21 January, 2014

In vino veritas

It’s right and proper that governments are trying to respond to recent deaths from random attacks around city nightspots. I also agree with the move to rename ‘king hit’ as a ‘coward’s punch.’ The media seem to be meeting this initiative half-way by referring to them as ‘single-punch attacks.’ However, I do not agree with calling these attacks ‘alcohol fuelled violence.’ Alcohol does not actually fuel violence. Alcohol does not make people violent. It is at worst, an enabler.

As we all know, there are happy drunks, there are sad drunks, there are singing drunks, there are touchy-feely drunks and of course, there are violent drunks. There are as many different types of drunks as there are human personalities. This is because alcohol intoxication acts as a disinhibitor. Nobody says anything while they’re drunk that they haven’t thought while sober. Search your own experiences and you know this is true. It follows that we don’t do anything while drunk that we haven’t thought about, perhaps only as a fantasy, while sober.

I’ve been drunk many a time but I would be in a coma long before I could ever drink enough to attack someone because I just don’t have that kind of violence in me. Booze doesn’t make people violent. It just dulls, or turns off the part of the brain that tells you that you shouldn’t be violent. While that may seem like a semantic distinction, the important point is that the violence was already there – the booze just enabled it. That’s a sign of a far deeper problem.

The new liquor restrictions in New South Wales are probably a good thing. They can’t hurt, anyway. I am not saying alcohol abuse isn’t a problem in itself but it does not lead directly to violence. The violence has to be there first.

I’m not sure that the new laws and penalties will do anything other than make us feel like something is being done. Assault is already illegal. Murder is already illegal. Public drunkenness is already illegal. I am unsure of the effectiveness of making new laws based on specific combinations of existing crimes. If someone can so easily turn off the part of their brain that tells them it isn’t cool to fatally punch a random stranger in the head, then they’re not likely to stop and think, “Oh wait, I could get eight years for this now,” and back off. In the unlikely event that they did have the presence of mind to think things through that far, they might also consider that the mandatory minimum sentence is for fatal, one-punch attacks, so they better get two or three in just to cover themselves.

Specifically targeting “alcohol-fuelled” violence implies that there are lesser, more acceptable forms of violence when the real problem is an underlying violent culture, not whatever chemical disinhibited it.

If we are concerned about chemicals that directly cause violence, I’d be interested to learn how much how much of an effect ’roid rage had on some of these attacks.

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