The man on the radio is talking about binge drinking in the UK and the mumblings in the political establishment is in favour of “banning cheap alcohol”. God knows how they plan to achieve this – I think I’ve heard arguments to stop super markets doing cheap offers.
As I have pointed out before, New Labour has embraced hyper-commercialism as it’s core ideology and subsequently perceive that their only lever for affecting alcohol consumption is price. Since the commercial revolution which engulfed the UK under first Thatcher and now Brown, controls have been removed from all aspects of commerce. We are now bombarded with advertising everywhere we go and everywhere we look. The emphasis on terming everyone a “customer” is key as it means that success is determined by achieving a sale.
In Britain and America we, rightly, tend to look very much askance at any type of social engineering and this includes government advertising exhorting us to some worthy goal. But this is odd as we do not even notice when large corporations attempt social engineering and this is exactly what is achieved by large marketing campaigns.
Our society is undergoing social engineering but the engineering is not devised by a national government with goals such as social cohesion or community responsibility. The goal of those that control social engineering is simple: Profit.
So while the government attempts social change by squeezing in a few sound bytes on a news program, the alcohol companies are able to keep up a relentless campaign which targets kids and tells them alcohol is stylish, alcohol is fun, alcohol is cool.
I saw a bit of video on The Sun web site which underlines the ubiquity of this message. The video was of a drunken reveller desecrating a war memorial. The story in the sun was full of outrage but the video had a little advertisement tacked on the front and the advertisement was for cider!
Prior to the commercial revolution, restrictions existed on the sale of alcohol. In my youth one could only buy booze at a pub or off license and the off licenses was generally part of the pub. I think it is understandable that we can now buy booze in super markets but this means little metro super markets in the centre of town too. Walking along Western Road in Brighton there are a string of little grocer shops which also sell alcohol and there is at least one which appears to do very little business in anything but alcohol and I suspect that the dodgy looking vegetables are just there for show.
Deliberate targeting of youth by the alcohol industry also plays a part in increased consumption with fruit flavoured vodka based drinks and high strength lagers. Another factor related to greater alcohol consumption is that the owners of pubs and bars have strived to make them more “efficient”. In our commercialised society efficient means that they generate as much money as possible and this means selling as much booze as possible. To achieve this the environment in pubs and bars has been modified in a number of ways. For example there is little room to sit down and the music has been turned up so that one must shout to be heard. I have been in pubs like this myself and when nobody can talk we just resort to drinking. Why do we stay in the pub? A good question. I guess it is that a majority of the people present have fallen for the marketing that a noisy uncomfortable bar is the place to be.
I am not arguing for draconian laws to curb alcohol. I like to drink myself. What I am criticising is the government’s lack of understanding and imagination when tacking the problem. I am criticising, once again, New Labour’s obsession with the market and commercialism. I am criticising New Labour inability to affect anything because of their obsequious relationship with bis business. I am criticising the fact that New Labour are now so scared of business that they dare not make any change that would affect someone in a pin striped suit. If New Labour had been in power in 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act would never have been passed because the slave owners would have whinged that their profits would be affected.
Before the government looks at the price of alcohol they should look at Targeting, Advertising, Drinking environment and Availability (TADA).