Sydney Morning Herlad
SIMON MCGORAM IS AN AUTHORITY ON COCKTAILS, SPIRITUOUS LIQUOR AND BAR ROOM ANTICS.
How was your Australia Day? Did it involve a couple beers or a glass of vino, and a social gathering around charcoal-seared meat? Or did you go on a bender and spontaneously decide to king-hit someone?
I’ll guess it was the former rather than the latter. Like the majority of the Australian populace, you are probably able to enjoy a drink – heck, even a handful – without descending into an orgy of the “alcohol-fuelled violence” that the media is bent on promoting.
As a long-time barfly and latterly a bar part-owner, I’m the first to admit that issues concerning Australia’s drinking and late-night industry are many, complex and unresolved.
The fact remains that alcohol is erroneously wearing the bulk of the blame for recent headline-grabbing violence. Whilst the “demon drink” is indeed a powerful intoxicant that should be regulated responsibly and intelligently, we shouldn’t be so quick to cast it as the root of all evil.
I don’t think of myself as a violent person. Actually, I abhor violence. As a young teenager at a boys’ boarding school I might have got into a few scuffles, but since the age of 15 and across decades of subsequent imbibing I haven’t thrown one punch at anyone in anger.
My temper, emotions and capacity for rational decision-making have all certainly been impaired at times by alcohol consumption, so why – like the vast majority of other drinkers out there – have I not ever resorted to violence if alcohol is such a powerful influencer?
Recent news reporting would have you believe alcohol and violence are inseparable. Despite alcohol’s many failings, it didn’t kill Daniel Christie. The man accused of throwing the single punch that killed Christie, martial arts-trained Shaun McNeil, is said by police to have consumed nine drinks, although it’s not known over what time frame. If he is convicted, the record will say it was he, and not the alcohol he consumed, that was responsible for the fatal blow.
Nine standard drinks might seem like a lot to those who don’t often drink, but it equates to about six glasses of wine. That’s less than many people will consume on an average (non-violent) night out or even over a civilised three-course dinner.
It would be wrong to suggest that the under 30s who comprise a large proportion of nightclub and bar patrons are descending out of control based solely on recent tragic events. Yes, there are spots where we can work as a society to improve our relationship with alcohol, but it shouldn’t be the solitary scapegoat.
Australia’s culture of violence needs to be addressed. Our glorification of gangsters and thugs both past and present should be examined. Violence is more gratuitous in video games, television and cinema than ever before. Tell me that time-warping someone from the 1960s and making them watch a season of The Walking Dead wouldn’t make them sick, or sickened by the random violence of games such as Grand Theft Auto.
Let’s stop using alcohol as a scapegoat and address the real underlying issue. Violence, whether alcohol-related or not, needs a zero tolerance stance. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s one-punch laws aren’t the worst idea in the world, if his government can ever figure out how they can be successfully implemented.
Let’s stop glorifying the thugs of today who believe that violence and attacking people weaker than themselves is a way to get ahead in this world. Then we can call ourselves members of a civilised society.
Is the link between alcohol and violence justified?