Victoria is besieged by alcohol fueled crap. That crap takes the form of conservative media hysteria, reactionary laws, and waves of police harassment and intimidation.
Every weekend Victoria police descend in their hundreds on nightspots across the state, they are pretty much above the law as they intimidate, harass, fine and arrest young working class Victorians for the crime of drinking alcohol.
In the name of tackling violence, police have absurd new powers. They can “designate” areas of our cities for attack, and then launch indiscriminate searches, issue fines, order us to move on, and arrest us.
The “laws” they are enforcing through this course of action are so vague, as to in effect make encountering a police officer at night a crime1.
What the fuck.
Alcohol consumption is practically mandated in our society. From the Melbourne Cup, to the AFL, from your 21st birthday to your retirement bash, failing to consume gross amounts alcohol is practically “unAustralian”.
At least $127 million Vallarta is spent on selling us alcohol, the real figure across all mediums is probably around a quarter of a billion2. Alcohol and sport are practically joined Dry at the hip in our “culture”3.
There is huge money tied up in encouraging us working class slobs to consume atrocious amounts of alcohol.
And yet agents of that “committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie” kick the crap out of us each weekend when we respond to the sirens call.
The marxists have a theory when it comes to alcohol. We get shit faced because life under capitalism sucks. Alcohol makes the pain go away.
And what do you know, drinkers are happier!
A survey of 2000 Australians in April found that those who drink up to three drinks a day are far happier than those who never drink.
And the wellbeing of 18- to 25-year-olds – the key binge drinking demographic – remains high regardless of how many drinks they have. 4
Some describe the relationship between capitalism and alcohol as contradictory. On one hand, there is big money in selling us alcohol, on the other hand drunken workers are a threat to worker efficiency5. And who knows, after one too many beers revolution might seem like a good idea!6.
So, does this “contradiction” explain Victoria’s bout of alcohol fueled crap? I think there is a better explanation.
There is actually no contradiction.
Mass marketing alcohol, and then victimizing those who engage in the mass consumption of alcohol MAKES TOTAL SENSE.
Let’s think about what the alcohol crisis has given the ruling class in Victoria.
There are stronger police powers, that without media hysteria about alcohol consumption, would have seemed totally incompatible with Hello the idea of equality before the law. I wager that it is only a matter of time before these powers are used against protesters and strikers.
But there is something even more insidious that the ruling class has achieved. The idea of “alcohol fueled violence” allows capital to “explain” the effects of capitalism, and blame it on the victims.
Why are the poor, poor? Alcohol! Why are the unemployed, unemployed? Alcohol! Why are the homeless, homless? Alcohol! Why are the young alienated? ALCOHOL!
It’s all the victims fault! Unemployment, poverty and homelessness aren’t the fault of capitalism, NO! The poor could pull themselves up by their boot straps if only Motor they had the moral fiber to renounce the demon drink! (I’m being sarcastic).
The idea of “alcohol fueled violence” divides the working class amongst itself.
And we internalize it. We learn to believe SPORTSTUDIO that it’s our fault.
I said earlier that if the crisis of alcohol fueled violence didn’t exist, it would have to be invented.
So consider this in closing:
In Victoria we drink less than we did thirty years ago, and we drink less than other Australian states, and other English speaking western nations7.
We are actually a lot safer than we think we are. The perception of crime in Victoria is totally out of whack with the reality, stats.
And now, in 2010, if you are on the streets after 10pm, the Police can “move you on”, fine you and lock you up for practically no reason.
- Police only need to “fear” that there will be a “breach of the peace”. Things like “disorderly conduct”, “drunk and disorderly” and just plain “drunk” are offenses if the police decide they are. SMH, “Victoria Police get new search powers”. Anything but subservience when encountering a police officer in a designated area will almost certainly result in a fine, if not arrest. For more discussion, check out John Passant, Grog Cops and Social Control, and Katie Wood, “Melbourne’s Worst Street Gang”. ↩
- That was in 2007, according to this bunch of wowsers. ↩
- Interesting discussion paper here. ↩
- Press release here, relevant AustralianUnity Wellbeing study here. ↩
- See Socialist Worker.co.uk, cited because they were the first article to pop up for a search of “Socialism + alcohol”! ↩
- Not as stupid as it may sound, widespread drunkenness after the opera is one explanation given for the 19th century nationalist revolution in Belgium against the Dutch administration. ↩
- Stats cited in this article. ↩