The Globe and Mail, Toronto's national newspaper, has a very lengthy article, entitled "Alcoholics Accelerated" by Margaret Philp, on the social and medical costs of alcohol consumption in Canada. While I am not one of those who challenges every pronouncement against drinking, I do find it strange that no comment is made in the article on the health benefits of moderate consumption. But it is interesting and there is one statement that I find particularly telling:
A bigger surprise is what the survey reveals about the rest of us. In 2004, 79.3 per cent of Canadians confessed to drinking, which, contrary to our growing obsession with fitness and diet, is nearly a 10-per-cent jump from a decade ago. And these numbers tell only part of the story: The level of drinking professed in the survey accounts for just 32 per cent of the bottles actually sold in liquor stores, bars and restaurants. Whether we are deluded or deceptive, Canadians grossly underestimate the number of drinks we quaff.Because of the public nature of this blog as much as anything, I do keep track and measure myself against the national and World Health Organization guidelines for weekly alcohol consumption. And I am also, given my profession, all too aware of the problems of drunk driving - being in Court to watch a guy who blew over 0.400 explain that he needed to drive the three blocks from his house to where he was stopped because he needed a hamburger was chilling enough in itself.
But there is also a problem of one-sidedness in every discussion of the implications that "Alcoholics Accelerated" exemplifies. It is trite to say that there was no problem with drinking and driving before there were cars, but why is there no discussion of the planning restrictions causing the lack of local neighbourhood bars and the bans on selling beer and wine in corner stores? I once lived in a village on Nova Scotia's south shore where an hour's drive east or west was required to buy a six pack of beer. Surely there is a relationship between the cultural reasons for driving to alcohol and drinking and driving. Also, why is there no discussion of healthy drinking, the cardiovascular benefits for example, not to mention the relatively healthier choices people can make like learning about real ales or gentler wines with lower levels of alcohol and higher levels of flavour - compared to, say, going through the biweekly bottle of rye with a handle?
Alcohol is treated as a homogeneous and damaging thing which makes me suspect the purpose of the story and the author's understanding.