shouted they were going to grab any dog they could find in the street and throw it through a neighbour’s window, such was my bemusement. Alcohol being a mind-altering substance that removes inhibitions seems to be the ideal social lubricant. Consuming alcohol may attribute to general jolliness and/or engaging conversation. By making drunkenness the objective rather than the by-product of a social engagement one tends to miss out on the process. Drunkenness as an objective makes a comatose-like state of inebriation less of an embarrassment and even something of an achievement.

Those, Cameron included, who believe that binge drinking is an issue of class or maturity should think again. The middle classes and the more mature might neither voice the purpose of their overindulgence nor be sick in public. They are, however not drinking any less, yet still step into their cars to drive themselves god-knows-where-but-you-assume-it’s-home.

Cameron’s suggestions of mobile casualty units and so-called ‘drunk tanks’, small cells for those who had too much to sober up, will by no means influence the Brits’ attitude towards booze. More bailout money is not addressing the challenges related to a common currency without a common fiscal policy. Both British drinking culture as well as the fiscal policies of the eurozone can be changed. However, it requires an awful lot more balls and innovation than is currently displayed by those we did and didn’t vote into power to lead us to the promised land.

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