Showing posts with label prohibition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prohibition. Show all posts

Friday, October 2, 2009

Culture Shock!

Getting used to living in the USA is kind of similar to my experience of living in Minsk for a few months back in 2001. When I decided to take a job in Belarus after a couple of years in Prague, I thought that my somewhat feeble Czech skills at the time would be pretty useless. However, given that Russian and Czech are in the same language family, certain important things were the same; "pivo" will get you beer from the Baltic to the Balkans (other than Hungary and Romania though) and "chleb" will get you some bread. There were times in Minsk when I could understand great chunks of what was being spoken about, and then in a flash I was baffled.

Admittedly I haven't experienced much culture shock since moving over here, but last night it hit with abundance when Mrs Velkyal and I went to see U2 live in Charlottesville. Imagine then, if you will, a fairly normal routine for going to a concert in Prague, such as when I went to see REM at the O2 Arena. Basically it is this; get home from work, quick change, grab a bite to eat and then head for the pub. Several pints later, jump on the tram to the venue, maybe another couple of pints before heading into the venue itself. Once inside, grab a pint from the bar, find seat, enjoy concert with occassional wanderings to the bar for more beer. Now consider last night's gig; meet wife at work to beat traffic and get parked up early; have a packed dinner in the back of the car whilst marvelling at people who bring barbecues and stuff despite the big bold notice on the parking pass that tailgating is prohibited, walk to the venue, buy a bottle of water and some popcorn all the while wondering: why so many kids, everyone is kind of overdressed, where is the bar?

Scott Stadium has no bar, sure it has snack stands selling crap of all kinds - sorry guys but I will never in a million years get into popcorn and funnel cakes. This being a U2 gig, we are positively encouraged to sign up for all manner of activist programs - which is fine, at least they are out there trying to make a difference. In the mean time I am thinking, surely there has to be a bar somewhere round here - it's a concert for crying out loud, an adult event, and still thinking, shouldn't all these kids be in bed? It is a school night after all. Having been forewarned that there would be checks, I didn't bother to bring a hip flask or similar, had I known had flimsy the checks were I would have stuffed a keg up my jumper and blended in with the crowd.

I don't think I have ever gone to a concert where I have consumed precisely zero alcohol. I am grown adult, I am responsible and I would like the opportunity to have a couple of pints whilst watching one of the world's great evangelists, sorry, bands. Now, I am no right winger by any stretch of even the most deraged imagination, but I am starting to have a grudging respect for people who bang on about their 2nd amendment right to bear and keep arms (quite though why anyone would bare arms with the cold as it was last night is beyond me); at least those people actively campaign for something they believe in. In prohibiting alcohol within the stadium, people's 21st amendment right to have a drink was walked all over - though of course I am sure it is in the interests of public safety, usually a euphemism for "we don't want to deal with the few who abuse that right".

U2 though were brilliant.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Session #22 - Prohibition

Being British and living in the Czech Republic, the question for this month’s Session – what does the repeal of Prohibition mean to you, and how will you celebrate your right to drink beer? – could almost too easily be dismissed as irrelevant.

The driving force behind Prohibition was a misrepresentation of Christian values, in particular a misrepresentation of Puritanism. There is nothing in the Bible which denounces the making and drinking of alcohol, Jesus himself indulged in a spot of home-winemaking at the wedding in Cana, much to the consternation of his guests – how dare they leave the best wine to last, when everyone was so pickled they couldn’t appreciate the flavours and aromas of simply divine wine! Without wanting to get into the theological nuances of Greek, it was wine not grape juice that Jesus handed out at the Last Supper, anything else would have been strictly un-Kosher, and Jesus was after all a Jew.

In the UK we had the Temperance League, dedicated to stamping out the ill effects of drunkenness within the working classes – a well meaning, if patronizingly paternalistic, attempt to improve the lot of the working man in much the same way as New Lanark was to be a model village for the workers.

Banning alcohol is ultimately counter-productive, because the demand for drink will always be there regardless of what is on the statute books, and it simply serves to create a new class of criminals. If governments are serious about lessening the effects of binge drinking then education is the key rather than legislation. Attempts to stigmatise alcohol simply glamorizes it in the minds of the impressionable.

What does the repeal of Prohibition mean to me? It means that a misguided attempt to make a better world, the unintentional creation of criminals and the misrepresentation of the Christian faith was put thoroughly and rightly where it belongs, to bed. How will I celebrate my right to drink? Well I am not the kind of person to go shoving my rights in other people’s faces, I believe that every right has a corresponding responsibility – the right to drink is really about drinking responsibly, “whatever that means” to quote Prince Charles.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...