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The dark side of our society: Intoxication reigns supreme

Written By: - Date published: 10:30 am, October 14th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: alcohol, crime, drugs - Tags:

The Sunday show last week featured the Prescription for Change campaign of Dr Albert Makary. Dr Makary has set out on a mission to drive social change surrounding the culture of binge drinking within our country. He hits his audience with hard facts, some disturbing trends, and presents everything in a way worth listening to. If you didn’t get the chance to see this, TVNZ on demand has it available and it’s worth a few minutes of your time.  He raises some serious concerns, and it’s hard to find fault with many of the things he has to say. There were politicians attempting to show their support, yet there seems to be no end of horrid strategies coming out of Parliament and its ‘advisors’ to deal with this ballooning problem.

In the weekend I was lucky enough to be in the centre of Christchurch, when my friend was attacked by some intoxicated cowards. I was able to offer a pitiful half hearted defence for him, as he appeared momentarily concussed, and ended up taking some unprovoked pain myself.  After this I took some time to digest my surroundings, to beef up my ‘situational awareness’. What I saw can only be described as disturbing, and although I think most people would say ‘well that’s obvious’, consciously taking in the events and surroundings of Christchurch on a Saturday night is quite a scary thing.  It was almost impossible to tell I was still in the Christchurch of five hours earlier, when I witnessed a mother and two young children walk through the square toward their destination carefree.

The dark doesn’t change the city, but those coming on to the street after the sun sets seem to. Why is it that our society appears to have two faces? A face in daylight hours offers peace, courtesy, and tolerance; yet at night this face turns sour, offering intimidation, confrontation, and almost animalistic tendencies. There will obviously always be a darker side in any society, but it seems as if the intoxication of otherwise reasonable people fuels the darker side into something extreme.

How can we invoke a change in this two faced society? One could almost mistake Christchurch on a Sunday morning for Gotham City, where people fear the streets so much that a ‘hero’ is demanded, knowing those supposedly in power are powerless when the sun sets. Maybe I’m going overboard, but I think the analogy begins to offer some idea of where things could be headed. If anything, this sort of discussion and hard hitting firsthand accounts should be propped up, allowing those demanding change some form of defined justification and goal orientation.

I feel as if this problem goes through all levels of our society. That isolating the youth as the problem will never solve this lurking evil, nor will our politicians scoring a few cheap points by taking a supposed moral stance on the legal purchasing age and pretending it will do something. When will our politicians stand up and offer some real solutions? Or at least start asking more people like Dr Makary to stand up for them.

– RiJaB

24 comments on “The dark side of our society: Intoxication reigns supreme ”

  1. ianmac 1

    Politicians are too scared of the polls to take action. Change .08 down to .05? No. Delay. Might hurt the perceptions.
    On Morning Report this morning Min Collins was asked that since the .08 to .05 could not be actioned because there was “insufficient research”, what research was there that supported her call to further arm police cars? Collins of course dodged the question so he politely repeated it but again Collins avoided it. “Oh the Commissioner of Police is preparing a paper on it now.”
    Basher Collins, who hasn’t bashed any boyracers cars yet, is a real “tough” cookie. Hah.

  2. roger nome 2

    Alcohol is just a substance that’s used as an inadequate and destructive replacement for the spiritual (no i’m not religious) sickness caused by a lack of any real and meaningful community. It’s also a much more profitable commodity than most other drugs – i.e. it takes time, money and effort for people to produce it themselves, and its high cost of production means that just a 3-4% profit margin is big dollars.

    But most people reading this will probably know these things..

    • Although Russians have traditionally high levels of alcohol consumption, since the era of stagnation under Brezhnev, there has been a chronic alcohol problem in Russia. The Soviet Union was one of the pioneers of the anti-drink driving campaign, begun under Andropov, and alcohol poisioning remains one of Russia’s biggest killers.

      How is this relevant? Rampant alcoholism in society is increasingly being viewed as a side effect of a loss of faith in the political/economic system. Increasing numbers turn to drink as a means to escape from the drudgery of reality – “I’m too drunk to care…”.
      Of course, there is also the youth aspect, the peer pressure and daring to see how far one can go etc. but this is reason for early drinking. Alcoholism is a psychological condition and is symptomatic in many cases of a loss faith – escapism.

