There are reports that two young men have died following ‘neknominations’ – an online challenge game where people video themselves consuming a vast amount of alcohol and then challenge someone else to do the same. This is so sad.
Somewhere along the line the Irish lost the plot in relation to alcohol. The cultural norm is that excessive consumption of alcohol is funny, normal, sociable, acceptable and even necessary at times. Being drunk is far far more acceptable in Ireland than in many other European countries. Its a cultural curse that is passing from generation to generation without being adequately challenged, examined and questioned.
I am Irish and I am over fifty now. I remember very well the pressures in my twenties when I lived in Dublin to join into the heavy drinking culture in the civil service. A lot of young people were recruited in the late 1970s and they gathered in the pubs of Dublin and drank themselves silly regularly at the slightest excuse. Because it was Friday. Because someone got promoted. Someone’s birthday. Someone’s transfer to another office. There was always a ‘booze up’ to go to. The alternative to joining in was to be socially isolated, odd and friendless. Like most people, I barely questioned the assumption that drinking five, six, seven or more drinks in a short period, often without eating, was completely normal behaviour. I drank pints and pints of lager. The ’round’ system where people would buy a drink for everyone else added to the pressure. The tendency to pressurise others into drinking was everywhere. People would say ‘ah go on …you’ll have another one…’ and buy it whether you wanted it or not. There was no possibility to opt out entirely from a round. You had to have at least water, but you were likely to be laughed at if you didn’t ‘have a real drink’. You couldn’t really stick around with the crowd if you weren’t drinking. There was a stigma attached to NOT drinking alcohol.
It was only after I left Ireland in 2006 that I began to really see the Irish drinking culture for what it is. I began to see that there is nothing funny at all about drinking heavily. That it has nothing at all to recommend it. And I realised that I had always known that but never really acknowledged it.
It seems like things have not changed for the better since my drinking days in the 1980s in Dublin. Ireland still harbours and fosters this foolish and immature attitude to alcohol. I do wish that it could somehow be changed in the interests of future générations of young people.