Friday, October 28, 2011

Cigarettes, Whisky and Wild Women

We are a pretty diverse bunch here in the People’s Front of Barkingside. We have Liberals, Democrats, Socialists, Conservatives and Greens as well as feminists and the odd grumpy UKIP type, and we all get along fine for the most part. Sure, every now and again someone will have a wobbly and troll off into the wilderness to create their own group like the Barkingside People’s Front or the Popular Front of Barkingside, who now sits on his own in the Delicious Café in the High Street.

But we do disagree quite often, sometimes heatedly, in the Fairlop Oak after several pints of real ale, none more so than yesterday after our coffee morning. An interesting subject that I might write up shortly. But what does not happen after these intakes of copious alcoholic beverages is any anti-social behaviour, violence or promiscuity. There is no head butting, spitting or groping the bar staff. And there’s not going to be any of that in this little disgareement with the Leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP.

She wants to tackle the UK’s alcohol problem by introducing Pricing measures which prevent “irresposible” retailers from offering heavily discounted drink which would also alleviate the pressure on the licensed trade and help to protect local pubs from closure.

Oh yeah! The one thing that has affected local pubs in recent years is banning smoking. As one wag put it “the trouble with banning smoking in pubs is that now when you walk in you can smell the toilets”. But jokes aside we now have lots of pubs with heated outdoor areas which is not exactly helping to combat Climate Change innit? Beware those with good intentions and the law of unintended consequences spring to mind.

But back to Caroline Lucas. The Green Party make great play that their policies are evidence based. So let’s look at the evidence for Caroline has clearly missed it.

There is enormous cross-cultural variation in the way people behave when they drink alcohol. There are some societies (such as the UK, the US, Australia and parts of Scandinavia) that anthropologists call "ambivalent" drinking-cultures, where drinking is associated with disinhibition, aggression, promiscuity, violence and anti-social behaviour.
There are other societies (such as Latin and Mediterranean cultures in particular, but in fact the vast majority of cultures), where drinking is not associated with these undesirable behaviours - cultures where alcohol is just a morally neutral, normal, integral part of ordinary, everyday life - about on a par with, say, coffee or tea. These are known as "integrated" drinking cultures.
This variation cannot be attributed to different levels of consumption - most integrated drinking cultures have significantly higher per-capita alcohol consumption than the ambivalent drinking cultures.
Instead the variation is clearly related to different cultural beliefs about alcohol, different expectations about the effects of alcohol, and different social rules about drunken comportment.
This basic fact has been proved time and again, not just in qualitative cross-cultural research, but also in carefully controlled scientific experiments - double-blind, placebos and all. To put it very simply, the experiments show that when people think they are drinking alcohol, they behave according to their cultural beliefs about the behavioural effects of alcohol.
It’s not the alcohol, it’s the culture. So, we have yet another politician from yet another party who’s emotional judgement leads her to a conclusion that addresses the symptom and not the problem. No wonder we are in such a bleeding mess.

But that’s not all. Caroline does not really have any excuse. Take a look at the Green Party policy on Drugs. It’s actually quite sensible in a curious sort of way.

Prohibition neither prevents nor controls drug use.
The artificially high price of addictive drugs directly causes further criminal activity.
So, she wants to raise the price of alcohol? When a high price of an addictive drug directly causes criminal activity? Has the artificially high price of cigarettes stopped people smoking? No! A pack of 20 is now about the same price as a daily Zone 1-4 off-peak travel card! And she’s quite happy for us to smoke weed so long as we grow it ourselves and sit outside in those heated and uninsulated areas.

Mind you, our hippocampus and prefrontal cortexes may get a bit confused and we might not be able to distinguish between the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties which is what that heated debate was all about, at least I think it was but I may be confused.

Here's Anne Milton and Dianne Abbott wading in. - BBC News

And here's the cup that cheers. The Independent


  1. The bit about cultural behaviour patterns is definitely correct - the British, regardless of class, have been known for centuries to enjoy getting paralytic and seeing it as a 'virile' thing to do.

  2. Is that the same Judith as in the video clip above?

  3. No. The one in the video is an actress portraying "our" Judith in a parody of Barkingside affairs. Hence the impatience with her male colleagues and the emission of strange shreiking sounds ...

  4. It was a rare and moving clip from my great-great-great-great-grandmother's (on my father's side)life.

    We are very proud of her.

    On the other hand, our great-great-great-great-great-uncle Brian was just a very naughty boy.

  5. 691 trolleybus fan11:06 am, October 30, 2011

    And did either of those ancestors, Judith, indulge all those centuries ago in the ancient British sport of getting paralytic?

  6. Hmmm, think you've missed some pretty obvious evidence in the film clip that my ancestors were not in Britain.

    And in the religious group I grew up in, drinking more than one glass of alcohol in an evening was considered to be hideously vulgar and against every code of decent behaviour.

  7. Ah, yes Judith - but what was the size of the glass?

  8. It is nearly three in the morning and I cannot sleep. I have read the comments here and think I may be going very slightly out of my mind. Whilst this is without doubt the best website I ever log onto, I fear that Judith and Morris and the fellow who seems to hanker after the 691 trolleybus are all figments of my over active imagination - which, at the age of 78, could be dangerous. Perhaps I am asleep after all and this is just a nightmare. I think this must be so. Goodnight!

  9. There has to be a reason, Ron, why you cannot sleep at almost three in the morning. Is it the effcts of the cigarettes? Have you imbibed insufficient whisky? Or are you unduly excited at the thought of those wild, wild women?

    I find a pretty good cure for insomnia is to switch on the TV......

  10. Now, now, Ron - you've obviously forgotten an annual Council dinner some years ago at which I sat next to you, and we talked about your life on the Bench.

    I'm heartbroken that an evening imprinted upon my memory made no lasting impression upon you and now you only perceive me as a figment of your imagination!

  11. Probably remembers you in your other persona - Jessica Wabbit!