Australian Politics & Current Affairs
By Nick Kenny
“Good God, man, what a SCREAMER of a party! And there wasn’t even any alcohol there” – No one, ever.
There’s one thing missing from the new rage against alcohol that is never acknowledged by our government – booze also leads to many, many wonderful things. I’m not talking about the wowser’s cliche “I like a glass of wine or two just as much as the next person”. I’m talking about binge-drinking – the act of willingly exceeding the guidelines of four middies of beer, as dictated by the Nanny State.
As an Aussie, chances are you’ve had at least one terrible experience with alcohol and maybe even vowed to never drink again. Chances are just as likely that you’ve had many, many more wonderful experiences in which booze played in irreplaceable role. Let’s break them down.
Booze as the social lubricant for awkward gatherings
Think of the gatherings you’ve been to, many full of complete strangers, that were magically transformed into lively exchanges. Stand by and watch the initially shy and polite crowd, after meeting and greeting, delving into a night of uninhibited conversation, laughter, story-telling, and so forth. The result? The people whom you just met through a “mutual friend” can quickly and easily become your new friend, and the gathering becomes a party.
Booze as the romantic enabler
In the modern dating world, the early stages of any romantic involvement can be fraught with nervousness and apprehension. Two perfectly compatible people comically enter a back-and-forth scenario, unsure of the other’s intentions or level of interest. Enter booze, in considerable quantities. Game over. The glorious drink can make a terrible date tolerable or it can make a good date amazing. For some, Dutch Courage is the difference maker between admiration and conversation, between flirtation and escalation, and between first contact and baby creation. Quite simply, the Sweet Nectar of the Gods is an enjoyable way to disarm all the irrational impediments to love that our complicated culture imposes upon us.
Booze as a truth serum
You’ve never really known how great your friendships are until you’ve been told the following by your paralytic mate at 4am: “Bro, bro… I love you bro. Nah, nah, listen mate, listen. You don’t understand. You’re like a brother to me man. I love you so much bro!”. For those who haven’t had this utterly incoherent, alcohol-fuelled, “D&M” with a close mate, hugs and all, then you haven’t truly lived, and no explanation will suffice. For those who have, no explanation is necessary.
Booze as a refuge
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-post to me”. So sayeth the Statue of Liberty. Plagiarised, no doubt, from some kind old bartender. It’s all well and good for lawmakers and bureaucrats and medical professionals and suburban mums and dads to shun the “demon drink”. Most of these people live fast-paced, successful, comfortable, or otherwise reasonably happy lives with plenty else to keep their primal cravings appeased. Yet they blind themselves to so many other lives. There are many among us with bleak futures, agonising pasts, or destitute presents. They might be homeless, they might be reeling from an irrecoverable tragedy, they might be grinding the minimum wage for sixty-something hours per week in a dead-end job just to make ends meet, or they might just be really, really lonely. For a huge number of these forgotten people, a good hard drink is the only thing in their lives they can look forward to, one little ray of sunshine that illuminates their dark reality, giving them a brief comfort denied to them by life at every other turn.
Booze as the lifeblood of historical giants
Winston Churchill. One of the greatest orators of our time. Through his powerful speech, his dogged determination, and his masterful diplomacy, he rallied the ill-equipped isles of Great Britain against the juggernaut of Nazi Germany. Alone amongst his “peace in our time” colleagues, it was he who had the tact, the foresight, and the balls to lay His Majesty’s empire on the sacrificial alter of history stopping Adolf Hitler from sinking humanity into the abyss of a new Dark Age. And he was a right pisshead. To quote biographer Warren Kimball: “he was not an alcoholic – no alcoholic could drink that much”. In spite of the grog, or perhaps because of it, Churchill saw the war coming a mile away. He took charge, stared directly down the barrel of the German war machine, and said four simple words: “come at me brah”. Hitler, by the way, abstained from alcohol like a little bitch. Last I heard, he wasn’t doing too well.
A quick glance at history shows the blood of drunken excess flowing through the veins of scores of our greatest thinkers and achievers – Hemingway, the heavyweight champion of modern literature. Alexander the Great, the Macedonian military prodigy whose dominion overran Ancient Greece, Persia, and Egypt, stretching three continents to become the world’s most powerful empire. Ulysses S. Grant, who led the political and military campaigns against the Southern slave-owning Confederacy in the United States Civil War. Edgar Allen Poe, the Godfather of thriller and horror literature. Our own Bob Hawke, the ALP’s most successful leader and one of our finest post-war prime ministers. No modern Aussie do-gooder PM could hold a candle to this piss-pot, who once held the Guiness World Record for downing a yard glass of beer. Oppenheimer, the “Father of the Atomic Bomb”, whose project gave a sharp and sobering kick in the teeth to the Imperial Japanese, ending World War Two. And finally, Buzz Aldrin. That’s right, the bloke who walked alongside Neil Armstrong on the moon as they nailed the single most outstanding achievement in all of human history. Pissed on like a boss until two days prior, strapped himself in, walked on the motherfucking moon, came home and got straight back on the cans. Beat that.
Booze as the creative muse
Have you heard Metallica’s latest releases? Pure garbage, and they know it. They haven’t released a decent album since, well, roughly the time they stopped drinking. They now spend their days going through the motions, doing half-hearted tours, feeling sorry for themselves, and making documentaries about “getting clean”,expecting fans to stick by them while they fade away into boring old-fuckdom. Newsflash: your fans liked you because you were hardcore, and your music rocked because it was raw, candid, and straight from the heart of a “couldn’t give a fuck”hard-drinking rock star. There is an artistic genius that lurks beneath the surface of some rare individuals, and it’s a brutal paradox that it rarely comes out without some serious chemical help. You’d be hard pressed to find a rock n roller that hasn’t swum marathon laps through oceans of booze, liberating their song-writing inner child, intoxicating legions of fans by writing and performing at their intoxicated best. Paul McCartney was said to have written Yesterday while under the spell, read it the following morning, couldn’t remember writing it, then waited a full year before recording it just in case it wasn’t actually his work. It’s since become the most covered song in the world. Not a bad feat for a song about hangovers written in a drunken stupor.
Booze as barrels of fun
Finally, binge-drinking is really, really, really good fun. It is not by chance that alcohol consumption ranks as this nation’s second favourite past time, surpassed only by sex (and even that’s debatable). It has been a cornerstone of so many memorable outings in each of our lives – from the karaoke room to the dance floor, from the pre-to the post-match footy celebrations, from the Jackass stunts to the backyard WWE spin-offs, and from the craziest parties to the quietest front porch sessions. It can liven up a slow five-day test match, bring the rowdy chants to the A-League, and it can make a bloke stagger through the pouring rain singing merrily to no one but himself.
These stories need to be heard in the mindless march towards some impossibly high standard of government-enforced “good health”. We need to hear the voices of more people who see value in life measured in quality, rather than quantity of years. We need the voices of the thrill-seekers, people who want to travel roughshod through life at 100 miles an hour, arriving at death’s doorstep with a battered and bruised body, a lifetime of hilarious memories and outrageous stories, and cheeky grin on their face that says “holy s***, that was fun!”.
So yes, booze can bring out the worst in us. We know this, we’ve heard it a million times, and yet we still drink to excess. Why? Because it can just as easily bring out the best in us. Cheers to that.