Alcohol Is Not Magical

Kate Fox a consultant for MCM research whose alcohol industry clients include Bass Taverns, the Brewers and Licensed Retail Association and the Brewers’ Society argues that alcohol consumption is not a problem but cultural attitudes to alcohol are.

The problem is that we Brits believe that alcohol has magical powers – that it causes us to shed our inhibitions and become aggressive, promiscuous, disorderly and even violent. But we are wrong. In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly. But it does not cause us selectively to break specific social rules…

Source:  Viewpoint: Is the alcohol message all wrong?

It seems to me that if as the writer states  ‘In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly’ then it is in fact highly likely to cause disorder and violence on the part of drinkers…

The long term health problems caused by alcohol are also ignored in the article which concentrates on anthropology rather than medical research.

The writer goes on to argue that public health campaigns which highlight the negative effects of alcohol will only encourage the young and impressionable to drink more. (If this is the case why does the alcohol industry spend millions advertising a positive image for drinking? Perhaps they are missing a trick and should increase sales by telling their customers not to drink at all.)..

How does one change the culture surrounding alcohol?  One can begin with the right message. In the words of Bahá’u’lláh

‘It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away…’

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A Lesser Mentioned Human Right…

According to official figures the unemployment rate in the United Kingdom for the three months to October 2010 was 7.9 per cent, up 0.1 on the quarter. In my view unemployment is a key economic issue of today. To be employed has an obvious material benefit but is an important part of spiritual well-being as well. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá equated work with worship saying

‘Man must work with his fellows. Everyone should have some trade, or art or profession, be he rich or poor, and with this he must serve humanity. This service is acceptable as the highest form of worship.”

We seem to have constructed an economic system which actively destroys jobs in a quest for  higher profits and lost sight of the ideal of full employment set out in  ‘The Universal Declaration Of  Human Rights‘ –

Article 23.

* (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
* (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
* (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
* (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

* Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

* (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
* (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Baha’is Participate In World Religions Summit

Susanne Tamas, centre, a delegate from the Canadian Baha'i community, participates in the World Religions Summit 2010. Photograph by Louis Brunet.

This years’ G8 meeting was also the forum for the ‘The World Religions Summit’ 2010 which assembled participants from all of the world’s major faiths. I am pleased to learn that for the first time this included representatives of the Baha’i community. The 80 representatives of the various faith communities reaffirmed their commitment to

  • demonstrate solidarity with the poor and vulnerable in our society and the globe;
  • monitor the compliance of our governments in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and, whenever possible, hold them publicly accountable for such compliance;
  • confront consumerism, reduce consumption and change our lifestyle to give testimony to better stewardship and live more lightly on the Earth;
  • grow the collaboration of faith traditions to provide leadership, research and action, work to engage our own communities on the issues, and maintain continuous consultation and evaluation of these global political summits in the coming years while building political support for the changes we seek.
  • cultivate the positive peacebuilding influence of religion and invest in building the capacity of our communities to participate in peacebuilding and peacekeeping activities;
  • promote co-existence among different religious and ethnic communities while welcoming immigrants and refugees; and
  • grow the collaboration of faith traditions to provide leadership, research and action, work to engage our own communities on the issues, and maintain continuous consultation and evaluation of these global political summits in the coming years while building political support for the changes we seek.

Given the importance of acting upon this agenda I am reminded of the words of Bahá’u’lláh who said ‘let deeds not words be your adorning’. I am also concious that the global outcome is the sum total of our individual actions. (With a little help from the Almighty of course..).

The Cultural Associations Of Alcohol

A new United Kingdom Government report has warned that parents perpetuate myths to convince themselves that their children’s’ drinking is safe. This includes beliefs that children need to learn about alcohol for themselves and that drinking is a “right of passage.” Other beliefs which seem to me to encourage the drinking problems of our nation include a deep-seated cultural association of drinking alcohol with having fun, if not the very act of socialising itself. Perhaps we need to change our culture.

How does one change a culture? One can begin with the right message. In the words of Bahá’u’lláh

‘It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away…’

The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’í World Centre, 1992 edition

Gossip- Harmless Fun or Funless Harm?

Elaine Porterfield writes in the ‘The Seattle Times’ that gossip can be a malevolent force that destroys careers, decreases productivity, spawns lawsuits and damages the reputations of organizations of all stripes’. I have personally seen how harmful gossip can be, especially in the workplace where it alienates co-workers and destroys team spirit. It is also very easy to become drawn into gossip in order to cement one’s position in the group or simply to pass the time of day. At a political level gossip can be used as a weapon to undermine political opponents, and even ultimately as propaganda to dehumanise a religious or ethnic group with all the terrible results we have seen in recent history. I think that this is why Bahá’u’lláh made the avoidance of gossip and back-biting a spiritual law; after all harmony between nations starts with harmony between neighbours. In the words of Bahá’u’lláh-

‘O SON OF BEING! Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it’.

The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1985 reprint

Encouraging a Different Perception of Alcohol

Today the BBC reported a move in the United Kingdom to ‘encourage a different perception of alcohol’ because of the great social problems it causes in our country. For example the number of people in the UK dying from alcohol-related problems is continuing to rise at a worrying rate. I strongly agree with the need to change our culture, because the consumption of alcohol for many British people has become synonymous with having a good time. Indeed as a number of anthropologists have commented, it has taken on a pseudo-religious, cult-like aspect. Take for example the repetitive, ritualistic quality of Friday night drinking. Is this any surprise when, amongst other things, drinking is so heavily promoted by advertising and popular television programmes? This particularly true of soaps, where the first thing a character is depicted as doing when they have problems is reaching for a bottle. How does one change a culture? Well one can begin with the right message. In the words of Bahá’u’lláh

‘It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away…’

The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’í World Centre, 1992 edition