Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reaction to Alastair Campbell's BBC Panorama programme: "Britain's hidden alcoholics"

“I wish people would stop going on about binge drinking and the supposed damage caused by alcohol. The anti alcohol lobby simply wants to stop us all from enjoying ourselves. Obviously some people abuse alcohol, but they’re mostly kids over-indulging in spirits, RTDs and beer. Most wine drinkers consume in moderation and with food and wine is actually good for one's health. Get off our backs!”

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“I wish people would stop going on about excessive bonuses and the damage they do to our social structure. The banker-bashing lobby simply wants to stop us all making a bit of money. Obviously some people get bonuses that are a bit too big, but they’re just the chief execs who pocket a few million every year. Most bankers are like me. We work hard and earn our £250k bonuses and without banking, where would our economy be? Get off our backs!“


Reading and listening to wine industry reaction to efforts by the medical profession to reduce consumption is remarkably reminiscent of the bankers' response to any suggestion that their bonuses are abusive.

Alastair Campbell's programme was thoughtful and thought-provoking. People who hate its presenter's role in the lead up the the Iraq war (and possibly his role as Tony Blair's right-hand-man) can use that hatred to dismiss everything he said - and his frank description of his experience as an alcoholic. Some of those same people may also dislike Anne Robinson enough to sidestep the Weakest Link presenter's account of her alcoholism. But what about the middle class company director who described how his wine drinking had almost destroyed his liver? And the 30-year-old designer who talked about how she had switched from vodka to wine, and lost all control of her life?

It's harder too, to shut one's mind to the ambulance men revealing that the majority of the alcohol-damaged people they are scraping off the street are business people in suits. harder too to dismiss the doctors who point out that liver disease (at which the significant risk begins at around half a bottle of wine per per day) is the only medical condition to be on the rise in the UK (by 4-500% in recent years).

As one of the doctors insightfully commented: in Britain, we've adopted the European habit of drinking wine with our meals but we haven't dropped our tradition of boozing without food. So we do both - and end up with the worst of all worlds.

Even assuming that we can honestly say that we don't need that half a bottle of wine (or so) we routinely enjoy every day, we should pause before ignoring the huge incidence of quiet wine-driven alcohol abuse to be found in suburban streets around the country, or pretending that it isn't there. Unless we want to behave like those bankers...


6 comments:

  1. A banker is just a banker - their title does not necessarily imply they are pocketing huge bonuses

    A drinker is just a drinker - you cannot work on the assumption that we are all early stage alcoholics

    I sincerely believe that the government needs to take a role, not in punitive measures or nanny-state interventions, but in working out WHY we have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and working with the right people to change the causes, not the symptoms.

    I agree, many of us (particularly in the trade) DO drink too much, but lecturing us on why alcohol is evil and ignoring all the "benefits" wrapped up in the package (and I don't just mean alcoholic buzz, but culture, jobs, social activity, education...), is designed to make us ignore the advice.

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  2. Thought provoking stuff, Robert. Thank you. I missed the programme last night, but I'll definitely be watching it online.

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  3. Alcohol, like caffeine, sugar, gambling and even in some respects, earning money are all addictive. Each can be seen as poisonous when then they become an obsession for the individual.

    A little of everything is good, it keeps things balanced and entertaining.

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  4. I agree with you, Robert. There but for the grace of God go a lot of us. And a lot of us are up to our necks in that Egyptian river, too.

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