As the evening draws in I find myself wondering what’s happening on the streets of Ireland this evening. How many people are starting to feel dizzy and sick from drink, feeling they should stop but not wanting to appear as “lightweights”. How many fights have started, how many unwise decisions have been made, how many people are fumbling frustratedly in their pockets, wondering where all their money has gone (already ?!!? and on pay day?!!..). How are the bar staff coping, the health care workers, the guards, the families?
Because today is a day where we have collectively given each other permission to get completely off our faces on booze, all in the very transparent guise of celebrating a “historical figure”, a man who accidentally stumbled across what became the recipe for stout. Another selling point has been to celebrate Irish music. Really? Are there not other ways of doing this without marketing alcohol to impressionable and vulnerable young people?
Why are we celebrating this?
To say that there is a market for alcohol here in Ireland is an understatement. I groaned inwardly, disappointed but unsurprised by Diageo’s PR radio interviews this week. Several intelligent and responsible people articulately challenged the overstretched PR line that this day is about promoting healthy and responsible drinking.
And promoting the Irish music industry.
Buzz words and phrases like ‘fun’, ‘creating revenue’, ‘promotion of Irish businesses’, ‘helping people in these down times’, ‘responsible drinking’ and ’employment’ peppered each sentence. It was like listening to a ‘PR for Dummies’ manual. This was a blatant attempt to dodge the big issue.
The big issue is that we are in real trouble with alcohol.
You may think me a cynic (I’d prefer you’d think me a skeptic..). But the clear impression I get is that this day is about selling beer, making money, ensuring a market share and attracting new customers. And it is not responsible to do this at a time when this country is already on its drunken knees. We are depressed enough, and using alcohol to deal with our feelings isn’t working out too well for us.
We need to take collective responsibility for our alcohol problem. That means drinking moderately, not losing control of ourselves, not teaching our children that binging is acceptable and harmless.
And we must do this by example.
We are in a costly crisis, and we are all paying dearly.