Sunday Levity: The clash over spirit

At the root of every human conflict lies the divide over alcohol (yes, fun came)

Eating berries that, according to people who know about such things, grew out of the beards of one of the twentieth-century’s revolutionary leaders inspired profound thinking. It could also have been inspired by the company. In any case, the profundity of the insight itself is what this post is about — that it is not power, energy, religion or ideology that underlie human conflict. It is alcohol. Conflict arises from differences in attitudes towards it.

Within countries the divide is between those who desire to drink what, when and how they please, and those who think that the delicate fabric of society must not be allowed to be threatened by the corrupting influence of alcohol. The latter therefore impose their prohibitions on themselves and on the former. Others contend that that those who control the means of production of alcohol exploit those who don’t and propose to change the balance by state action. Still others contend that governments have no right to legislate on the percentage of alcohol in bottled spirits and should leave this to the market to determine.

Many instances of international conflict are characterised by the spirited defence of the right to drink (or not drink) freely clashing with the equally spirited attempt to impose, by war, proxy war or conspiracy, prohibition. But neither side is monolithic in its views towards alcohol. The pro-drink bloc, for example, is divided over the control of means of production, distribution and lately, over intellectual property. The anti-drink bloc is divided over the means of imposing prohibition over the world, and also over the how to treat those who doggedly hold on to their drinking habits (if you can’t convince them, the extremists contend, just kill them). Indeed, the anti-drink bloc is deeply concerned over its non-representation in the corridors of international power and influence, for instance, all the permanent members of the UN Security Council are from the pro-drink bloc (and worse, converging on their ancient internal divide over means of production).

Ironically, it is alcohol that holds out our best hope for peace. For everything can be sorted out over a glass of beer. Like we did. In vitro pax, if you will pardon the Latin.

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