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Binge

What does the word ‘binge’ mean to you? The Oxford English Dictionary (the ultimate arbiter in linguistic matters) defines the word as “a spree; a period of uncontrolled eating, drinking, etc.” and also notes its use as an intransitive verb.

To me, the key here is the use of the word ‘uncontrolled’ in the definition. My rather more colourful definition of a binge includes massive intake of alcohol, followed by a great deal of falling over and prodigious quantities of vomit. To me, it is also implicit that this behaviour is deliberate, that the person who is bingeing has set out specifically to get drunk. I thought so, you think the same. We know what ‘binge’ means, don’t we?

Well apparently, the NHS and the National Office of Statistics know better. According to Drink Aware (www.drinkaware.co.uk) ‘the marker used by the NHS and National Office of Statistics is drinking more than double the daily unit guidelines for alcohol in one session.’

The daily unit guideline is that men do not regularly exceed 3-4 units, and women do not regularly exceed 2-3 units.

What is a ‘unit’? A unit is simply 10ml of alcohol. The unit is a measure of how much actual alcohol is present. To calculate how many units there are in any drink, use the following formula:

(volume of drink (in ml) x ABV)/1000

so 1 pint of 4% bitter is (568 x 4)/1000 = 2.3 units.

Following on from this, 4 pints of 4% bitter is 9.2 units, so if you go to the pub at 8pm, drink 4 pints of average strength beer over the next three hours, you are on a binge. Where is the lack of control? For that matter, where is the drunkenness? I know that alcohol affects different people in different ways, but only people with a serious problem need to be afraid of drinking four pints over three hours.

We have to recognize this as a manifestation of the way in which the government and quasi-governmental organizations attempt to manipulate the world. Firstly, identify a problem – yes, there is a problem with ‘real’ binge drinking, particularly with younger drinkers in city centre bars. Second, persuade people that the problem is far, far worse than they could ever have imagined. To do this, set arbitrary limits, such as the 3-4 units a day for men. This limit is hotly disputed by many scientists. The group who came up with the numbers admit that they have no idea what a safe limit for alcohol is, and faced with a deadline (another manifestation of the way the world is manipulated) simply produced the result that they knew the government wanted. The culprit firmly in their sights (booze), the government now set about the punishment of the innocent. Ordinary drinkers, who drink responsibly and in a safe environment (their local pub) are taxed more and more. Pubs by the thousand are put out of business and guess what? The city centres are still full of genuine binge drinkers. The solution? More tax on responsible drinkers. The real solution, of course, is to identify the real culprit. It’s not booze at all. Alcohol abuse is a symptom, not a cause. The cause is the consistent failure of successive governments to address the real issues. Long-term unemployment, youth disaffection and rejection of the crappy world they see around them, and a massively unfair tax burden all contribute towards the desire just to find a way out, even if only for a few hours, and even if it results in crashing and burning.

What has also happened in this case, and is the trigger for this blog, is that a perfectly good English word with a well-understood meaning has been stolen by the neo-temperance brigade and given a new, unfamiliar (and incorrect) meaning, in an attempt to make us all feel guilty. The use of an emotive word such as ‘binge’ to describe a normal, perfectly controlled and harmless drinking session is typical of the pious, woolly statements of this sort of movement. It’s like saying that any contact with another person constitutes grievous bodily harm. What, for example, do they mean by ‘one session’? A session could be just a lunchtime, and yes, if you have four pints in a lunchtime, you are overdoing it. A session could equally be a long relaxed evening of four hours or so. Four pints in four hours? That’s a recipe for staying stone cold sober, hardly a binge.

Another example of woolly language is in the statement that a man should not ‘regularly exceed’ 3-4 units per day. What does that mean? If I drink 2 units per day every day except on Christmas day, when I consume 5 units, then I am regularly consuming more than 4 units. It might not be very often, but it is regular. What they mean is ‘frequently exceed’, not ‘regularly exceed’. We are forced to the conclusion that the writers of these statements are not competent in the use of the English language. They use incorrect words, and where no word exists to cover the situation they wish to describe, they kidnap a word that already has a well-defined meaning, and redefine it to satisfy their own sinister needs.

