Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The importance of perception

Not so much an interesting article here but an interesting chain of comments: Why I will let my children drink alcohol, from the Telegraph.

Have a quick look through the first 25 or 30 comments and see what impression you form of the debate. Mine is that it immediately seems like the old class war - the middle class mums happy to have their children drink a glass of "pink water" around the Sunday dinner table, while feral working class kids drink alcopops on park slides.

One thing I've found though is that the class explanation is a very superficial one; it immediately seems to make sense and because of that it's a widely accepted "reason" for many things, this apparent alcohol problem one of them.

The superficiality of using class to describe problems also extends to my arguments; for example, I could quite truthfully say that there is a large degree of blinkeredness and "shut-out" attitude about the middle classes seeking to dispose of their problems on the poorer class, but equally there is an unwarranted contempt in the opposite direction, the working class feeling their problems can always be blamed on someone else. The point is, very often the real root of a problem transcends our concept of social class and applies across the board, just manifesting in different ways.

With that impression out of the way, I was struck by the number of times people said "I...". It's almost universal. I know that it's a comment board and it takes a moments thought to come up with an interesting opener to a sentence that doesn't use "I...", "The problem..." and so on, but it's still a striking impression.

What this makes me feel is that the use of alcohol is a deeply personal thing. Based not just on this one article but my whole life experience around people who drink, I've always found that people have a fairly strong opinion of some sort on alcohol. The middle ground is sparsely populated by the few who really just have no opinion, of whom I'll shortly be making another post about elsewhere.

It being a very personal thing, then, accounts for one of the biggest problems I've had in dealing with my views on drinking - it's that understanding between people is really pretty weak. In just the same way that I struggle with being in a pub environment and watching people get drunk, people don't get why I keep on drinking. It seems to be an almost inate thing that contradictory behaviours really aggravate, which is perhaps why it's a difficult problem for people to resolve.

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