Thursday, November 24, 2005

Burnham in Brighton, and why we're shit

A busy week (read "month") here, including preparations for the upcoming Burnham vs Tatchell showdown on Dec 6th in Brighton. On that front, and in a name-and-shame bid, the last two letters I sent to my MP, David Lepper, regarding terrorism and ID Cards have yet to be answered. Where Are You, David?

Meanwhile, some news round-ups that I feel have particular relevance to each other, and the respect agenda that continually manages to go nowhere. Here be th' links...

First up, the BBC reports on a YouGov poll that says "more than half of adults who left school at 16 say they did so to make money".

And secondly, Britons 'fess up to being Europe's biggest cokeheads.

I could probably pick out some more, but these randomly attracted my sparse attention span. It's the morning after the first real night of 24-hour opening, and so far the news isn't crammed full of stories about apocalyptic bingers wasting their cities. (All quiet at Harry's Place, for instance.) Of course, the real "test" will be the weekend - what percentage of binge drinkers are real boozers, able to carry their pint-waving cries past the 3am mark and on into the wee hours of Monday morning? Probably not too many. Neither can those who want to party it up until the cold, winter Sun dawns probably afford to extend their existing rate of purchase for an extra few hours. In short, those who want to drink longer will most probably spread the drinks out - possibly relieving the amount of booze hitting the system in one short shock (the optimal "binge pivot point", so to speak). On the other hand, judging from behaviour at kicking out time currently, those who are insistent on cramming another 60 mintue's worth of short, shots and cocktails down their gullet will hopefully/likely be unable to stand/speak/swear/punch squarely even moreso than usual. A self-weeding problem then?

But in actual fact, I digress. Binge-drinking is not "the" problem, I argue, and this is where I bring the 2 stories above into the spotlight. The last quote in the second article highlights the real issue: "Cocaine has a completely misplaced reputation as a glamour drug"

Glamour. Money. Fame. Popularity. These are the things we've defined as "success". At the risk of sounding like a religious nut, the squabble for attention that arises from such a "misplaced" sense of success means that shock, outrageousness, and the ability to make people like you because you're more foolish than they are has left us with an industrial minefield hellbent on self-destruction.

Binge-drinking is not the problem (although drinking may lead to other problems such as noise "pollution"). Drugs are not the problem. The problem is that we believe that the way to happiness is through wealth and status. Yes, this could be perceived as a particularly... "new age" argument, let's say, but the truth is that many of the problems we face today are intrinsically linked with the values we inherently promote through culture and through policy - whether it be a lusting after economic and competitive superiority, or the idea of being able to "choose" whichever reality you want to live in today.

Is it any surprise, then, that some people view us with suspicion when it seems like we're trying to export these values to far-flung places?

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