Go Home Ireland, You’re Drunk on
Sunday November 19, 2017
   // Go Home Ireland, You’re Drunk
Written by Sean McCarthy

Hello. My name is Sean and I have a problem. I have a problem with Irish drinking culture. The prominence of #neknominations in recent weeks has really made me think about the level to which drinking obscene amounts of alcohol and glorifying it to each other and the world is acceptable.

But it also alerted me to the fact that most people of my age only grudgingly adhere to the mantra that “drinking makes you cool”. Through the magic of the Book of Faces, I saw a lot of angry friends who seemed to only complete their challenge out of a perverse sense of duty. Maybe it was for fear of being cursed in the same way that breaking every other stupid chain-letter threatens. But at the same time it makes me wonder why most people still engage in similar behaviour in their ‘local’ or in a nightclub, and yet there are no tabloid headlines or editorial pieces for that. Only very seldom will an article be written about the prominence of underage binge drinking in a “will-someone-please-think-of-the-children” tone, while not really asking or answering the salient questions about our drinking culture.

It seems to me that the Irish view of drink has always been that it is some sort of excuse, with which we can simultaneously express ourselves honestly, have more fun, and give two fingers to the establishment that forbid us from doing what we want. For younger people too, there is still a “hangover” (pardon the pun) from a time when they were under eighteen, and getting drunk was a way of showing that they had grown up, but in a rebellious way. Alcohol as a medium of self-expression and self-discovery is nothing new but it should not be downplayed as something that is acceptable. Also, the irony of seeing young people who profess to be adults reduced to oversize toddlers who fight, vomit and fall over is as bizarre as it is sad. The same goes for the fact that a common defence for getting horribly drunk is, as popularised by David Guetta, for the memories. This is despite the fact that the memories are usually patchy at best and a full picture of the night is only created from compiling multiple perspectives, like some sort of crime investigation.

This leads on to the issue of social acceptability itself. Another legacy from harder times, getting so drunk you can’t form proper sentences is seen as a release of a perceived build up of pressure from work, family or other commitments in life. But long gone are the days where we all did back-breaking work for at least twelve hours, six days a week for all of our adult lives. I think we still deal with that sense that we must drink as much as possible in our free time so as to counter the thought that we will waste our lives working. The scope for personal expression and endeavour in the modern era is so broad and I see it as a waste of passion, energy and creativity to just engage in the same routine every week for multiple decades. Work, drink, sleep, repeat.

The international stereotype of Irish people is that we are a hard-drinking breed, blessed with an ability to express ourselves in a witty and charming fashion. What other countries may not realise is that we Irish seem to view these two traits as mutually exclusive. Social anxiety is a huge issue for people and yet it is swept under the carpet as a case of not having had enough pints. Until we admit, as a society, that we have a psychological barrier towards having craic and being sober, nothing will change for the better. From personal experience we really are the most fun-loving and wise-cracking nation and there is no need for alcohol to coax these traits out of us.

In my opinion, another major cause of this destructive attitude toward drink is the lack of alternative social outlets. Especially prevalent is the sight of younger women who wait all working week for that Friday or Saturday night. A time when they can “let their hair down” and wake up the next morning with only hazy memories but a satisfaction that at least they enjoyed themselves that week. Even where people have pastimes unrelated to drink, it somehow creeps back in. Case in point being golf trips, rugby tours and football cup runs. Each is seen only as the preamble to the real event, getting absolutely blind drunk. The influences of American culture have actually been quite helpful in this sense since they have enticed a lot of people into a ‘get-fit’, gym focused lifestyle. I genuinely applaud those people who are dedicated to spending their time on improving themselves, and exercising self-control even though they may see their friends out on the lash every weekend. Also to be commended are the people who play sport at a level which demands thats they stay away from alcohol to achieve their goals. Gaelic football and hurling championship season must surely be a very lean period for the pubs and off-licences.

Self-medication is a word bandied around a lot in our Americanised culture, particularly coming from reality shows like Intervention. But it is very much a real phenomenon in the lives of young people all over the world. Alcohol is the most widely available and socially acceptable form of psychoactive drug. We all know friends who usually drink pretty sensibly only to be faced with a break-up or a family tragedy and seek to dull their emotional pain with as much drink as they handle without needing to go home in an ambulance. Irish males are so susceptible to this that it is scary. Alcoholism and depression are only a short step away if those kinds of problems are sustained over an extended period of time. The ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, inherited during our time in the Empire means there realistically is no other option in the minds of men other than to drink until they forget what they were worried about.

Nearly every article published in the mainstream media seems to boil down to either the perceived unbreakable cartel that is the drinks industry and how pervasive their advertising is on our suggestible minds. Or else there is a call for the umpteenth review of alcohol licensing laws. All the professional commentators seem to miss the point completely, they think that curtailing availability of drink will somehow solve this huge societal problem. If making recreational drugs illegal didn’t work, how will closing off-licences earlier in the day have any effect either? I also have a major problem with absolute farce that is the “drinkaware” campaign. Awareness has absolutely nothing to do with drinking too much. For a huge proportion of people, they consciously are going out to get pissed. What the campaign really should be is “drink won’t make you something you’re not” or “drink won’t fix the problem you’re facing”.

There is no single, simple solution to this problem and there never will be as long as alcohol is viewed as some sort of magical substance that imbues its drinker with infinite confidence and wit. The positive stereotype of a drunk person having more fun than their sober counterparts is ingrained in us. Anyone who usually drinks but takes a night off the booze is quickly reminded by their friends how much funnier and more crazy they are when they have had a few. Those nights invariably end up with the person caving and in and drinking, or else having such a bizarre night that they head home early because they can’t deal with the messiness of those around them. The peer pressure to drink is still there, even if its only implied by wider society.

I have a theory that it all comes down to sex. Most drinking in a social setting comes from a deep-seeded need to gain a psychological advantage in front of those we are attracted to, in the hopes of perhaps increasing our chances of getting lucky. So boys and girls, if you just admit that you want to talk to that ride you saw across the bar, and you’re willing to deal with the possible awkwardness when chatting to them, maybe those Australian idiots never would have thought they could impress those sheila’s they had their eye on, with a bullshit, chain letter, drinking challenge. And we could all move on with the business of creating future generations. As George Harrison said, “Its all in the mind”.




Posted in Comment, Current Affairs   Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Response to “Go Home Ireland, You’re Drunk”

  1. Alice Cutter says:

    You hit the nail on the head here Sean. Though the Irish have much to be proud of, their drinking reputation falls far short of the commendable mark.

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