by Tabassam Hamid
The notion that alcohol is a just a bit of harmless fun is one of the most invidious falsities of our age. A government that has launched a crusade against smoking and drugs has failed to acknowledge just how harmful a substance alcohol is. I make this observation in light of a very specific context.
The context is this: Person A walks to his local supermarket early in the morning but finds he is there before opening time. As he stands there waiting, person B walks by and shouts ‘what you looking at?’ Person A ignores the question. A few minutes later Person B again shouts, aggressively, ‘what you looking at?!’ At that moment person A’s gaze meets person B’s and there is no doubt as to who is the subject of the question. Person A replies by asking what person B wants. Person B then rushes towards person A and motions to pull out a weapon. Person A will not stand to observe the object of his potential demise and runs, as B chases. It turns out that B was just ‘a bit drunk’ and that he did not in fact possess a weapon. So, has no harm been done, no crime committed? No, I would argue, a wrong has definitely been done. An injustice has been done and its seriousness is undermined because drunkenness can be used as an excuse. Person A has fled fearing for his life, comes home breathless and shaken, will take a few days (at least) to get over the whole episode; and yet the drunkard is excused because he was intoxicated.
This event has crystallised for me the very deep perniciousness of alcohol. Disorderly behaviour caused by drink is one of the least serious consequences of drinking. The more serious effects are alcohol addiction that destroys lives and alcohol addiction that takes lives. Who can forget, for example, the story of George Best: he was one of the greatest players to grace the world of football and yet his dependency on alcohol cut short a glittering career and finally killed him. Even after receiving a life-saving liver transplant, Best couldn’t resist the lure of alcohol; his return to it proved fatal.
The Office for National Statistics has found that alcohol-related deaths have more than doubled between 1992 and 2009. Alcohol use has also been connected to a spectrum of illnesses, including mouth, gullet, colon, and breast cancer. And this apart from all the moral degeneration it facilitates. Young men and women adorning the pavements at 3 a.m. in the morning, listless and stupefied, bathed in puddles of sick- this is 21st century Britain, and nobody would deny it. You don’t need to be a Muslim to see that alcohol is a problem; any reasonable human being would arrive at the same conclusion.