Monday, July 17, 2006

To drink (alcohol) or not to drink - that too is a question

A friend sends me the following link, documenting that most early Americans drank alcohol:

Here is my response to him:

Dear Roger

Yes, it is well known to all students of history that the first city to make filtered water available was Paisley (Scotland) in 1804 (in the USA, the first plant was built in Richmond VA in 1832)

water was not properly purified in most towns till well into the 20th c and was therefore quite unhealthy to drink earlier (it is still not properly purified in most parts of Southern Europe, as a result of which you can't drink water that is piped in by the municipality – whence the originally upper class fashion, now spreading worldwide, for bottled spring water...)

the result was that, in the past, most people drank no water, only beer, wine or spirits (the working classes drank mostly beer, the middle/ richer classes drank the more expensive products as well)

it is not at all surprising that the Puritans consumed alcohol, because (as St Paul says in his letter to Timothy – if I recollect the recipient aright) it was recommended "to drink a little wine"

since Jesus Himself made wine, I have never understood the hostility of Americans (who mostly claim to be Christians) to the drinking of wine (et al)

historically, the reason for the modern American antipathy to the consumption of alcohol is clear: the working classes, specially as they lost their social networks and their moderating influence in rural areas and moved into towns and cities, became increasingly drunk and rowdy – leading to issues of criminality, keeping the peace, and supporting families adequately

christians therefore launched the campaigns against drinking (and since they could not ask the lower classes to stop drinking while they continued to drink themselves, they themselves stopped drinking as well)

today, it is not only the working classes who don't drink in moderation, rich people are equally or even more likely to be proud of drinking to excess

the European middle classes – and Europe is basically middle class! – tend to drink almost universally, but drink in moderation; that middle class norm is increasingly coming to be violated by their own young folk, particularly if they go to work in cities other than their own Sphere: Related Content

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