The human race has not devised any way of dissolving barriers, getting to know the other chap fast, breaking the ice, that is one-tenth as handy and efficient as letting you and the other chap, or chaps, cease to be totally sober at about the same rate in agreeable surroundings.So said Kingsley Amis and for once he was right. Yet we're collapsing again into the stew of temperance by allowing the obsession with living forever to dictate to those who make the rules. And it seems that us Baby Boomers are the last bastions of sense and decency - OK call it hedonism - in this world. We created the great binge!
Between 1992 and 2006, the average weekly alcohol consumption for people aged 45–64 (capturing the majority of baby boomers) rose by 85%, compared with a 50% rise in those aged 65 and over, and a 45% rise in those aged 16–24. As baby boomers have aged, follow-up studies with this cohort reveal similar findings. Between 2005 and 2013, the percentage of men drinking eight or more units of alcohol (the equivalent of four pints of normal strength beer) on any one day in the past week changed by only 5% in the over 65s. In contrast, this rate of drinking fell by 30% among 16–24s, 19% among 22–44s, and 12% among those aged 45–64.
They hate us for this those New Puritans with their temperance. The cult of the NHS demands that any health problem that might be seen as 'self-inflicted' must be dealt with. Drinking, smoking, eating too many burgers - these things are not to be tolerated. And when you or I respond with "it's none of your business", the fanatics from the Church of Public Health peer down at you and say: "but it is, think of the cost to the NHS". The argument is closed, action must be taken to stop us from enjoying ourselves by drinking just a little more than they think we should. For some - egged on by the old temperance lobby - even the merest drop of the demon drink will lead to perdition and doom (defined these days as a 'cost to the NHS').
The latest in a long line of misperceptions is that we - the baby boomers that is - don't understand that boozing carries health risks:
Trying to change baby boomers’ behaviour and attitudes towards drinking and drug use is a tough sell to a generation now steeped in lifelong attitudes shaped by a lack of awareness of the harms of alcohol and substance misuse.
This is, of course, utter claptrap. Of course we know it's bad for us, it's just that we're happy with the trade-off implied by hedonism. We're no more victims of advertising than smokers or kids wanting sweets. If not drinking now means we live longer - maybe - can we be so sure that extra bit of life will be a pleasure too? Or will it be an uncomfortable, perhaps painful, few months dribbling slowly to death in a nursing home? Us boomers look around at our friends and neighbours and decide to live for now rather than for some possible future.
There's another aspect of this claptrap. All this high octane living doesn't seem to be killing us off (rock stars aside and even there most aren't dropping dead). The pubs are filled with people in their 60s and 70s living happy and fulfilling lives. Look down the seats on your holiday flight and check out all those boomers spending the kids inheritance on cooking themselves in the Spanish sun (skin cancer - bring it on) and meandering round Florence, Prague and Madrid lapping up the culture (plus the food and wine, of course).
For the po-faced, narrow-minded, judgemental folk at the Church of Public Health all this won't do at all. We (the Boomers that is) need to be stopped because we're killing ourselves and worse still, we're setting a bad example to the young. Think of the children! So they agitate for advertising bans, for higher taxes, for distribution controls, for watering down the beer, and for draconian licensing regulations. Only when we've been nudged with a large baseball bat into cutting down our boozing will these zealots be happy.
The problem is that we aren't budging. Why the hell should we forgo pleasure now for the sake of an uncertain future. We don't want to die but we do at least recognise that this is going to happen, that we aren't going to live forever. So in the diminishing years left to us, why shouldn't we drink and eat for pleasure? Don't expect us to limit our drinking to a couple of pints on a night out and our eating to a fat-free, salt-free, sugar-free, meat-free, taste-free, overcooked pap. We're not going to do this and the more you nanny us the louder we'll get and the ruder we'll get about the fussbucketry of public health. If they want to live a stressful, dull life without pleasure that's fine by me but, for the rest of us, hedonism rocks. We started the great binge and boy do we intend to finish it!