The demon will party tomorrow
Manawatu Standard (NZ)
Saturday, 30 December 2006
At risk of sounding like the sort of Methodist minister whose role in life was to instil the fear of God into the populace a couple of generations ago, I predict that somewhere tonight there will be violence, possibly death, and the root of that evil will be the demon drink, writes the Manawatu Standard in an editorial.
Alcohol has been the drug of choice in New Zealand for generations, with attempts to prevent its abuse ranging from bars closing at 6pm, a flirtation with prohibition at the end of World War I and a minimum drinking age of 20. This year politicians, in their wisdom, decided not to increase the age for buying alcohol back to 20 despite the realisation by many health professionals that the decision to lower it was foolish. Capturing the youth vote, not a desire for ongoing teenage drunkenness, was clearly the MPs' motive.
But the Kiwi binge culture cannot be legislated against. Sadly, it is as much a part of New Zealand life as cricket. In fact, drunkenness and one-day cricket go together like gin and tonic.
Some cities will have liquor bans tomorrow night, and family-friendly events such as the New Year's Eve party in The Square in Palmerston North will be alcohol free. But it is difficult to regulate against the bellies full of beer young men will have ingested before they set off for Mahia Beach, Mount Maunganui and Wanaka, all fired up to fight and vomit.
It will require a cultural change of the type that has happened, to a degree, with drink-driving and smoking before the sight of a drunken teenager to another teenager is offensive and not cool.
And, to be fair, it isn't just teenagers who are giving alcohol a bad name. The number of serious assaults, homicides and murders involving older offenders where the officer in charge states that "alcohol was a factor" are too numerous to list.
Reverting to 6pm closing of bars isn't an option, but is having bars open until 3 or 4am such a great thing? At least when they closed at 11pm the bulk of patrons would wander home for a good night's sleep before facing another day. Now many teens are still fuelled by last night's beer when getting up for work, or interacting with their families.
There is no simple answer. The drinking age should not have been lowered and bar hours shouldn't have been allowed to become so liberal. But now the genie is out of the bottle there is no putting him back. In the meantime, we'll have to put up with the drink-related beatings, rapes and murders. Happy New Year.