Not by me: Stop boozing after four drinks? The public health people just don’t want us to have fun
Nothing better sums up the out-of-touchness of public health prigs than the debate about so-called binge drinking. To these teetotal, ciggie-dodging suits, for whom fun is the foulest of f-words, and who are such miserabilists that they’re made sad by the idea of happy hour, anything more than four units of booze a day for a bloke, and three for a lady, counts as binging.
Four units is two pints of weak lager. Three units is a large glass of wine. Are these people for real? That’s lunch for many of us. On party nights most of us have more than that before we even don our glad rags and leave the house. Consider it pre-drunkenness, in anticipation of actual drunkenness, which is often followed by blind drunkenness. If it’s a binge to have a couple of weak pints of beer then, hell, I’ve already binged today. (I’m writing this in a bar in Dublin, where two pints is an appetiser, not a binge).
It’s fairly amusing so do read the whole thing. I link to this because of something I noticed while beginning my study of alcohol and HIV: Physicians and anthropologists study alcohol very differently. The former almost universally treat consumption of alcohol — really any consumption of alcohol — as a bad, evil, unhealthy, bad, bad, BAD pathology that must be eliminated. The latter are far more concerned with why people drink, what sort of role it plays, the social context, etc. I admit to finding the latter more interesting and really more realistic. People have been drinking for thousands of years; they’ve always drank; they always will drink.
There may have been a shift in the role of alcohol, however. It used to be fully the equivalent of a staple food, not more of a recreational beverage like it is now. That’s largely because we don’t really have much of any food security problems anymore; we have abundant food and abundant clean water, so we really don’t need to use food material to make alcohol. In the past, booze was a way of turning vegetal matter and iffy water into a lot of safe calories. Now, not so much.
I like the paradox. Alcohol, notably beer, has been a large part of the diet for a long time but people have recognized its dangers as well, with even the ancient Egyptians recognizing the problems associated with alcohol to excess:
I am told, thou forsakest writing, thou gives thyself up to pleasure; thou goest from street to street, where it smelleth of beer, to destruction. Beer, it sendeth men from thee, it sendeth thy soul to perdition. (Papyrus Anastasi, iv and v)
So perhaps with our abundant food the cost-benefit analysis may have shifted in favor of less alcohol? Maybe. It’s a bit irrelevant, at least in the near term, as people still like to drink.