If I can make one person think once more about one issue, I've done all I can. Maybe I take things too seriously...or maybe you don't take things seriously enough.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Sunshine or Sunset?

I woke up about half an hour ago, and the first thing I need to remember is to turn my watch forward. Damn daylight savings time. But then, while I set up my virus scan to run in the background, I decide to check my emails and float around some of the blogs of my PCG chat compatriots, and while I was doing so I noticed that both Creed's Blog and James have taken the Anne Diamond story to heart. So, rather than add what little I could say on the subject to their posts, I'll instead link you to the story and talk about something else.

I went out last night with a few friends and respective partners. We went into town, had a beer or two, then went back to the house of one of the party. At his house, we sorta splintered off and did different things: a few people set up the Wii and played Wii sports, while the rest of us hung around the iPod dock and had an unnecessarily loud singalong to whatever music we could find.

Unforunately for you guys, however, the events of that night are not the point of this particular post. Instead, I'd like to talk about binge drinking culture.

I feel as though that particular sentence has already scared you all off. After all, this has been debated repeatedly in the modern media for more or less the last 5 years, and I'm fairly sure that by now you are getting fairly tired of it. Well, tough. I'd like to put forward my viewpoint on the particular issue, and the only solace you can take in that is that I'm not a newspaper, and I'm not able to access the relevant medical studies (at least, not easily), so this is going to be purely opinion.

Firstly, let's just be clear on what I mean about 'binge drinking culture'. I am referring to the culture that exists in the modern Western World that glorifies the consumption of extremely large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. And I have used the word glorifies quite deliberately, namely because that is exactly what it does. How often have you walked past a group of people (usually young, albeit not always) who are talking about their latest night out, and how fantastic it was that they got so smashed?

Now, let me be clear. I don't object to drinking, nor do I object do getting drunk. I will happily have a beer most nights, and although I personally don't drink to get drunk, I am friends with many people who do, and so it would be a bit hypocritical for me to be strongly against the concept. What I dislike is a lot closer to the heart.

For some odd reason, in this binge drinking culture, someone who actively decides not to take part is considered to be an oddity. Even worse, they are subjected to the most overt form of peer pressure around, because not only is everyone doing it, but many of them will make repeated attempts to encourage others to partake in the drunkfest.

Let me reiterate what I said earlier. I do not object to people deciding for themselves to get drunk. In fact, I'm more or less in the J.S Mill camp, in that I believe that, so long as you're the only one harmed, if anyone is, you can do whatever the hell you want. So I don't object to smoking, but I do object to people smoking indoors.

Thus, my reason for becoming annoyed with the binge drink culture is that it is starting to have severe impacts upon people who aren't taking part. Even if you leave out the fairly significant statistics that people who drink are more likely to be violent, and also the drunk driving stats, the binge drink culture is causing a massive shift in the priorities of most people. For instance, on a sunny day, I quite enjoy sitting in a park with a can of coke and a little company, and just existing. But I distinctly recall, back in high school, seeing my friends begin to want to do that less often, as their desire to go out and get hammered increased. Thus, my worry is that the more intense high caused by alcohol is beginning to outweight the smaller highs one can get from doing other things.

I suppose that there's no reason for this to necessarily be considered a bad thing. After all, if people are still enjoying themselves, that's all well and good. I suppose I'll leave it up to you to decide. As for me, I'm going to continue enjoying the sun. If nothing else, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than alcohol.

Friday, 28 March 2008

The News

Today was one of the rare days when I have enough money to wander into the Student Union shop and purchase a paper. So I buy the Guardian, fully expecting to absorb myself for an hour or two before I actually need to knuckle down and do something with my life. So I grab a comfortable chair, discard the sport section and the offer of 25 free songs and 1 audiobook, and flip the paper open.

The Guardian's headline story was fine: new powers for the City watchdogs. But what were they running alongside it? An article about the visit by M and Mme Sarkozy.

This managed not to annoy me much. I just assumed it was a slow news day. And, as I continued to move through the paper, that appeared to be the case. A two page spread on the Presidential visit, and some references to a man having a baby (not the topic of this post).

And then, on page 15, fully half an hour after starting the paper, an article catches my eye. For the unitiated, page 15 is usually around the end of the England-based news, and so tends to be fairly minor stuff. But not today. Languishing, on page 15, in what is supposedly an anti-war newspaper, is an article that announces that the Ministry of Defence have finally admitted guilt for the beatings and subsequent deaths of 8 Iraqi civilians, after months of trial.

Let me fill you in a little more. Several Iraqi civilians were 'detained' by members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment. At some point during this detention, at least one of these civilians died. The coroner's report indicated cause of death being asphyxiation, but also pointed out the fact that there were 93 (yes, that's right, 93) individual wounds on his body.

Not only this, but apparently the court in which the trial was going on heard that the British Army officers ignored a ban from 1972 which forbade the use of "hooding, stressing, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and worse."

But that isn't the worst of it. The real horror here is not that such a thing happened. The real horror is that, somehow, at the court martial, they all got off. One enlisted man pleaded guilty to the charge; however, 6 others, including the officer in charge, were aquitted of all charges. And, just to cap it off, none of the soldiers had been charged with murder: all were charged with negligence.

I don't know about anyone else, but to me, this highlights exactly why I'm against modern warfare. Now, before anyone tries, I'd like to indicate that at no point do I think the enlisted men are at fault here. However, I think that the current atmosphere of fear regarding the transient and evasive 'terrorist threat' has lead to the rapid dehumanisation of much of the Middle East. This then makes it possible for officers to order the 'softening up' of detainees, which then means the enlisted men are forced to carry out abhorrent acts in the name of 'national defence'.

But what sickens me most is that all of this is done in the name of 'patriotism'. Let me be frank. I am a white Australian, which means I am of British stock. However, I have seen firsthand the destruction caused in my country by the British Empire. In the past, an abhorrent and disturbing amount of blood has been shed underneath, and in the name of, the Union Jack. What saddens me is that the current rulership of Britain seems determined to enforce a fear of that flag, by continuing the brutality and slaughter in the name of it. All of this, and then people wonder why it is that the Iraqi people weren't glad to see soldiers wearing the Union Jack entering the country. Hell, I'm not happy having the Union Jack on my own nation's flag.

If Britain wants respect on the world stage, it will need to learn to stop being the world's playground bully. After all, as anyone who was bullied will know, you don't respect the bully. You hate him. And the moment you see a way to take him down, you will. So my proposal is this: if you really want national security, stop pissing people off! Instead of shipping 'suspected terrorists' off to Guantanamo in the name of 'security', start helping them! Remove people like Robert Mugabe, not through violence, but through diplomatic and aid-related intervention. Do that, and maybe people will be less inclined to blow you sky high.

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UK admits breaching human rights convention over detainee's death

An Introduction

It's interesting how peer pressure works. Yesterday, I had a conscious thought to myself, which went along the lines of the following: "Why would I get a blog? No-one would read it anyway."

And here, I find myself typing in a box. Nevermind. This is just a placeholder post, as I happen to have one worth reading. Still, here's to maybe getting some minor readership. At least I won't be doing games journalism, eh?