Alcohol and Humanity – a very old and unhealthy relationship

The earliest evidence we have of alcohol production dates back to 7000 BC in ancient Chinese society, where rice wine was produced by fermenting rice, honey and fruit. Since then, disparate and isolated communities across the world have discovered that the fermentation of certain products can lead to the creation of an exciting intoxicant. Many societies even deified alcohol production, the ancient Greeks for example.

Indeed, since the early periods of alcohol production, there has been a stream of evidence which proves that the human race has been producing and consuming alcohol consistently for nearly 10,000 years. This makes alcohol older than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

So, why does alcohol get such a hard time? For millennia, it has served as a faithful friend and ally to the shortcomings of the human mind. It has been the social lubricant which has turned a good time into a great time, an introvert into an extrovert. Yet, in British society and media it is blamed for every conceivable misgiving there is. At universities, in particular, social events which revolve around alcohol are being attacked and forced into new, restrictive standards.

Many university students will be familiar with the lexical censorship in place across the country whereby ‘initiations’ are a banned word, instead replaced with the far less intimidating ‘welcome drinks’. This kind of top-down imposition of cultural rules should be looked at for what it is, an attempt to distance humanity from its developed alcohol culture.

The arguments in favour of alcohol restrictions are overwhelming and convincing; excessive alcohol consumption is linked, rightly, to sexual violence, depression and aggressive behaviour. However, I would argue that there are better methods of tackling excessive alcohol consumption than simply lambasting alcohol itself. Many members of the human race will not respond well to the restriction of a product which has brought so much happiness to their lives.

Prohibition, for example, is a drastic case study for the negative effects of an attack on alcohol. In 1920, the US government passed a law that prohibited the manufacture, sale, import and export of alcohol. This persisted until 1933 in which time the illegal alcohol trade experienced a massive boom. Indeed, the effect of prohibition was not to decrease alcohol consumption but instead resulted in forcing alcohol underground, making innocent men and women into criminals. One would hope that we have learned our lessons from prohibition, that we would think twice before attacking alcohol. As indeed, an attack on alcohol is an attack on human nature.

In Mediterranean Europe, alcohol is not criticised or restricted as much as it is in the UK. Teenagers as young as 13 are introduced to alcohol and are taught a deep respect for the liquid; a respect worthy of its near 10,000-year relationship with humanity. As a result, young Europeans are far less likely to be binge drinkers than young Britons. So, next time you want to apportion blame for a particular social nuisance, don’t just lay it on alcohol.

Written by Finn Grant

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