This morning I, along with about a hundred other students, went to a protest outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood about the proposed ban of off license sales of alcohol to under 21s. We felt it was discriminatory, that it went against the evidence, that it wasn’t even internally logical (if they’re trying to tackle anti-social behaviour in public, why are they targetting young people drinking at home?), and that it wasn’t in line with the law as it exists now and as the SNP proposes to change it (granting the franchise to 16 year olds whilst banning under 21′s from buying alcohol is sending mixed messages, to say the least). What really got me (and continues to annoy me about the system in the US) is that someone can take a bullet for their country, but they can’t have a drink afterwards. Some system that is. I won’t bore you with details but suffice to say we won.
Anyway, I’ve been reflecting on my position about alcohol consumption. As you may know I’ve been a barman for a few years now and I grew up in the pub culture because my parents were licensees. Just last night I had a mental night at work where one drunk guy was crying on my arm because his friend had died in his arms of a heroin overdose, and was quite obviously considerably more depressed because he’d consumed so much alcohol. Alcohol was certainly a significant factor in an accident where one man slipped off the kerb and cracked his head open quite badly right outside the pub; I got him taken to hospital right away. Over the years I have seen people quite literally lose their lives to drink, losing their families and their careers. When you’re the only sober guy in the room and you have to decide who’s had enough, it’s an awfully big responsibility, and one I take very seriously. Just recently a friend of mine was arrested and will be taken to court because he served a drunk.
So I’m caught in a number of positions. Firstly I am only too aware of the serious implications alcohol can have. On the other hand I believe that prohibition of alcohol is an infringement on our civil liberties, and that at the end of the day it is your own choice whether to drink or not. Then again I am the one who decides whether someone on the other side of the bar can have a drink or not, so in a sense I undermine that freedom of choice. And if I see the effects of alcohol on a daily basis (both long and short term), why am I involved in dispensing it, when it’s so crippling both for society and for individuals? The issue gets even more complicated when I bring in my opinion on other drugs. I have said for a long time now that if tobacco and alcohol are legal, cannabis should be legal. In fact whilst we’re on the issue of prohibition, I have several good arguments for the legalization of all drugs (which I won’t go into now), ones to which I struggle to find any counter-arguments, but still I don’t think I would vote to put them into practice. It’s a conundrum of many sides.
I’d welcome other people’s views on the matter.