Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Shout

Joining in an argument over at Larvatus Prodeo:
Civilisation in the west has been very largely a mechanism for the development and circulation of alcohol, so there aren't going to be any easy fixes. We drink not for reasons that can be ticked off on a list but because it's constituitive of who we are. It's very difficult to find a socially valued off-the-rack identity that doesn't include drinking.
Saying that alcohol is just another drug still misses the point, though. The missed point being that for both alcohol and drugs the main source of the opposition to their use is not that they're damaging but that they're enjoyable. It comes out most clearly with (illicit) drugs. If we merely objected to this or that harm caused by drugs we would pay chemists to come up with a new drug that had the same euphoric effects but lacked the side-effects, and once we found it we'd push that one hard to take up the territory of the others. We would, for example, encourage the use of ecstasy to reduce the harm caused by heroin (or alcohol). We don't: we treat them as equally bad, with the e perhaps more menacing because it's harder to have doomladen commercials about it. It's like Macaulay on the Puritans - they objected to bearbaiting not because it gave pain to the bear but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.
And no, I'm not saying that any of these things actually are harmless - I'm saying that if they were harmless society would still wish to place them in this inflamed area of fascination mixed with condemnation.

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