goon, grog & plonk

We’re often perplexed about Americans and their love for guns. Another random shooting, and another and another. Wake up! Get some common sense!

But I reckon we’ve got an equivalent. Something that’s killing us, but is so intrinsic to our national identity and culture we can’t imagine giving it up: alcohol.alcohol

That’s hard for me to write. I love a drink. My grandfather sold alcohol for a living. I’m a descendant of Irish Catholics. It’s in the genes. I’ve played goon of fortune (how quintessentially Australian – a goon bag on a hills hoist) and enjoyed it (does that make me a bad Christian?).

It goes way back. NSW had a coin shortage in the early nineteenth century. No worries. They used rum for a currency. Now we use beer.

Later, we got around to giving women and Aboriginal people the vote. But then, we eventually let them have a drink at the same bar as white men. The pub, not the ballot box, was the marker of equality on a social level.

This is because drinking is our great social equaliser. It turns ‘a boss into a mate’. It’s how we communicate that we trust people, that we don’t think we’re any better than them, that we enjoy their company – we get drunk with them. You have to shout when it’s your turn – it shows you’re reliable. Even Prime Ministers are champion drinkers – Bob Hawke can skull a beer in about 10 seconds.

What does this mean for Christians? A Christian friend of mine organising a dry social event commented that it would show that ‘you don’t need to drink to have fun.’ Well yes, but generally in my experience, drinking makes most things more fun! That’s ok. Water into wine!

Sometimes when Christians don’t drink we end up coming off a bit up-tight and stand-offish, like we can’t really relax. It’s like we’re unwilling to share our true selves. It’s weird to socialise without drinking: in my experience only Christians seem to do that. It can make people joining us uncomfortable. Maybe being ‘all things to all people’ means we should drink a little more often.

But then again, Australia’s drinking culture has it’s flaws. An Aussie teenager dies every week from alcohol-related causes. According to the government:

Alcohol-related harm is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in Australia, causing around 3,000 deaths and 65,000 hospitalisations every year. In 2004-05, the annual cost to the Australian community of alcohol-related social problems was estimated at $15.3 billion.

(if we stopped drinking we could afford the National Disability Insurance Scheme no problem!)

The ‘mateship’ which drinking promises to deliver is still largely the domain of white men. What about people who for medical, cultural or religious reasons can’t drink? Will they ever be mates in the same way as the blokes you drink with? Check out XXXX island (a magical place without even a hint of femininity, homosexuality or anyone not anglo – I plan never to visit).

We also have an increasing muslim (non-drinking) population. I’m worried that if we depend on alcohol to turn a boss or a colleague into a ‘mate’, we’ll not include our muslim neighbours.

Maybe we need a new social lubricant. One that doesn’t kill us.

Cup of tea anyone?

What do you reckon – is alcohol to Australia what guns are to the USA? Should Christians drink more or less than we do now, or just differently? Does Australia’s drinking culture exclude people?

(next post – alcohol in the Northern Territory)

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3 thoughts on “goon, grog & plonk

  1. They have alcohol just as much as us so probably not a brilliant comparison. I think some Christians should probably drink more and some less. We are called to be not “get smashed” but I think some avoid alcohol entirely and so miss building some relationships. The drinking culture excludes people for sure, sometimes it is simply cost but other times it is an issue with alcohol itself.

    Another point, only drunk people find drunk people funny. Sober people can be funny to both.

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