Rob’s ideas will drive you to drink

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

NOW, at the hour of our need, when all around is chaos and mad­ness, not to men­tion the mil­i­tant stu­pid­ity at the uni­ver­si­ties, Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Rob Davies pro­poses to make it harder for us get a drink. Shame on him. Davies is among our more dowdy com­mu­nists. Ev­ery morn­ing there comes a class strug­gle with the wardrobe and the predilec­tion for flap­ping trousers the tone and weft of which serve as fairly damn­ing in­dict­ments of col­lec­tivism and com­mit­tee plan­ning.

Like all com­mu­nists, he is a deeply con­ser­va­tive pu­ri­tan and the pro­posed amend­ments to the Na­tional Liquor Act he an­nounced this week re­veal a sus­pi­cion, if not out­right dread, of those who may be hav­ing fun some­where.

His plans come with at­ten­dant hor­ror sto­ries and statis­tics of foetal al­co­hol syn­drome, road deaths, soggy brains, the na­tional propen­sity for throw­ing away the stop­per when­ever a bot­tle is opened and what have you.

Nat­u­rally, he blames busi­ness for all this. “Busi­ness, as usual,” he said, “is not mak­ing it bet­ter, it’s ac­tu­ally mak­ing it worse.” Which may well be the case.

But given the links be­tween poverty and al­co­holism we could just as eas­ily say it is the govern­ment and weak poli­cies that are at fault here.

But Davies wants a “full-on” na­tional de­bate on the mat­ter. Here goes.

He wants to raise the le­gal drink­ing age to 21 and said there was ev­i­dence our brains don’t fully de­velop un­til we were well into our twen­ties. The im­pact of al­co­hol abuse was more se­vere on half-formed brains than on fully de­vel­oped ones.

There is just as much ev­i­dence, though, to sug­gest such a ban would only lead to in­creased binge-drink­ing among the youth. But why stop at 21? Why not 35? That, surely, would take care of abuse of al­co­hol among the youth. And, be­sides, if your brain hasn’t fully de­vel­oped by then, well, there is lit­tle hope for you any­way.

Davies also pro­poses lim­its on mar­ket­ing, in­clud­ing a ban on ad­verts aimed at young peo­ple – which does sug­gest a woe­ful ig­no­rance of the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try.

Firstly, ad agen­cies are run by young peo­ple. And so their cam­paigns fea­ture young peo­ple. Look at the fash­ion mag­a­zines. Full of skinny 15-year-old girls. Who wears the clothes they’re mod­el­ling? Their moth­ers.

It’s the same thing with mo­tor­ing com­mer­cials. They’re full of young peo­ple who won’t be able to af­ford a new car for the next 15 or 20 years. But it’s rich old folk who buy the wheels.

So when you see a beer com­mer­cial shot in a night­club packed with half­naked Kar­dashian klones wrapped around the dude with the alco-pop, who’s it aimed at? Delu­sional old men, that’s who. Re­search has any­way shown mil­len­ni­als don’t drink nearly as much as pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions did.

Per­haps the sil­li­est of Davies’s pro­pos­als is the ban on new liquor li­cences to out­lets lo­cated within 500m of schools, recre­ational cen­tres or places of wor­ship.

Which means no new liquor li­cences – ever – for, let’s say, an old, tiny sub­urb like Ob­ser­va­tory. Think about it. You move 500m from any church or school in Ob­ser­va­tory and you’ll be in Mow­bray or Salt River. Where they have yet more churches and schools. And so it goes.

Short of a cul­ture of re­spon­si­ble drink­ing – like in France, let’s say, and the Ma­hogany Ridge – the best way to re­duce al­co­hol abuse is to take up dagga in­stead.

Much has been writ­ten on the mer­its of mar­i­juana. There’s reams of the stuff out there ex­tolling the virtues of cannabis; how hemp can be used to make di­verse com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial prod­ucts in­clud­ing rope, food, pa­per, tex­tiles, plas­tics, in­su­la­tion, bio­fuel and cloth­ing. As for its med­i­cal prop­er­ties, well, we could be here all day.

But let’s not kid our­selves. The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who use dagga do so to get high. A bit of eu­pho­ria to cut the edge off an oth­er­wise grim day. Which is more or less why peo­ple en­joy a glass or wine or two af­ter work.

Time spent with a joint, though, is far more healthy than drink­ing. The usual vi­o­lence as­so­ci­ated with drunk be­hav­iour is ab­sent with ston­ers.

Con­sider the rugby this af­ter­noon. Our hearts may want it oth­er­wise, but we’re more or less re­signed to the fact that the All Blacks are go­ing to be teach­ing the Boks a lesson in Dur­ban.

And yet there will be rugby fans out there, awash with beer, who’ll want to ar­gue and scrap with one an­other af­ter­wards. There will be blows and there will be tears.

With dagga, though, there will just be gig­gling. And maybe the munchies.

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