All About Beer Magazine - Volume 31, Issue 3
July 1, 2010 By

For many years I have babbled on, and at great length, about the terrible way we train our young people in the management of what is clearly one of our country’s greatest problems, that of youthful alcohol consumption.

This actually started at the end of Prohibition. Before then, there were few laws concerning youthful alcohol consumption. Prohibition itself was the result, mostly, of religious groups, especially some Protestant Christian groups, trying to change their religion’s historic tolerance of modest alcohol consumption.

It is with great humor that one reads the King James English version of what the Bible has to say about Jesus’ first miracle. John 2:2-10, tells it all: Jesus and some disciples were attending a wedding in Cana. When they wanted wine, his mother tells him: “They have no wine.” This is a classic discourse between mother and son, and his answer: “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” His mother doesn’t take this from her son and she “saith unto the servants…do it.”

The narrator continues: “There were six waterpots of stone.” These were pretty large vessels, because we are told that they contained “two or three firkins apiece” of water. As we know, a firkin is a British beer container of some eight gallons, or just under 10 gallons U.S. That is certainly a good measure of the final product! We can assume the amount to be somewhere near 110 gallons… of wine. Some party, even for a really big Jewish wedding, or maybe even a Kansas chivaree, for that matter.

We can certainly conclude that Jesus was no opponent of alcohol consumption at weddings and other celebrations. But we can also conclude that some religionists are more than willing to warp their religious books in their own image. These people will tell you that it wasn’t really wine, but grape juice! That’s what my Norwegian Lutheran teachers told me when I was 12 or so, and questioned the so-called “wine” at church ceremonies. They had an excuse. Aside from being Lutheran, they were also from Norway and grape juice might just stay unfermented for long time in that austere climate. Baptists, of course have their own rules. But Catholics have no such nonsense in their version of reality. We know that Pope Benedict enjoys good beer, as well he should!

A few Christian groups aren’t the only ones warping their religions to match what they want everyone to believe. Witness Islam and their renegade imams encouraging young people to commit suicide in the name of Allah. The Koran I read in 1948 opposes suicide and didn’t seem to me to be as anti-alcohol as they preach today: The Koran worried that someone would drink before praying. The devout pray five times a day, so that may be why there’s no time left over for partying.

Buddhists (of which I am one with) think of themselves as following the “Middle Way” between opposites, so one has some leeway to indulge in this and that without totally abusing the precepts (precepts, not commandments). Some Zen priests were notorious for their sake consumption. For Buddhists, the “Middle Way” is just that; but there are those who would take another path, and demand that we all follow their example.

Illegal and Unworkable

Nevertheless, I ask you—dear reader—if it’s illegal, and you’re 20 years old and you’ve been voting since you were 18, what could be more inviting than a beer after work? But, of course, you’ll have to bribe another citizen, one at least 21 years of age, to buy it for you, and then where are you going to drink that pathetic six-pack of Budweiser? That popular brew has decent alcohol levels, but the flavor gives little warning as to the effects that alcohol might have on you or your friend.

Where else will most young people go? In a car, with your friend-of-the-evening, of course, because you don’t have a real home, except with your parents and they’re not too keen about your alcohol experiments, especially with friends of the opposite sex, are they? So, after a couple of those brews, you get it on with your friend-of-the-evening when they are in the proper mood, and nine months later there is a pregnancy. How nice.

Some day we might find out how many of us were conceived in an automobile. The results of such a census might be quite revealing about our society! I was born (and adopted) in the late 1920s, so I was probably conceived in a Model T Ford.

Does any other society on our planet have this problem? Certainly not to the extent we do, that’s for sure. Only South Korea, Malaysia, Ukraine and Russia share our late age 21-year-old drinking requirements. The Europeans (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and most of Switzerland) aim for 16 (for beer and wine mostly). Most countries require an older age (e.g. 18) for hard stuff. Much of Canada looks to 19, with Iceland and Japan holding out for age 20. Many countries allow 16 year olds to drink with parents in commercial establishments.

I’ve spent a significant time wandering the planet, and I’ve not noticed that any other society, except possibly Russia, has the problems with alcohol consumption that we do. The Russians’ problems stem from their consumption patterns with their basic distillate, vodka. Hard liquor is not easy for the best of us.

In my youth, during the period between my two wars (World War II and the Korean War), the comedian Red Skelton did a radio skit about being “a bad wittle boy.” When he had been bad enough, he’d shout: “Ooh, I scared me-self!” In the same vein, our society seems to be out of control regarding our children. According to a 1994 Gallup Poll, American adults think that almost half of all violent crime is committed by our children. This contradicts the real figure of 13 percent. Much of the crap that goes on in our society is done by that same percentage of people. (For example, seven in ten people drink, but only one of those seven has a problem with alcohol.) One of our local media columnists put it quite succinctly: “The people adults are scaring the most are themselves.”

Kids on Their Own

I believe it’s much worse than that. The real issue is control. We want to be certain that we have complete control over our children. We want to cram adulthood down their throats, but we don’t want them underfoot. We don’t want them too loose, either. It seems that we leave two of the most important areas of instruction—sex and alcohol—to their own devices. Let them figure it out for themselves. I blame the “Just Say No” attitude. Forget that!

Sex? “Hey, if we just inflate this condom and put it between us there can’t be a pregnancy, right?” Beer? “If we do this right we can get our friend sick and drunk out of his mind.” If you’re in adolescence, your friends will do whatever they can to get you drunk. It happens in real life for kids time after time!

In most countries, it is quite rare to find young people abusing alcohol. This is because their society takes care to ensure that they become educated in the management of this dangerous, but delightful, substance. Wine and beer are household items, not contraband. Their religious culture doesn’t preclude beer and wine. They don’t suffer from the sneaky suspicion of some religionists that somewhere, somehow, someone is having fun. Heaven forbid!

Some time back (after another of my diatribes here), I received a letter from a young lady of 18: “I have had the pleasure of touring Europe twice and living in a southern region in Russia. I have witnessed the usage of alcohol in both the U.S. and about 11 other countries. I found the differences astounding. In the U.S., most of the drunken idiots I encounter are, yes, underage, but in other countries, where the drinking age is lower and not as enforced, I’ve never encountered a younger person abusing alcohol. Whenever I have discussed this issue with someone older than myself, I have been basically called an idiot for wanting to lower the drinking age.” She thanked me for being “someone of a greater age… [who] has embraced the same ideas.” Thank you, Kelly.