Morality of Drinking

Today, social drinking has become an integral part of many functions and events such as dating, marriages, parties and get-togethers. It basically refers to informal drinking with a group of known people done with an intention of getting drunk or having light fun.  I was exposed to this western culture for the first time when I moved to Delhi for higher education, leaving my small town behind and opened myself to new experiences. Initially I was apprehensive, but no more.

A Breezer everyday is the newly evolved mantra for the Gen X. A bottle of champagne or wine is the best wedding gift, cocktail parties are the current fad and even friendship is pompously compared to wine rather than gold. At a bar or a club, people often start their conversation with strangers by buying them a drink as it signifies good will. This gesture, common among youngsters, often initiates coquetry between opposite sexes. It can also be used to express gratitude towards someone or resolve a conflict. Interestingly in India, it is also used as a form of bribery. Today one drinks to “wet the baby’s head” i.e., to celebrate a birth. The sound of the cork and the spilling fuzz of champagne are signs of celebration. On the flipside, liquor is also a medium to cushion the effect of bad news. Today a youngster drinks for any and every reason – breakup (relationship), bad marks in an exam, parental pressure and what not. Apparently, people today have discovered hundreds of reasons, good as well as bad, to meet their friends for a drink. Boozing and fagging is considered the ‘in-thing’ today.

But what does our society at large today think about drinking alcoholic beverages? Is it looked down upon? Or is it accepted as part of popular culture?

Different people and different perspectives.

The human civilization has been preparing and consuming alcoholic beverages ever since Neolithic age (6000 BC-2000 BC). Almost all cultures have confirmed production and consumption of alcohol throughout their recorded history. In such a case, where a practice seems to have a universal approach, one can not overlook the possible benefits that can be associated with it. I agree that alcohol consumption does lead to some negative consequences, but we need to find out what made it survive the centuries.

Since ancient times, man has tried to achieve altered states of consciousness. Alcohol has been the safest form of intoxication as one can gauge the amount of intake and can consume it with a group of people. As early as around 4000 BC, people in Egypt started brewing beer in their homes on a daily basis as they believed it was invented by their God. A Chinese edict of around 1100 BC prescribed moderate intake of alcohol necessary for good health and well-being as it was considered a spiritual fruit. And in India, the first appearance of alcoholic beverages is traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization around 2000 BC. In fact, the Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu field of medicine, describes in detail both the benefits and ill-effects of alcohol intake.

In spite of such a long history, people who do not drink alcoholic beverages usually see people taking it with a supercilious air. What is the reason for such contempt? Is it because it is addictive? (Even coffee is!) Or is it because of its ill effect on health? (Even cold drinks today have pesticides in them for that matter!). There is a group of researchers in U.K who have demonstrated alcohol’s positive side in medical terms, according to which alcohol can be healthy for many people and assist the body in many ways if taken in moderation. Wine has been proved to cure ulcers, strokes and even some types of cancer apart from helping the heart if taken in appropriate amounts. Nonetheless, uninhibited consumption of alcoholic beverages leads to incapacitating states of consciousness. It outweighs all the other benefits, including the nutritional ones as ac person tends to loose control over himself and often engages in anti-social behavior. Apparently alcohol can be held responsible for a lot of negativities in today’s society. For instance, road accidents can be attributed to those careless people who drink and drive; youngsters become addicted to alcohol out of pleasure and turn into dipsomaniacs later; and men under its soporiferous effect engage in domestic violence. Here a distinction needs to be drawn between social drinking and alcoholism. According to the web, social drinking refers to drinking of alcoholic beverages in a social setting with friends or acquaintances but not for medicinal purposes. Alcoholism, on the other hand, means losing control over one’s drinking and consequently over one’s mind. It is this latter form of excessive alcohol consumption that leads to issues like crime, violence, spousal abuse, disorder, accidents, disease etc.

Extreme of everything is bad, but my question is that why even is even a moderate intake of alcohol for delectation considered insidious? As stated above, there are certain positives of alcohol apart from enjoyment which have been ignored by the society at large.

I don’t view alcoholism in strict negative terms, but I have rather developed a more objective view. Every coin has two faces, and so does this. As youngsters we should not make judgments on such practices which trace themselves back to early millennia and are a part of numerous rituals, traditions and festive celebrations. We should rather be aware of its ill-effects and take informed decisions. If the world thinks that we are grown up enough at 18 to be considered as adults and can choose the government to run our country, then the discretion for drinking should be left to us as well.

Cheers to a safe future with or without alcohol.

Mahima Taneja

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