Monday, December 30, 2013
Is Australia over the limit?
They say it is hard to see your own blind spot when you are living in the culture.
Australians look across the Pacific and say the Americans have a blind spot when it comes to guns. True enough.
But here's an observation looking west across the date line.
Australians have a blind spot when it comes to alcohol.
Yes - I know the issue has been getting some press recently with various violent assaults, but as a nation, very little, if anything is being done about it. (In the same way that a couple of awful gun "events" in the US generated a lot of angst and debate for a few months, but in the long run politics and the power of lobby groups meant nothing of any substance has changed.)
Because it seems that Australians are just blind to the pervasiveness of alcohol in everyday, neighbourhood culture - and until that is addressed, nothing will change.
Here's just one anecdotal observation which I think illustrates the point.
Over our winter holidays we've been enjoying watching the ABC series "The Time of our Lives." We've enjoyed the "normal-ness" of the people involved, their dealings with relationship successes and failures, kids, just the coming and going of life. We also enjoy the setting in Melbourne as it reminds us of 6 great months we had living there.
But for a show about a group of "normal" people, there is an enormous amount of alcohol consumed.
Admittedly, a couple of the characters manage an comedy club where there is a bar, so scenes there tend to be in the evening and there is alcohol being served - OK - that is the scene.
But every time the two partners have a chat about the business or a get together there is beer.
When one of the characters comes home from work after a tough day she is routinely offered a glass of wine to "make things better" in the way the English would offer a cup of tea.
Character x arrives unexpectedly at the house of character y at dinner time, is invited to stay and needs to go and get a bottle of wine to "contribute".
Two characters need to talk through a relational issue - they go out for a drink to do it (rather than going out for a coffee or a meal.)
When family members wrestle with the consequences of family breakdown, pre-teen angst and unemployment, it is dealt with sensitively, compassionately and with careful and expressive writing. When a character deals with her relational pain by regularly getting drunk, everyone giggles at her.
When a character is done for low range drink driving, it is laughed off and seen as an opportunity for bike riding and broadening his horizons.
Yes - the government needs to step in an enact Newcastle style lockouts and shot bans and all that stuff, but for any of that to happen, or to work, it seems to me that society needs to ask the question. As a society, are we over the limit?