Right now we are lurching into another of our periodic crises over drinking, and both tendencies are on display at once. Since the turn of the millennium, alcohol consumption has risen steadily, in a reversal of its long decline throughout the 1980s and ’90s. Before the pandemic, some aspects of this shift seemed sort of fun, as long as you didn’t think about them too hard. In the 20th century, you might have been able to buy wine at the supermarket, but you couldn’t drink it in the supermarket. Now some grocery stores have wine bars, beer on tap, signs inviting you to “shop ’n’ sip,” and carts with cup holders.
Some of the points made were ones I did in my 2011 piece Should Christians Drink?, albeit in a different context. And I got blowback from that.
My own family’s history of alcohol isn’t a happy one. I think that a lot of that was fuelled by the pain of being in my family, which is one reason why I don’t attach Scots-Irish sentimentality to the whole concept. That led to premature death and more abuse.
“To be clear, people who don’t want to drink should not drink. There are many wonderful, alcohol-free means of bonding.” That’s part of the problem: the drinkers don’t like abstainers in their midst and will apply the necessary social pressure to dislodge their non-imbibing friends. It was certainly that way in the hard drinking construction and oil industries I came into forty years ago and I doubt it’s changed with our effete, credentialed elite.
This country has a drinking problem, and frankly short of abstinence I don’t know of a good way to fix it. It’s a sad situation, but this country seems to have more than its share of sad situations these days, not the least of which is that a lot that hits social media is enough to drive anyone to drink.