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On Tuesday I wrote a post on Catford Bridge Tavern, and I’ve had an overwhelming readership of this posting, interestingly from many parts of the world. I’m really pleased people have discovered the blog, and pleased to spread the word about my new favourite pub!

For anyone new to my blog, this is a project to give my reflective view on consumerism, in particular: consuming alcohol.

Since Wednesday’s lecture I’ve been thinking about:

‘dark consumerism’ and where the power lies in the phenomenon of consuming drink.

Deborah E. Gibbons says we have no choice but to choose. Consumption is not really an option, but a necessity. The choices we make shape our lifestyles. When we wake in the morning and you turn on the light you are in-fact consuming. But what about when it comes to non-essential consumables, and hedonic consumption like alcohol?

Determinism

How far do we have power as consumers? So much is already decided for us. Of course we have free will but wasn’t I somehow destined to be a drinker? I was born into a middle class, traditionally British family, with no radical views. I was born into Britain where drinking is not just acceptable but a very central part of our culture. In the countryside we have wonderful old pubs. The local community is founded on the Church the Post Office and the Pub. Now less of us are Church-goers, and many Post Offices are being shut down, the pub is a lifeline to our community as a gathering place.

As young adults there is virtually no social event without the presence of alcohol. If, however, I’d lived in another country, or been brought up in the Salvation Army or Musilm etc, life would have been very different.

I believe one of the things that divides us in a multi-ethnic society is alcohol. In Channel 4’s ‘Making Bradford British’ an Asian taxi driver sees drunken mini-skirted young women, and lager louts sprawled in the streets at night. He says being ‘British’ is about going on nights out and getting bladdered.

This is a jaundiced view of our country, but sadly it is also one part of our culture. One I feel is getting out of control.When did we lose control?

Alcohol is a Drug

Alcohol is essentially a drug. A mind altering substance. I hate drugs and would never think of using them, even if cannabis became legalised I wouldn’t try it. I’ve put too much into my education to actively choose to mess up my brain with drugs! But alcohol is a light form of drug is it not? It alters perception. It makes you more confident and heightens you’re emotions whether happy or sad. And the scary bit is it is addictive. People get treated for addiction all the time.

So why do I accept alcohol and not other drugs? And why is caffeine OK? Well, I believe all things are essentially bad if over consumed. Even Oxygen is bad for you if you consume too much of it! Life is all about balance. And OK we don’t always get this balance right, but it is possible. Lots of beers even have a good mix of nutrients in them that are helpful to the body. Hence Guinness’s old slogan that its good for you.  Though really there’s also bad stuff in there so overall you can’t really market that as a ‘health’ product these days!

I see alcohol as a treat, much like sitting down with a Cadbury’s Cream egg or a thick slice of mum’s homemade chocolate cake. I know it’s not going to be kind to my hips, or my internal organs, but hey -you have to life life!!

Power to choose and our underlying motivations

Who is responsible for the effects alcohol is having on our country?

  • Should we re-address parenting?

Difficult. And I know people from great family backgrounds that still go crazy with drink anyway -can it be helped by parents? Especially as the poblem is not just teenagers but adults too.

  • Should marketers stop advertising to us -like cigarettes?

No, I love beer and lager ads. I don’t like Fosters, and I won’t be more likely to drink it, but I love their ads. I truly believe marketers do not have the power to put need or want there without it first beginning within ourselves. You might want a Dyson because the adverts have made you aware they have this new technology -but it essentially fixes a problem you knew you had (if you do the housework). You might try a beer or a perfume because you like the ad. But if you didn’t like the smell/taste, you wont buy it again however funny or sexy it was.

  • Should we raise the minimum age to 21 like America?

Teens start drinking before the age of 18, what will raising this limit do?

  • The government is further considering the minimum pricing of alcohol -will this make a difference?

I know if alcohol became too expensive for us in my undergrad days we’d probably have made it, or bought it on the black market. I knew smokers that did that with their local off-licence: there’s cigarettes under the counter you can ask for with no English on the packaging -at a suspiciously low price….

Pricing is a factor though. The biggest changes  to your consumption of alcohol can be the product price. Pubs where they have a slightly higher price usually yield different clientèle. The punters are completely different from those in say a Weatherspoons. These punters’ motivation for drinking in this local is about enjoyment of the drinks in themselves-not in ‘getting pissed’. If I simply wanted to get pissed I find the cheapest place to get the cheapest bottle on the shelf, or pint in the bar.

But it goes further than these broad characterisations of punters and pubs. Often you find yourself in a situation where you are in a place purely because of social courtesy. Then if its really expensive -or you can’t see a price list -you get more ‘long’ drinks to see you through longer. Or you don’t get what you want want but something that’s on offer.

Though we might choose to consume alcohol, and where and when and how much and what type, I put it to you that in this culture, alcohol is chosen for you if you want to remain a part of that cultural society. It is like a rite to entry, a ritualistic shared experience that says: you are one of us.

But then this just won’t fit with my pure enjoyment of alcohol -well ales mainly. I love them. I love the variety, their smells, tastes, colours, textures (bubbly/thick/etc), everything. There’s some alcoholic drinks I don’t particularly like so I don’t drink them.

I’ll take last night. A friend’s birthday. Before I went I really didn’t want to go. I had a headache, my partner had cooked tea for us, I was tired. But, I went. And I’m glad I did. The cocktails were great and on a deal, the group was mixed with people I knew and people I didn’t -always fun getting to know friends’ friends 🙂 and I wanted to celebrate a friend’s birthday, so it was great to see her.

So going back to my consumption of alcohol and my choice -no, I didn’t have a choice of the venue, but I did have a choice whether or not to drink alcohol. Though I expect I would have gone home a lot sooner had I not been slightly intoxicated to get over nerves of talking to new people and annoyance at ear-piercing noise.

Free will is limited to a certain extent:

As much as we may like the things we consume, perhaps a good half or even 3/4 of the time we are actually consuming it because the social scenario leads us to. After-all, I don’t drink alone (often)!

Your comments are welcomed.

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