Don’t you love a summer storm? It’s been another perfect day here, we’re finally having a killer summer, until about an hour ago, anyway, when I heard the rumble of fast-approaching thunder and sprinted outside to get the washing off the line just as fat drips the size of my palm started landing on the sizzling bricks all around me. Down it came. Then it stopped. Then it started again. And stopped. Started. Stopped. Right now there’s still thunder crackling away at fairly voluble levels, but it feels like the sun is straining to break clear of the cloud. It all happened so quickly – that’s one of the things I love about a summer storm. People were dashing down the street looking for shelter seconds after laying out their towels on the sand. You’ve got to love nature’s sense of humour.
One thing I don’t find amusing is the $11,000 fine for ‘supplying’ underage drinkers. My friend T had free tickets to see ‘Marley and Me’ last night, so off we went (it was better than I expected it to be, but admittedly my expectations were low. One thing: couldn’t they have tried just a little harder to match the physiognomy of the different canines cast as Marley? One dog’s legs were about three times the length of another’s – it gets distracting!), and during the trailers, they played an ad about what constituted illegal supply. It included parents pouring a glass of wine for teenage children around the dinner table. It included a coach rewarding a group of sixteen or seventeen year old players with a beer after the final whistle. It included a supervised birthday party in the privacy of someone’s own home. And the fine for teaching your children about responsible drinking is $11,000. It’s supplying alcohol to underage drinkers, and is therefore illegal. Have you ever heard anything more short-sighted in your life?
The reality of teenage life for many if not most young Australians is this: the constant emphasis on alcohol’s prohibition means only that they drink away from the home wherever and whenever possible, and then they drink as much as they can, before finally going home to pretend they haven’t been drinking at all. If you don’t know when you’ll next be able to sneak away and have a blessed drink, chances are you’ll have another one, and another, while you still can. “This might be it until the next party,” they think. “Better load up now.” I know this because I was a teenager. Admittedly I bought my own grog – I practically looked 30 when I was 12 – so the only person in danger of being fined $11,000 for supply was whoever was behind the counter at the bottle shop, but the sense of having to make it count certainly prevailed. This was our big chance, our big night on the West Coast Coolers or Blue Nun or whatever the hell that cheap white wine was called, and we weren’t about to let a night on the piss pass us by.
Cue the family scene in the ad. You know, adults actually sitting down to eat with their grown children, and taking the time to educate them about moderate drinking by inviting them to share a glass with their meal. Okay, putting aside that this is some TOTAL FANTASY, and must have been cut from some other, more civilised way of life in some other, more civilised country (eat with each other? What? At the table? And do what? Talk?! Come on!), it does sum up everything government and health organisations seem to miss about teenage binge drinking in this great soused land of the incurable inebriate we call Australia. How can they not see that threatening parents with an $11,000 fine – for doing nothing more than showing their teenage kids how alcohol can be enjoyed in a responsible fashion – is tantamount to encouraging those same kids to go hide out with their mates at the bottom oval getting smaaaaashed? It’s so fucking stupid. Do they really think it will deter the teenagers from seeking and procuring alcohol? Surely they can’t possibly believe that. And do they not look at the many generations of us who binge drank our way through our teens and see they’re missing the point? Look at countries like Spain and France and Italy where wine at table is unremarkable and consumed in moderation from a relatively young age. I have always thought these countries far less likely to have a teen population with a massive binge drinking problem like Australia’s. Australia is stupidly prohibitive in its approach to everything, as though it’s ever been shown to work telling the people no. Yeah. Because historically people have responded so well to prohibition and indeed Prohibition. No one drank at all back then when it was outlawed. Oh no, of course not. Everyone turned into dry-as-dust law abiders instead, just because the government said no. Sure, law makers. Whatever you say.