Schoolies week and the culture of skulling it to excess

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I was only listening to a phone-in on ABC Canberra radio the other day which was debating the culture of drinking amongst the young in Australia.Whilst Australia is by no means embroiled in the kind of excessive alcohol consumption of the United Kingdom  (see league table for alcohol consumption by country but the rise in the level of young people taking part in acts of binge drinking is perceived to have increased.

Obviously Australia is a somewhat more macho culture where hard drinking can be seen as part of the supposed attraction of machismo. Witness the bare essential approach of many Australian pubs and bars and the bizarre availability of drive through ‘bottle shops’ (off licenses as we call them in the UK) to see the place drinking alcohol has in the culture.

Interestingly binge drinking has not been at the levels ‘enjoyed’ by the UK of late. Australian politicians are getting concerned in a way that British politicians do not seem to (our brilliant solution to binge drinking was to increase the hours that pubs and clubs open in the hope that our youth culture would suddenly go all European and be less likely to consume the greatest amount of alcohol in the shortest available time frame).

Sculling, by the way is an Australian term for knocking back alcohol. Cultural differences and all that.


2 thoughts on “Schoolies week and the culture of skulling it to excess

  1. Perceptions of alcohol (ab)use depend critically on how the use is measured. Do we measure it in terms of the amount drunk per capita or by arrest statistics, for example? When we complain about binge drinking, are we complaining about binge drinking per se or only about visible binge drinking and misbehaviour deriving from this?

    As far as I know, people, especially the young and reasonably affluent, have always binge-drunk. What has changed is standards of behaviour. Whereas it was once shameful to be seen drunk, people today seem proud of it and of their resulting anti-social behaviour. If binge drinking is now carried on in a more public fashion, this could create a false impression that binge drinking is increasing.

    Does it matter? Well, yes, because if you misunderstand the nature of the problem, you may apply the wrong remedy, wasting time and resources. For example, do we tackle alcohol consumption or bad behaviour? Personally, I would choose the latter, leaving people in no doubt that if they practise violence on others or commit acts of criminal damage, then no matter what the reason, they will be banged up for a long time.

    Habitually getting drunk is a bad idea but those who get a skinful and then go to bed to sleep it off are harming no one but themselves and it would be a waste of resources to pour money and manpower into projects to stop them. What we want to stop are those who damage others either intentionally or through carelessness, and, to me, it doesn’t matter whether they are blind drunk or stone cold sober at the time. The fault is the same. (Just as it is when the act is committed for religious reasons.)

    I would like to see politicians talking less about binge drinking (which they think earns them brownie points) and more about crime and violence against the person (which they have no clue how to deal with).

  2. I was surprised by the prevalence of the drive-through bottle shops. It seemed odd that you could not buy alcohol in supermarkets but could stop off and buy it when driving.

    I didn’t notice any particular differences between behaviour. The streets were littered with broken glass after the weekend in Australia much the same as they are here. Generally people were more of the Irish jolly drunk than the British violent/vomiting drunk type.

    But yes, I think how much you drink is a personal decision as long as you do not inflict your drunkenness on others. I am sure I drink too much by some people’s standards but I do so in the privacy of my own home. I never run on a Friday or Saturday evening because I am bothered by drunken louts if I do – and that is not on. I have no objection to them drinking as long as they leave everyone else alone and don’t break bottles or vomit in the gutter.

    I can’t see how else we are going to curb current drinking patterns other than by changing pricing policies – alcohol is ridiculously cheap both in supermarkets and in happy hours etc.

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