There’s an awful lot of hand-wringing these days over the binge drinking epidemic. Well, here’s a really obvious thought. Maybe all those teenagers and 20-somethings are only living up to the example we’ve set them on all kinds of fronts.
Think about it. Society today is full of bingers. We’re all bingers. We consume anything and everything in ever-increasing proportions, usually to the point of excess and often to the point of vulgarity.
Forget the obvious cases of food and booze for a minute. Take entertainment. Remember the days when you’d passively sit back and wait for your weekly instalment of TV drama? That is sooo 2005.
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I would like to propose a toast.
Here’s to the arsehole back in 2005 that chipped my tooth and broke my hand while I was out trying to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
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During the last six months I’ve had to stop drinking. Pregnancy and alcohol are a “no-no,” and I haven’t felt like it anyway.
Enforced “dryness” has been interesting. It’s made me think twice about who I want to socialise with and also made me reflect on the drinking habits I’ve established over the last few years.
When you’re not drinking and hanging out with people who are, and “getting on it,” the scene quickly becomes intensely boring.
It was around 11 in the morning and Aunty Mavis came to the door. It had been raining: her wig was askew and her badly drawn on eyebrows were running down into her eyes. As usual, she had a bottle of Stone’s Green Ginger wine in a string bag.
It was just before lunchtime and my sisters and I were sitting around the Formica table in my grandparents’ kitchen shelling peas onto newspaper, preparing for a baked dinner. She came in and was drinking with Nanna who was peeling potatoes in the sink. Grandad was out the back, drunk, listening to the races.
Remember the Alanis Morissette song Ironic?
It was pretty popular around the time I was introduced to alcohol and it also rang in my ears as I read that researchers at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK are advising an “alcohol allowance” to help prevent today’s teens from “falling into …the binge drinking trap”.
That’s right. They believe it’s inherently safer for teenagers to be given alcohol rations from their parents than be left to their own devices, hooking up with friends and buying from pubs or off-licences with a fake ID.
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Those of us who enjoy the occasional night on the razz often have a special outfit that we like to wear when hitting the town. Some years ago I worked in a newsroom which had a communal purple silk tie which was shared around like the yellow jacket in the Tour de France. When worn it became code for: I am leaving the office, and may be some time.
Carlton’s Brendan Fevola is in a league of his own when it comes to his fashion regimen. This elite A-grade sorting superstar seems reluctant to leave the house unless he’s frocked up, literally, in a pink petticoat, felt bowler hat with flowers in it, and a foot-long sex toy which he either hangs out the front of his pants or waves above his head.
He did it at the end of last year’s season, snapped by a casual punter who recognised him as he stood looking like something out of A Clockwork Orange on a Melbourne CBD street corner in broad daylight.
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Australia’s binge drinking culture sure is a divisive issue. But to put it simply we have two options. Stand by and do nothing and risk the $16bn alcohol toll escalating further out of control, or do something to break the cycle and make us a safer country.
Last week, when I asked the readers of The Punch for a solution, there were some comments which suggested that I wanted to turn Australia into a nanny state.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. And just so we’re crystal clear I don’t want to or ever plan to introduce prohibition.
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BEN Cousins still drinks. I discovered this in Fred Pawle’s excellent piece on the AFL’s favourite recreational drug user in this month’s GQ magazine. I also learned that the Louis Vuitton drawstring (tracksuit) pants he wore in the photo shoot cost $1460, but I won’t get into that except to say footballers have changed.
It would not be such a revelation that Cousins still enjoys the odd beer had he not spent the slabs of his career heading out for a quiet drink after the game, only to emerge four days later on the front of The West Australian in the same jeans, white thongs and Elwood t-shirt. In his final season at West Coast, he was spending more time with bikies than at training.
We’ve been led to believe Cousins’ transformation from druggie to role model is complete, but Pawle’s article proves he has a long way to go. When asked if he still has a drink, Cousins’ reply was sheepish. “Yeah…I have to be careful with that sort of stuff,” he said.
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Newsflash: smoking is bad for you. So, apparently, is drinking to excess. And, wait for it, regularly gouging on fatty foods is no good either. It’s shocking, I know. Better go get a coffee to help get over it all; but do make it one of those low fat, caffeine free types so as to look after yourself.
Maybe, however, you happen to be one of the 99 per cent of people who knew these things to be the facts of life already. You may still engage in one or some of them, but you do so knowing that there are risks.
This informed consent that you grant yourself is under threat. A new buzz-phrase is sweeping the bureaucracy and is being visited upon us all. It’s called “preventative health”.
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Tougher penalties for alcohol-related offences were the most popular response to a call from Family First Senator Steve Fielding for new ideas on tackling binge drinking in Australia.
But that was from those who agreed it was a problem in the first place. Many were also of the view Australia’s relationship with alcohol is just fine, and there was some mirth at Senator’s shock at a staff member who confessed to drinking 12 “jagerbomb” cocktails the night before playing cricket.
“12… 12… IS THAT ALL HOW SOFT ARE YOU!” was the response of one proud binger.
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Gary Reinbach died a couple of days ago in the UK of alcoholic liver failure, aged just 22.
His life could have been saved with a liver transplant, but Gary didn’t qualify because he wasn’t well enough to leave hospital to prove he could clean himself up and deserved a second shot at growing up.
Obviously the allocation of donor organs has to comply with a set of criteria, such is the limited supply. But it seems amazing to me a 22-year-old could be told he wasn’t worth being on the list.
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