Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Incoherent Rantings

I've not written anything on here in a while, which makes me feel bad, although I'm really not sure if now is the best time to try and write something new. I'm still unemployed, but I'm making a point of being more constructive and active about this that I was before – you know, actually doing things with myself rather than just sitting around eating and wondering why I'm getting fat again. I'm now going to do something really stupid, which is try and write a piece making a point – this never works for me because I end up arguing round in circles and generally deciding, after giving it too much thought, that I'm too confused to make a stand for either side.

A few days ago (or perhaps weeks, I'm no good at placing things like this) a man, a father and husband, was beaten to death by a bunch of pissed up teenagers for confronting them about vandalizing his property. The public were shocked, I think, the papers said they were anyway – I wasn't shocked but I was sickened by it, a new low in the world of random street violence and a good reminder of why I avoid confrontations as much as I do, people get killed for no reason all the time and I have no desire to join them. When I die it's going to be doing something really stupid, don't get me wrong it'll still be a senseless death but at least it'll be funny in a sick sort of way when I'm crushed by a giant rubber elk or something.

As always with incidents such as this questions are asked, collective souls are searched and fingers are pointed in all directions. As always with these things, and with depressing inevitability, a bunch of really stupid suggestions and conclusions started getting thrown around pretty shortly after. Mostly by vultures seeking to use someone's death as a justification for pushing their own pre-existing agenda as a response.

The response that pissed me off this time wasn't the usual call for public hangings, floggings etc, that always arise from these incidents as society tries to convince itself that destroying some public examples will solve some broader problem of which they are symptoms.(no I'm not going to even speculate as to what the broader problem is, nor am I going to suggest that the people who did this ever deserve anything that anyone could conceivably want)

The public outburst that irritated me following all of this was a senior policeman, some big cheese, who called for the government to legislate to raise the drinking age to 21, to prevent attacks like this from being repeated – to stop the nation's curse of underage drinking.

This proposal seems to stem from either some sort of fundamental misunderstanding of the situation or some kind of staggering naivety about the circumstances by which underage drinkers come by booze. I should know about this, I've done my fair share of underage drinking myself, the vast majority of the time i didn't manage to get served by hoodwinking the staff; I got booze either by appearing to be mature enough that the seller figured I wouldn't cause trouble or by going to places where the retailer really didn't care one way or the other as long as I paid in cash. If the drinking age were raised it would make no difference to either of these situations – if they don't care then they don't care, and if suitability is based on the barman's discretion then that is a set of personal criteria based on experience, which exists independent to whatever the legal age might be.

What raising the drinking age to 21 will do will be to create a culture of underage, illegal drinking that is far more widespread and culturally accepted than what we have now. Students will spend their entire time at university drinking cheap cider in parks and houses – which will, in Canterbury at least, probably put half the pubs in town out of business and create much more friction between the student community and the local populace. And in amongst this mass of people secretively bingeing their faces off it'll be much harder for the police to locate the psychotic 14 year old pissed off his tits and spoiling for a fight with whatever moves first.