Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Britain staggers away into the sunset

Britain was such an admirable country during WWII, holding out alone against the Nazis, showing incredibly courage and moral strength. That Britain is no more. It's increasingly anti-Semitic and anti-American and now, it turns out, it's increasingly, disgustingly drunk:

Britain always has been a hard-drinking society, but in the past decade or so, the economics and demographics of drinking have undergone a dramatic transformation. 'In the postindustrial economy, large tracts of our city centers have been handed over to the control of the alcoholic drinks industry,' said Dick Hobbs, a professor of criminology at the University of Durham. 'We have created these boozing zones. We don't manufacture anything anymore, but we do serve a lot of drinks.'" *** "The pattern for British cities is intense shopping during the day, intense drinking at night," said Paul Rubinstein, director of arts and culture for the Newcastle City Council. A stunning new concert hall has put Newcastle on the European cultural map, and Rubinstein is quick to credit the city's busy night life for helping to revive the downtown economy. But now there are concerns that the drinking and partying are getting out of hand. "If you are not under age 25 and intent on being part of the drinking culture, you might feel a bit threatened," Rubinstein said. "You don't see many families or minorities on the streets after 8 p.m." In most European countries, per-capita alcohol consumption is declining. In Britain, it is rising sharply, especially among young people, who tend to binge drink. *** Binge drinking, generally defined as consuming five or more standard-sized drinks in one session, has become the norm for many young people. According to a recent study of 15- and 16-year-olds in Britain, 29 percent of the girls and 26 percent of the boys had engaged in binge drinking at least three times in the previous month. The link between alcohol and anti-social behavior in Britain is striking. According to recent government statistics, 78 percent of assaults and 88 percent of property damage crimes are directly related to alcohol. A 2003 government study indicated that about 40 percent of all emergency room admissions are alcohol-related. The study also calculated that Britain's economy loses 17 million working days to hangovers. For blue-collar and white-collar Britain, showing up for work with a ripping hangover does not carry the social stigma that it does in most societies. *** In Newcastle, where 336 pubs and clubs in the city center draw as many as 75,000 visitors on a busy night, Northumbria Police Chief Constable Mike Craik has launched a campaign to identify troublemakers and arrest them before the trouble begins. Billboards around the city warn "Get violent, get drunk, get disorderly--get locked up." Closed-circuit television cameras on the streets and inside drinking venues help police keep an eye on things. "As soon as you become offensive, we will be there, and we will arrest you before somebody gets in a fight," Craik said. "Two arrests get you banned from the city center." Before the campaign, police made about 600 arrests a month for alcohol-related offenses. In the first month of the campaign, the number doubled. *** Later this year, Britain will retire its Victorian-era licensing law that required pubs to close by 11 p.m. This will usher in a new era of round-the-clock drinking. The government blames the old law for pressuring people to squeeze in too much drinking before last call. It argues that 24-hour licensing will encourage people to spread out their consumption and imbibe in a more "European" manner. The alcoholic beverage industry thinks this is an excellent idea. Most medical and law-enforcement experts do not. "The entire research community is opposed to 24-hour licensing," the University of Durham's Hobbs said, "but the government has ignored every bit of evidence in its drive to bring its market-oriented policies to bear." Hobbs, paraphrasing an earlier Hobbes, said the English took their drink the same way they played soccer: "Crude, nasty, harsh and violent."
Since I have a residual fondness for England, having lived there in the past, and admiring very much most of it's history through 1945, I tend to enjoy modern British novels -- but the one thing that always puts me off about these books is how much the characters drink -- and get drunk, with the authors describing in excrutiating detail all the stupid acts they commit and all the horrible things their bodies experience. Of course, having read this article, I have a better idea why the authors include this material -- it's just a part of ordinary life in England. So sad....