In the Western societies we have to live with an omnipresent alcohol norm. We call it an intoxicating norm, and the harm that it brings upon society are tremendous. This norm dictates that alcohol be part of every social event; that alcohol is necessary for every cultural event; that without alcohol sports events are less fun and less exhilarating; that party is impossible without alcohol; that music events, youth events, nightlife, candle light dinners, and After-Work gatherings more or less depend on alcoholic beverages. But it’s not only after work we see alcohol dominating all too many aspects of social life. It is also at the workplace that the alcohol norm is reigning, and increasingly in schools, and kindergartens.
The alcoholizaition of, what I broadly call, social life in the Western world is aggressively driven by the alcohol industry. It’s an industry that blatantly seeks to tell people what to do, how to think, and how to have fun. It trains children in which tastes they should like. It preaches to women and girls how their bodies should look like and how they should behave. It preaches to men how women and girls should be like and how they should treat females. The alcohol industry prescribes how to watch football games and defines what a party is, and what a party is not. It is an industry that usurps cultural traditions, customs and doesn’t shy away from taking over entire holidays, or even from creating whole new ones.
All this has become evident. We have an avalanche of evidence, shocking examples, appealing transgressions by an alcohol industry that is going rogue. We are telling the story and sharing as many examples and as much evidence as we can through our Global Voices Blog Portal.
Collecting these examples of alcohol industry conduct and of iterations of the Western alcohol culture allows us to see the big picture. What’s it like?
Let me share with you four photographs and one screenshot that depict the Western alcohol norm. They show the “culture” that the alcohol industry has created in a nutshell.
The Absolut brand belongs to the alcohol industry giant Pernod-Ricard, the “co-leader in the wines and liquor sector worldwide.” Obviously they don’t care about the teachings of Buddhism, for example the Five Precepts.
The following are the five precepts (pañca-sikkhāpada) or five virtues (pañca-sīla), via Wikipedia:
1) I undertake the training rule to abstain from killing.
2) I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
3) I undertake the training rule to avoid sexual misconduct.
4) I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
5) I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.
In the fifth virtue, meraya and majja are kinds of alcoholic beverages. In some modern translations we find more broadly: intoxicants, liquor and drugs, etc. The Chinese Mahayana texts stipulate for instance: “5. As all Buddhas refrained from alcohol until the end of their lives, so I too will refrain from alcohol until the end of my life.” Simp. Chinese: 如Rú 诸zhū 佛Fó 尽jìn 寿shòu 不bù 饮yǐn 酒jiǔ, 我Wǒ 某mŏu 甲jiǎ 亦yì 尽jìn 寿shòu 不bù 饮yǐn 酒
This brand belongs to the New England Brewing Company, a craft brewery located in Woodbridge, CT. New England Brewing Company made the BeerAdvocate.com-list of top 20 breweries in the USA in both 2009 and 2010.
Mahatma Gandhi lived a life of temperance and chose to live free from alcohol. In fact he focused on expanding initiatives against untouchability, alcoholism, ignorance and poverty.
New England Brewing Company has come under fire now for their ignorant transgression. They have recently apologised to Indians. “We apologize to any Indian people that find our Gandhi-Bot label offensive. Our intent is not to offend anyone but rather pay homage and celebrate a man who we respect greatly,” the Woodbridge-based company wrote on its Facebook page.
What does “respect” mean when the alcohol industry uses the word? Consider that the brewery’s website promotes the Gandhi-Bot beer as “fully vegetarian” and “an ideal aid for self-purification and the seeking of truth and love”.
Many of my Indian friends have expressed their anger and sadness about this. And I understand them. Such a product and the way of marketing the product are just cynical. Even the apology is simply appalling. There’s now a petition on Change.Org to get rid of this product.
Yes, you see correctly. It’s a high-powered racing car with an alcohol sponsor on it. This is wrong in itself. But it doesn’t stop Budweiser from airing commercials about driving under the influence of alcohol – despite the fact that this NASCAR is literally under the influence of alcohol.
The alcohol industry likes awareness raising about driving under the influence of alcohol. It’s supposed to make them appear socially responsible. But no amount of puppies can betray the fact that this is just hypocrite. Take a look at this social media content for example:
The World Health Organisation reports that driving under the influence of alcohol is almost universally a major risk factor for road traffic crashes. The extent to which alcohol contributes to road traffic crashes varies between countries, and direct comparisons are difficult to make. In many high-income countries, about 20% of fatally injured drivers have excess alcohol in their blood (i.e. above the legal limit). Studies in low-income countries have shown alcohol to be present in between 33% and 69% of fatally injured drivers.
This is the alcohol industry in a nutshell: alcohol consumption and Buddhism; Mahatma Gandhi on beer cans; Racing cars and alcohol marketing, Formula 1 stars and road safety awareness…
Alcohol producers, marketers and retailers are all involved. One last example comes from Scotland, and a Daily Mail article:
Referendums are widely regarded as peak of democracy and many campaign for more referendums to make Western democracies more vital, accountable and responsive. For the alcohol industry it’s – however – just another opportunity to cash in, no matter what the democratic, social, or public health consequences might be. We can see this all around the world and this example from Scotland just offers one example.
In this intoxicating alcohol culture, where nothing is off-limits, where the sanctity of deceased heroes is cynically violated, where the holiness of religious teachings is blatantly ignored, and where the importance of democratic procedures is abandoned for yet another chance to rake in profits, in such a society alcohol industry hypocrisies must be abound. These are four sad examples because they all bring harm in their wake. And these are four examples that serve to expose the real face of the alcohol industry.
It spells ignorance and cynicism, greed and ruthlessness, and egoism in the merciless push for ever more profits.