This One’s On The House
Dear every single one of the 120 irresponsible middle-aged elected members of New Zealand’s Parliament,
As a politician, you should know that an individual should be free to act as they please—provided it’s not doing more harm than good. The Alcohol Law Reform Bill seeks to strip me of my right to enter into a mutually beneficial agreement with a piss merchant whereby he gets money and I have my insatiable thirst for liquor quenched, and where no one is made worse off as a direct result of said transaction. This bill is inconsistent to the principles of a free society and I will not abide.
The problem with all the talk surrounding youth drinking in New Zealand is that it is dominated by a dishonest and dangerous view. Politicians seem to think that the benefits of drinking are negligible. But our habit of sipping on private stock to enhance all manner of social occasions points to a deeper truth that is left out of the ongoing conversation between you, me and the media; that the satisfaction (and therefore benefit) we receive from what the Romans so aptly called aqua vitae—the water of life—is titanic. Put simply, drinking must be fucking good or we bloody well wouldn’t bother doing it otherwise. Unfortunately for me, the sheer enjoyment I get from watching the rugby at home with the boys and some beers can’t be given a dollar value, and a good night in with mates and malts isn’t good headline material. Although these benefits are rarely articulated and impossible to quantify, they are real, they are legion and they mustn’t be ignored.
You purport to recognise my right to free agency, my right to choose the option which best enables me to live out my conception of the good life. But you legislate to limit my rights.
As a politician, you know that I am in the most politically vulnerable demographic. And yet you blame me for NZ’s culture of drinking to excess. Fuck off. Blaming a decades-old societal affection for bacchanalia on a group of people who have only been members of the drinking fraternity for a fraction of its history will not absolve you of the guilt you should feel for manufacturing and sustaining the country’s national addiction. Just look at the stats: seven years ago a comprehensive NZ study found that 439,100 people aged 20 and over were problem drinkers compared to just 25,000 people aged 18- 19. The $6 billion social cost of drinking is your generation’s albatross, not mine.
It’s only natural then, that a majority of the culprits (20 and overs) support a split purchase age. It means that you can avoid the far more just solution of increasing the price of alcohol, a move that would equitably disincentivise all people from drinking and thus affect every single problem drinker in New Zealand. Instead, after this law is passed, you and your chums will continue to get pissed as fish without having to pay for the true costs of your drinking, patting each other on the back for ‘changing the drinking culture’ while you pretend that you’ve made one iota of difference to our culture with your beast of a law. It’s a fucking conspiracy— the problem clearly lies at your feet.
This law discriminates against responsible people like me. It discriminates against my friends from the 9,000 strong Christchurch Student Army who were praised by PM John Key and Governor-General Sir Gerry Mateparae alike as model, responsible young citizens. Not responsible enough, though, to buy a bottle of bubbly to celebrate winning ANZAC of the Year Award, awarded by the RSA for the first time to non-military citizens. Key went as far as saying that their leader, Sam Johnson, could be Prime Minister one day. Not responsible enough indeed. It was James K. Baxter who said ‘to shovel shit and eat it are different in the end’.
You may admit that there are some people my age who are most certainly responsible enough to drink, but argue that the split age is the penance we youngsters must pay for the sins of our peers. This law simply does not address the minority of us who drink and cause trouble. A quick look at the other measures proposed in the bill makes this clear: disallowing the sale of liquor between 4am and 7am (as if that’s when we’ve been getting pissed), limiting advertising to young people (as if a TV ad was what made me start drinking) and limiting the alcohol content of RTDs (as if I can’t drink 8 Smirnoff Ices instead of 4). This law simply will not affect negative teenage drinking behaviors because it misses the areas that matter. Your misguided attempt to paint me and my peers as irresponsible will result in a law that only punishes the most responsible of us. Leave me alone.
As a politician you should know that this law is likely to put young people in danger. The flaw in your argument is obvious: you use the violence and bad behavior seen in town on weekends as an example of the dangers of youth drinking. And yet you attempt to solve this by denying 18 and 19 year olds the right to drink away from town, in the safe environment of our own flats surrounded by friends who care for our safety. You’re forcing us into the dangerous environment you purportedly hate! “I got so pissed at home and coma- ed out before I made it to town” will be replaced as a Sunday morning bon mot by “I got so pissed in town I coma-ed before I could make it home”.
How dare you put my friends at risk while trumpeting your policy keeping us safe.
As a politician, you should know all the above arguments. You should know this law will lead to outcomes ‘no civilised society can relish’. You should weigh them on your conscience when you cast its vote. You should, but I bet you fucking won’t.
Every Single One Of The Tens of Thousands Of Responsible 18 And 19 Year Old Adult Citizens Of New Zealand.