      Give people hope – and implement change so that hope is not misplaced – then we may go someway to tackling this problem.

  3. grumpy 3

    The Blood Alcohol level for driving has FA to do with whjat happens in Christchurch in the early mornings. Of much more importance is removing the offenses of being drunk in a public place and disorderley behaviour.

    what are the police supposed to do without these useful tools? Hold hands and play “ring around the roseie” or morris dancing like a Greens lovefest? FFS

  4. Bill 4

    And on the other side, there will have been people in central Ch/ch at the same time as yourself who might have been reflecting on how much less stressful and dangerous and relatively carefree it felt in relation to the day to day life on their street.

    The city doesn’t have two faces. It has many. And interpretations of those faces is dependent upon your location within society and your home’s location within the city and it’s various suburbs, and your day to day experiences as shaped by those locations…mixtures of class, race, gender and community.

    • Rijab 4.1

      You’re right Bill, a really good point.

      However, I think the analogy of two faced society brings out a stark contrast between an individual when they’re sober/intoxicated, and how people change so dramatically while intoxicated. I think it’s a little dangerous to start suggesting that so many of these carefree people in the city center, who walk around in an almost zombie like state (in a philosophical sense), are justified in ‘escaping’ the stresses of everyday life through alcohol. Shouldn’t we focus on helping them appreciate ‘day to day life’, so that they do not have to chemically change themselves to ‘de-stress’ and be carefree?

      I know it sounds unrealistic, but the attitude we have towards alcohol is far more so if we wish to create meaningful change.

      • Bill 4.1.1

        Why would you want to attempt ‘helping them appreciate ‘day to day life’ when day to day life is not being able to be seen on a particular street in your neighbourhood without getting into a storm of strife?
        Or when day to day life is striving to perform a fishes and bread miracle to stave off utility disconnections or loan shark heavies disconnecting your shoulder with an arm twist and a slam of your face against the nearest wall?
        Or when day to day life is the parent to your kids who beats you and abuses you?
        Or when day to day life is feeding the habit that brings you back to ‘normal’?
        When day to day is less a journey through, than a stagnant stacking of one day after another day one on top of the next weighing down on you?

        On the other hand, instead of aiding some sense of appreciation, why not help change the realities of the ‘day to days’ that far too many merely endure and become crushed by?

  5. M 5

    Saw the programme and agreed with the recommendation that it drunkenness should be stigmatised. Frankly it doesn’t go far enough, part of the licensing system for bar owners should be that they cannot serve obviously shickered patrons and public drunkenness should be an offence with bowel withering fines.

    NZ is a nation of alcohol abusers if not alcoholics. Many people in their forties and fifties get sozzled of an evening by downing four or five wines and never have a drink free day. Women do not really get any benefits from drinking alcohol until after menopause so could be doing themselves irreparable harm and if of child bearing age end up producing kids with FAS.

    Most people need to wake up to the fact that drinking more than the recommended amounts is a waste of time and money, not to mention the harm done to innocent motorists or anyone else in their path in terms of domestic violence, accidents in the workplace etc.

    I’m of firm belief that if you have one drink and cannot stop at one you are an alcoholic.

    • M 5.1

      Oops, should read enforcement of not allowing drunk patrons to be served

    • Vicky32 5.2

      I have the tendency to drink too much alcohol, which is why I don’t drink alcohol at all! Ever… It’s good that I know that..

      • M 5.2.1


        Good for you. I can take alcohol or leave it and never feel compelled to drink if I don’t want to. Any drink I have is weak (spirit drinker only) but I don’t begrudge others having a few except when their aim is to get blotto or their personality is adversely affected.

        The happy drunk is a rare phenomenon indeed as many become belligerent and are total turn-offs.

  6. Ari 6

    Wow, that video goes way downhill about a quarter through and descends into blatant ageism and slut-shaming. I think they said the word “promiscuous” about six times within 30 seconds at one point.