I am fully aware that alcohol abuse is a serious problem. I know the damage it can do to the lives of those affected and those around them. I know the health problems that can result. But it is the abuse of alcohol that is the problem, not alcohol itself. Just like the fact that it is the love of money that is the root of all evil, not money itself. Demonizing normal drinkers by putting them in the ‘binge drinking’ bracket does far more harm than good. Taxing drinkers out of the pub (assuming they still have one to go to) and into the supermarkets where they can buy massively discounted high ABV drinks to take home, is unbelievably stupid. But then, what else can we expect from our elected officials (of any shade) and their shadowy cohorts?

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Posted by on 21 February, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Let’s Call Time on the Beer Duty Escalator

The Beer Duty Escalator was introduced by Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling in 2008. This insidious piece of legislation ensures that the tax on beer rises by the rate of inflation + 2% automatically at every budget, and will do so until 2015. So when the ConDem Chancellor George Osborne announced in the budget that there would be ‘no change’ to beer duty, what he meant was that beer duty would increase by the rate of inflation + 2%, which will amount to about 10p on every pint.

This much of the price of your pint is tax

This peabrained idea is supposed to tackle the problem of youth drunkenness and the so-called ‘binge drinking’ culture observable in some of our city centres. Like all governmental ‘solutions’ to problems, it totally ignores the causes of the problem, and punishes those who not only are not part of the problem, but who very well may be a real solution to it. It seems that the governmental solution to every new problem that arises is more tax.  I use the term ‘governmental’ without reference to party lines because as far as I can see, it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always wins. When Gordon Brown as chancellor was finally persuaded that climate change was actually happening, he responded by increasing taxes all across the transport spectrum. Way to save the world, brainbox.

Instead of addressing the real problems (high unemployment amongst the young, banks and their arrogant self-rewarding useless directors causing massive financial hardships to everyone but themselves, the fact that students will now begin their working lives after university with massive debts, the total failure of the pensions industry (sodding bankers again), ever increasing taxation etc., etc., etc) the government decides to tackle the problem by taxing people who are decidedly not part of the binge-drinking culture. Those people are the everyday drinkers of beer in pubs. They totally ignore campaigns such as ‘Pub is the Hub’ (patron HRH the Prince of Wales), which show quite clearly that a properly maintained and managed pub is by far the safest place to have a drink, and that the people who regularly use their local pub are the best-behaved of all drinkers.

The government should turn its attention to tackling the real problems – something they are clearly too lilly-livered to do. Instead, they make the situation worse. By hiking the duty in this way, they more or less force the young bingers to go to the local supermarket and stash up on below-cost pissy booze to chuck down their necks before going out to the disreputable bars and clubs that permit loutish behaviour.

There is a little hope. We can force a debate in the House of Commons if we can get 100,000 names on an e-petition which you can access via CAMRAs website at www.camra.org.uk/saveyourpint. At the time of writing, there were just over 65,000 names on the e-petition. So go on, do your bit now! We can only counter this stupid and unthinking legislation by registering our concerns in this way. This is the wording of the petition:

Stop the beer duty escalator

Responsible department: Her Majesty’s Treasury

Every year, the beer tax escalator increases the tax on beer by 2% above the rate of inflation, thus adding considerably more pressure on the British pub, the cornerstone of many of our communities. Removing the beer duty escalator at the next budget will help keep beer more affordable and go a long way to supporting the institution that is – the great British pub.   Going to the pub is a core British tradition and so is enjoying great beer. If you want to continue enjoying your fresh pint in your local pub then it’s crucial that you support our campaign to grind the beer duty tax escalator to a halt.  If we don’t show our support for the great British pub, we risk losing more pubs and more jobs within our local communities.   Support great beer in the great British pub and sign our e-petition now….. British Pubs Need You.

www.camra.org.uk/saveyourpint

Do it now.

Do it.

Do it.

Do it.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 11 July, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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