I read a synopsis of a history on booze and the beginnings of our country that had me thinking.
I have always been curious, throughout my whole life, about statistical consistency. Are rates of “things” statistically consistent throughout time and space? For example, are rates of alcoholism consistent in different times and different locations? Does a consistent percentage of the population drink to excess in different times, different locations, over the centuries?? Or is it situational? Do the numbers fluctuate greatly?
Social science argues for some statistically stable level-say 8%. My own bias leans that way too. Yet in some ways that seems preposterous.
I know a great one-man show from an historian of the West in 1800’s America, and how it was ruled and affected deeply by rampant, wide-spread, group drunkenness. Whole towns blotto and eventually falling down drunk passing out, after committing violent atrocities.
So which is it? Is there greater drunkenness in previous times or other locations?
For example, contrary to popular misconceptions, stats show us there is as much addiction in Beverly Hills as in a ghetto-for example. Consistent statistics.
This history of spirits and colonial America reminded me of something else I have always pondered. Us white Europeans knew so little of the basics of science we did not clean our water. European culture was so far behind other Cultures-Asian for example-that we did not even begin to filter/clean our water until the later 1800’s. Everything, all waste went straight into waterways. Ancient Rome had devised ways to deliver clean water to people but for us “to drink a glass of water was to take your life into your own hands.” We basically didn’t bathe either, which creeps me out.
They say if one of us were dropped in there we would begin to smell the city we were approaching from two miles out and that smell would literally keep us from entering. Those residents were used to it and snuff hankies with perfumed powders were invented (for those who could afford it) to provide a cover for the offensive odors.
Which leads me back to colonial times. Steeped in ignorance, they were afraid of the water. Hence why everybody drank booze because brewing made it hygienic. When colonial ships landed here they were motivated to stay because they were out of booze and wanted to make more. A side note-this was how tea had grown to be of such importance in lands such as Japan and China (the boiling of water killed the bacteria, something they’d been doing for many centuries) and became one of the many gifts bestowed upon us (starting with Britain) by the East.
A second side-bar, it has been theorized by anthropologists that we transitioned from hunter-gatherers to farmers due to the “discovery” of alcohol-and the attendant understanding that we needed to stay put to get our hands on more of these grains that make the magical liquid.
So, back to drinking, back then it was a constant thing. Drink early and all day-it was considered food. Everybody drank-all the time. (Back in the day, I could relateJ) So…were there higher rates of alcoholism then?
Do we “create” addiction culturally (of course at least some) or is it ruled by genetic percentages throughout time and space?
Allow me to finish up with some collateral statistical analysis. As insane political debates continually churn around us– say the “debate” over global warming when we all know it’d be in our best interest to slow down if not eliminate the rampant polluting of our home:
- Virtually one third of all disease on Earth has standing water as its source.
- Only 2.5% of all water on Earth is potable.
- One third of that is inaccessible-mostly deep underground.
- 3/10’s of 1% of all water is our drinking water at any given moment. The remainder is in soil/air/plants/vapor, etc. That’s it!
- Rivers-ground water we should not consume-make up six thousandth of 1%.
- All of the Earth’s water is 4.3 billion years old.
As George Carlin pointed out, the Earth is not in danger, we are. As we grow the ability to truly look after and love each other, it will become impossible for us to hurt the Earth so. We need to start with us-you know, each other-and all will follow.
I’ve been binge-watching the Baltimore-based show The Wire – I did not see it when it first appeared. It’s the story of my childhood. What’s contained in that show is enough wisdom for a real essay some time. I’ll close with a quickie movie recommendation; the revered Marvel character Dr. Strange was given a much better movie debut than I thought the film company capable of. Nicely done, entertaining super hero origin story while maintaining fealty to the original comic’s spiritual intentions, which Marvel actually excelled in. Spiritual searching that is.