    The point that combating our drinking also helps things social conservatives care about as well is welcome, (such as reducing unwanted pregnancy, bolstering family and sense of community, etc…) but they didn’t need to wrap it in that particularly disgusting package with a GP trying to say that sex education encourages teenagers to have sex. (how ridiculous, the reduction of women to sexual objects in corporate culture is probably more to blame here than anything else)

    The program briefly points out that 90% of binge drinkers are over 20… and then goes right back to talking about the symptoms of binge drinking as if it’s a problem solely for young women, just because they’ve joined in as well. You can’t stop binge drinking by attacking youths, because the example will still be there for the next generation looking at binge drinkers over 20 or 30. When young people can look at the All Blacks, or their favourite musicians, or actors, or whoever their heroes are, and say for a fact that “these people don’t go out and get themselves absolutely pissed”, then we will have started something. But that requires we attack on all front, banning alcohol advertising and sponsorship, putting tougher limits on the sale of bottled alcohol, (perhaps even removing it from supermarkets again) and generally making some courageous decisions.

  7. I think the sale of wine in the supermarkets has lead to a bubble of alcoholic 35yo plus woman, who in the past wouldn’t have gone out of their way to pick up a bottle of wine, but now it is so easy to chuck one in with the panty liners and nappies, and at 8 – 10 bucks a bottle it is to tempting. We have created a nation of piss head mothers, guzzling wine and Prozac.
    Have you heard the recycle truck picking up all the bottles, on a quite day you can hear the clatter for miles)

    • Vicky32 7.1

      That’s sad but true, especially on Fridays – I was at the supermarket earlier and saw so many people adding wine and beer to their trolleys, sometimes in frightening quantities! These are nice middle-class women and families. Scary!

  8. swimmer 8

    I think I’m probably alone here when I say, it’s scare mongering. Binge drinking is down on what it was years ago. Sure there are problem drinkers, but the majority of people know how to consume alcohol. There are people out there who would have others believe that there is a drunk round every corner. How about assisting the problem drinkers and leaving the rest of us alone? 🙁

    • felix 8.1

      You’re not alone. And fuck this “binge drinking” doublespeak – it’s just “drinking”.

      • Bill 8.1.1

        If I take acid, am I not doing so in order to trip?
        If I take speed, am I not doing so in order to speed?
        If I take mushrooms, am I not doing so in order to trip?
        If I smoke dak, am I not doing so to get stoned?
        If I drink alcohol, am I not doing so to get drunk?

        If not, then why bother?

        And if so, then what is the level of acid tripping that demarcates what is acceptable and not acceptable? And so on.

        And back to alcohol. Is it the level of consumption or the behaviour that’s the issue? Maybe I binge drink but do not assume the characteristics of those portrayed in the adverts? What then? Is my binge drinking okay?

        If not, why not?

        Afterall, my behaviour is indistinguishable from that of the acceptably intoxicated guy next to me and yet I’m a binge drinker. Unlike the ‘merely intoxicated’ guy over the way who hasn’t consumed much, but whose behaviour has taken on a decidedly downright disturbing bent.

        The interaction between particular drugs and individuals varies enormously. And yet the individual cannot pick and choose between different drugs and socially utilise the one best suited to them. There is alcohol. And there is alcohol. And one size does not fit all as it were.

  9. Rich 9

    I’d agree with that.

    The vast majority of people who go out and have a few drinks don’t commit violent or threatening acts. Christchurch has *more* rigid alcohol controls than either Auckland or Wellington, and yet the “drunken violence” problem is worse there.

    It isn\’t a susbstance problem, it’s a people problem. Taking away rights isn’t the way to approach it.

  10. Jeremy Harris 10

    I think it’s a cultural problem, I learnt how to drink from my peers who learnt from their parents and siblings… A cultural problem introduced in part by regulation – 6 o’clock closing…

    I’m a teetotaler now, I quit 2 years ago but formerly a heavy drinker from 18 – 25…

  11. BLiP 11

    Drug abuse – and especially alcoholism – is a health issue, not a crime issue.

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