(Ironically, this post was written after a few glasses of high-price bubbly)
If I’m going to keep getting into arguments about this on The Standard, I figured I might as well lay out my thinking here on the drinking age question. An earlier post on the topic is here.
Here’s the martyred cries I keep hearing:
“But we have a terrible drinking culture and we have to protect kids from it!”
These are “kids” who can vote, drive, fuck, get married, and join our military to die overseas. And yet even when we’re acknowledging that the drinking culture in this country is a problem created by an older generation who also like to binge drink and drive drunk, somehow we feel justified in punishing young, yet grown, adults for our own cock-ups.
It’s patronising and shitty, and anyone who genuinely remembers being a teenager will figure out pretty quickly that it’s also counterproductive.
“But drinking causes harm in ways marriage and voting doesn’t!”
Right, because voting in a reactionary rightwing government which will strip our assets and throw beneficiaries on the streets is much better than a couple of people vomiting into the otherwise-pristine gutters of Courtenay Place.
“But alcopops are terrible!”
If you’re calling them “alcopops”, I immediately assume you’re over 30 and have no fucking idea what you’re talking about. It’s like drugs: when the media starts panicking about “Liquid Fantasy” you can bet any amount of money you like that no teen worth their salt is calling it that stupid name.
I literally had to sit relatives of mine down to convince them that “alcopops” are not, in fact, available in your local dairy. You can buy them at liquor stores or bars, places where you should already be showing ID to purchase alcohol.
“But older people buy the alcohol for younger people!”
Yes. Usually their parents. But clearly the problem here is booze-hungry youngsters.
“But you shouldn’t be able to buy alcohol when you’re still at school!”
Sucks to be a 21-year-old who’s still at school then. And really, really sucks that you might be 18, still at school, and able to FUCK, GET MARRIED, DRIVE AND JOIN THE MILITARY but not have a beer to celebrate any of these things.
“But kids don’t realise how alcoholic those alcopops are!”
Still with the “alcopops”. Seriously, it’s a stupid name. Stop it.
You know what happens if you drink a 6-pack of Vodka Cruisers? (Probably not, you’re still calling them “alcopops”.) You really need to pee after about an hour. And then you get a wacky sugar high which you may mistake for drunkenness, and then an hour after that you crash out and need to find a warm sofa.
And that’s assuming you had them all to yourself and weren’t splitting it three ways with Charlene and Rhonda.
You know how most teens drink themselves to death? Sculling straight vodka. Trying to drink a 40-oz of tequila in one night. Because, oh wait, no one has taught them how to drink responsibly. Probably because Mummy and Daddy were too busy going off and getting pissed themselves to actually deal with mind-altering drugs and their children’s impending adulthood.
Alternatively, they can’t access alcohol and it’s a total Forbidden Fruit so instead – because they’re teenagers and teenagers are not particularly clever when they’re looking to have fun and get blotto – they huff paint thinner and die.
“But it’s the kids waiting outside bottle stores getting strangers to buy their alcopops that are the problem!”
The problem still seems to be that some adults don’t take our laws seriously. Explain how this is the fault of a 14-year-old whose life is so shit they’ll do anything to forget it, including drink shitty red wine.
“But alcopops are so much stronger than other drinks!”
Another line frankly trotted out by those who have forgotten teenagehood. Protip: teenagers aren’t fucking bartenders. If they’re not drinking shitty red wine in big anxious gulps, they’re pooling their resources on a shitty bottle of gin and mixing it half-and-half with orange juice because they heard about that in a song once.
Or, you know, they’re sculling straight vodka. Much safer. It’s sterile, you know.
“But I saw a story where A&E doctors totally said the problem was worse!”
Yes, such stories are always completely reliable.
“But [insert media channel here] showed young people getting really drunk!”
If everyone who ever uttered this would like to provide proof of their ability to magically tell a drunk 21-year-old from a drunk 20-years-and-10-months-old, I’m sure the bouncing industry has jobs just waiting for them.
We have a problematic drinking culture in this country. It is shown whenever someone suggests lowering the drink driving limit and the rural sector suddenly explode because how dare we transgress against a man’s right to shear a hundred sheep, get off-his-face on Speights, and then drive home with a 50/50 risk of killing another human being.
It is shown when the main objection I recall to raising alcohol taxes is that the poor superannuitants Who Gave Their Lives For Our Country won’t be able to buy as much sherry.
It is shown when major cities have utter shitfights over who gets to host the Sevens, or the V8s. Which are both of course all about the sport.
Yet who gets to hold the can for this? The young people who haven’t even figured out their relationships with alcohol yet. The young people who are trusted to fuck, trusted to sign documents tying them to another person in eternity, trusted to hold a gun and fight for our country or alternatively the US’ imperialist interests of the day, trusted to drive a vehicle and yet are not trusted to have a glass of wine with friends after work.
We protect young people by displaying a better fucking attitude to alcohol ourselves. We show young people that drunkenness can be fun if you keep a handle on things and know how you’re getting home, but that it’s not a holy grail of funtimes and the only way to enjoy yourself ever.
Maybe we could even take a serious fucking look at our youth suicide rates and wonder if maybe we’ve made life so empty and shit for our young adults that it’s no fucking wonder some of them see getting plastered as the only way to feel happy and free.
But nah, you’re right. Far too much work. Let’s just throw young adults under the bus and act all surprised when the rates of hospitalisation and binge-drinking shift upwards with each well-intentioned effort to Save The Youngsters From Themselves.