To drink or not to drink

As enthusiastic but not particularly intelligent drinkers Australians have always been willing to persuade themselves that they are reckless addicts of alcohol.

Sidney Baker, The Australian Language, 1945. 

Australians are among the greatest alcoholics in the world

Jonathan King, Waltzing Materalism, 1976

Alcoholism is fast becoming the all-Australian nightmare for, in addition to creating thousands of sick workers, it has created a sick economy where the doctors in charge don't have a clue as to the conditions or the cause!

Bob Hawke, President, ACTU, 1977 (A world beer drinking record holder who became Prime Minister)

There are not many countries where people get the DTs on beer - but Australia is one of them.

Health Authority, Dr E. Cunningham Dax, 1976

There is most definitely emerging a set of drinking practices that are aimed at controlling 'sickness' among drinkers. Wycliffe Camp drinkers drink beer only because beer "makes you eat", contrary to the '5 litre bummer' or 'moselle' as wine is called which destroys the appetite for food and which "makes you shake".

So, in order to stop the DTs, drinkers regularly leave some grog for when they get up in the morning. This measure allegedly also stops hang-over symptoms. Some assure me they do eat after that first 'shot' but binge drinkers go without food for up to 3 days. "They come back hungry, ask for food, and some get locked up hungry in order to obtain food .... they fight their wives, mothers".

Too much sorry business, The Report of the Aboriginal Issues Unit of NT, 1990

To drink or not to drink, that is the question considered by this drinker as he ponders another beer

Australia, although lucky enough to have escaped the absurdity of prohibition, did not escape the meddling of abolitionists and related fanatics.

In the 1880s, the Alliance Record had the following to say about beer and those who drink it:

"The use of beer is found to produce a species of degeneration of all the organs; profound and deceptive fatty deposits, diminished circulation, conditions of congestion and perversion of functional activity, local inflammation of both the liver and kidneys are constantly present. Intellectually a stupor amounting almost to paralysis arrests the reason, changing all the higher faculties into a mere animalism, sensual, selfish, sluggish, varied only with paroxysms of anger that are serious and brutal. In appearance the beer drinker may the picture of health, but in reality he is almost incapable of resisting disease. A slight injury, a severe cold, or a shock of the body or mind, will commonly provoke an acute disease ending fatally. Compared with inebriates who drink different kinds of alcohol, he is more incurable and more generally diseased."

One hundred years later, the doomsday predictions were still being given:

Australians are drowning in a sea of grog and are making little effort to save themselves. The average Australian drinks the equivalent of 100 gallons of beer a year and is virtually certain to develop serious alcohol related medical problems.

Melbourne psychiatrist, Dr G. Milner 1974 as quoted in The Ugly Australian, 1976.

So you have been warned! But before you give up on the brew all together, carefully consider the lament of Dryblower Murphy who wrote in the Bulletin:

Pints that I’ve Refused

The gaunt earth gasps beneath the sun
That breathes hot Hades down,
The scrub is burnt a dreary dun,
The spinifex is brown.
The track is lonely, hard and long,
The soaks are far between,
With not a shade of currajong
To break the sweltering sheen.
But still as on I lonely lope,
Beyond the wide world’s ken,
I storm not at my star of hope
Or envy merrier men,
I do not whine as others may
Of money I’ve misused;
Ah no, I only think today
Of pints that I’ve refused.

From out the mulga share I look
Across the grave of years,
To days when I unwilling took
Small shandy-gaffs and beers,
And when the stars upon me stare
>From out the dusky vault,
There steals along the heated air
The scent of hops and malt,
I conjure up the liquid feast
In brewery cellars cool,
Where oft I’ve played amid the yeast
The dashed teetotal fool.
My punishment is that of Cain,
My soul is self accused,
As hour by hour I count again
The pints that I’ve refused.

At dusk I do not weep or curse
As on my swag I sit,
And vote this world a trifle worse
Than deep Gehenna’s pit,
I do not sigh for rippling rills,
That babble through the ferns,
Ah, no, for flowing frothy swills
My thirsty thorax yearns.
I recollect the sprees that irked
When shanties ran with shick;
And as I think of drinks I’ve shirked
My mental self I kick.
Yea, here amid a beerless drought
My heart with grief is bruised
When I fancy figure out
The pints that I’ve refused.

Hot Sheol must consist, I think,
Of long and pintless years,
Where no poor sinful soul may drink
His fill of cooling beers.
The burning brimstone and the torch
May be for mulga men,
But grant, O Satan, as I scorch,
A tiddley now and then,
Still, if Gehenna will not give
What I’m on earth denied,
I may at last decide to live
Where in no souls are fried;
And when Saint Peter at the door
My passport has perused,
He’ll put me, p’raps, where I may score,
The pints that I’ve refused.

Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers