News24

Let them have beer

2011-03-15 09:15

I shouldn’t have been - because nothing should be surprising on the internet - but I was still mildly taken aback at the clamour of online support for some faceless, nameless government nincompoop’s proclamation that the legal drinking age should be raised from 18 to 21 in South Africa.

I would imagine that the pea-brain thinking behind such a statement is to put a halt to underage drinking, thereby saving some impressionable youths from a lifetime of staring down the bottle, or at the very least ensuring they don’t dribble champagne onto their brand new Aramani suits when stumbling around ZAR and the like.

Mercifully, the online community does not represent the majority of South Africa’s thinking (if it does, heaven help us, because then we’re all damned), but I was dismayed at the fervent desperate housewife support said statement received. Numerous “Yes, yes this will save our young” or “It’s about time this happened” and “Alcohol should be banned outright” comments flooded News24 on the day of the report. And by the looks of things, many of these inane comments came from people who look like they should know better.

Changing the legal limit, quite simply and rationally, won’t change anything. The entire notion is quite ridiculous and such an obvious attempt to "say the right thing" with elections on the horizon that I’m almost embarrassed to be repeating the story in this column. It’s a typically half-assed, half-baked plan from our pals in the power suits and ego-trips that will never see the light of day, or, if it does, will achieve absolutely nothing in the greater scheme of things - apart from making some Pretoria housewives clink their virgin daiquiris together, commending themselves on a job well done on their way to ridding South Africa of its most evil of evils.

Naturally, I’m not advocating teen or underage drinking, but if the powers that be are serious about sorting out the problem, they need to start at the right place. And simply tacking three years on to the drinking limit is most certainly the wrong place. In a way, I guess, it makes sense when you look at how those in charge operate here: start at the top, enrich themselves, sort out the little people later, if ever.

Starting at the end, with the drinking limit, is the equivalent of saying and doing: “what’s the easiest way we can do this, without too much work, and will make us look good without actually having to do anything”.

And all those people who cheer the idea. How about looking at yourselves? How about looking at what your kids are doing? If you come from a reasonably educated background, with half-decent principles, you should never have to worry about your children over-indulging in underage drinking (because let’s face it; whether they are little devils or little angels, they’ll always experiment) because you’ll have instilled in them a pretty good idea of what’s right and what’s wrong.

My parents both enjoyed a beer or some wine in the evening with dinner. From the minute my brother and I were old enough to realise, they said to us, if you want to drink or smoke (they didn’t) you do it in the house, right in front of us. You don’t need to sneak off and do it behind our backs. We’ll buy it for you, and you can just do what you need to right here.

And you know what? We never asked them to buy us booze or smokes, and we never snuck off at high school discos to drink cheap wine in the parking lot. If I wanted a beer at 13, I could just help myself, but I didn’t, because my folks knew what they were doing. No strong-arm tactics, no beatings, just common sense.

I realise that the raising of the legal age would be to help out those children who maybe don’t have supportive parents or any parents at all, but the idea is till ass-about-face. Start at the beginning, not the finish line. Give those children, and their over-worked, over-stressed guardians and/or parent’s hope. Give them jobs, give them a chance, give them a frikkin’ house… and they won’t be reaching for the bottle.

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Comments
  • Legend77 - 2011-03-15 09:44

    Well said David.

      happibunny - 2011-03-15 14:13

      Yup, I concur

  • windkind - 2011-03-15 09:54

    Well said David. But never, ever, underestimate the predictability of stupidity. Raising the legal drinking age to stop underage drinking is in exactly the same bracket as changing liquor trading hours like they tried to do in Cape Town. It is not going to change a single thing, but the idiots that advocate it, are stupid enough to think it will.

  • Nickster - 2011-03-15 10:14

    Exactly right, Dave. The Western Cape, in particular, has a terrible booze culture. But simply raising the drinking age will achieve nothing. What is needed, however, is for social workers to go into affected areas where incidents of fetal alcohol syndrome and alcoholic-related violence are rife and find out the underlying social reasons. If we don't get to the root of the problem, what's the frikkin point?

      Ryan - 2011-03-15 10:51

      In South Africa the powers that be think they can fix a problem from a distance,without getting their hands "dirty" I people speed , you reduce the limmit from 120 to 60 with the aim of getting the speed down to a 100. I will not repeat what everybody said before because we all believe that should happen as well(getting to the rute) We should also start policing the laws.Stop the fast buck at the places where it is sold.Close the places down,Liqour stores,shabines,bars etc.

  • AJ - 2011-03-15 10:44

    Indeed. It's like dropping the speed limit on the free way from 120 to 90 in the name of preventing accidents. Accidents will still be caused by the same mofo's going 160 km/h. It's just punishing the law abiding and responsible whilst the irresponsible carry on as before.....never understood the logic, myself.

  • AJ - 2011-03-15 10:47

    If this argument (raising to 21) actually worked then logic dictates we would have no under 18's drinking at the moment as per current law, which we all know is rubbish. It's got nothing to do with the number, and more to do with parenting, education and attitude.

  • Lwandile - 2011-03-15 10:57

    for arrangement's say they do raise they do raise the legal age for drinking, with so many us of boozing, whose gonna walk into every club in long street demanding to see IDs, birth certificates or whatsoever? such a nanny approach to such big problem.... so much for a country of intellectuals!

      marion - 2011-03-15 18:11

      I live in the US where the legal drinking age is 21 (well in our State anyway) and everyone gets carded if they look younger than 30. The driving age is 16 so it does help with the drinking and driving problem but I don't know anyone who has not had a drink before their 21st birthday!

  • L_Savage - 2011-03-15 11:39

    Its the same as the flawed approach our gifted traffic officials have. For some idiotic reason they seem to believe that even though existing laws are not enforced, somehow introducing a new bunch of laws (which will also be ignored) will somehow solve the problems. The drinking problems in South Africa are not about inadequate laws. They are about inadequate law compliance and an inability to rectify non-compliant behaviour. Seriously, unless the politicians trying to drive this idea can identify what the actual problem is, trying to introduce new laws is idiotic. Just to illustrate the point. IMO the problems we currently have: 1) Underage drinking - changing the law changes nothing. If 13 year olds are drinking when the legal drinking is 18, they are not going to now suddenly wait until they are 21 2) Drunk Driving - try enforcing the current laws which prohibit this behaviour - across the board. Its not just 18-21 year olds who do this. 3) Alcoholism - alcoholism is about a culture of drinking. Changing a culture is not really about laws.

  • Eveready@24.com - 2011-03-15 12:31

    Eish...Can get married at 18 but then have to wait until they are 21 to enjoy a glass of champagne......What are you try to do, you pea-brain idiots....Cheers !!

      marion - 2011-03-15 18:13

      I live in the US and they can go off and fight (and die) for their country at 18 but legally are only allowed to drink at 21!!!! Doesn't sound right to me.

      oiltrash - 2011-03-21 22:31

      Agree Eveready but take it a step further... you can go to the army and fight & die for the country but you a legally not able to have a beer.... I just shake my head!

  • unrealchris - 2011-03-15 12:37

    18, you can vote, you can join the army and go to war and kill people, but you are not allowed a beer until 21? Stupid idea just like the rest of the government (anc) ideas to do anything good in this country

  • hookahkid - 2011-03-15 12:43

    ... well maybe not solve the problem of alcohol abuse, but perhaps a step in the right direction? Not everyone has the good fortune of being born to parents who know what they're doing

  • Elbie - 2011-03-15 12:49

    And drugs are completely illegal, does that minimize the drug problems in our schools?

      fullmoon - 2011-03-15 13:02

      yes, Elbie it does because...did you not read Dave's column above???

  • Ousus - 2011-03-15 12:57

    My parents introduced us to alcohol at a young age: every Sunday with lunch we would get a sherry glass of wine. This taught us to use alcohol responsibly and since there was nothing forbidden about it, they had no problems with us drinking during our teenage years.

  • dylanswanie - 2011-03-15 12:59

    I just turned 18 they can go lose themselves im having a beer and watching the rugby regardless

  • Just saying - 2011-03-15 13:27

    If the proposal goes ahead, you may, from the age of 18, get married, buy a car or a house without any parental assistance , but just be careful not to buy a beer. Where is the rationale, seeing that we have now moved the age of legal majority to 18. Will this plan stand the test of consitutionality?

  • guppie - 2011-03-15 13:40

    Well said David. Instead of treating symptoms, look deeper and ask why people reach for the bottle. Close to the tpo of my list is knowing that in this country there is no consequence to breaking the law.

  • braveinternetguy - 2011-03-15 14:04

    Reminds me of that brouhaha around the "Drive with your headlights on" campaign. It's just as stupid. "Yes, but the light thing she's weking in Europe, because they are having fewer eccidents." It's not the "lights" that made the difference you dimwit...it's the Europeans. These guvament twats are incapable of solving problems, other than to waste tax money on either completely useless "solutions" or on outsourcing to competent (and expensive) overseas organisations. Not really surprising considering their long history of zero contribution to the advance of civilization, and their extremely short list of inventors.

      Vaal Donkie - 2011-03-15 15:01

      Mind you, what the lights on thing is doing is making everyone who DOESN'T drive with their lights on less visible.

  • Vaal Donkie - 2011-03-15 14:46

    Until just before I turned 18, I simply went to the closest shebeen to buy alcohol. The problem with laws is that they don't affect the lawless.

  • feppie - 2011-03-15 18:30

    @ David - Can u please help me :) Can u perhaps tell me why no one can comment on the articles and columns of City Press! I used the "About Us" link with no luck! City Press are masquerading as an e-newspaper and doing a terrible job of it! Do they even have moderators looking at readers’ comments - cause nothing gets published! The quality of their articles is a disgrace, no wonder they are afraid to publish our comments! The political editor, Charles Molele, is absolutely pathetic!

      Sizwe - 2011-03-16 00:17

      Let me get this right; you are blaming the political editor who is a journalist for an IT problem? Wanna guess again on who is pathetic?

  • emohex555 - 2011-03-16 12:45

    Would vehemently like to disagree with you Dave; while I don't really care what the drinking age is (I'm 27); I think it is short-sighted to assume there are no benefits to raising the legal limit.... physiologically a 15 year old can drink as much as an 18 or 21 year old without repurcussion. The question is, when does one become responsible enough to manage their life and drinking?? The problem with the current system is that all of these adult 'liberties' are unleashed to children at the same time- once you've had your 18th birthday, you can vote, drive, drink, sign contracts and even own a gun... in my opinion this is a recipe for disaster because teenagers want to take advantage of all of these liberties at the same time, and often they can't maintain a balance. If you are allowed to drink and drive at the same age, you will want to do both at the same time; as opposed to if you start by learning the responsibilities that come come with driving over a period and then introduce drinking. I think back to my first year of University, where my stats lecturer told us to look to our left and our right, and said that of the three of us, only one would graduate- then I look at how many students (many with great potential) fell by the wayside because of the partying lifestyle- If the drinking age was increased to 21, by the time students are allowed to drink, they already have a great stake in ensuring that their academics are prioritised. Now I'm not naive and I know that even if the age limit is increased 18 -21 year olds will still drink (I was drinking in high school), but this is about changing a culture which is prevalent at the moment, it's about young adults being able to prioritise the important aspects of their lives.

      oiltrash - 2011-03-21 22:40

      Think you are wrong here buds... The drinking age has nothing to do with it! Have a look at the USA.. they have a minimum drinking age of 21 and they are a bunch of drunks...

  • Laja - 2011-03-17 08:41

    "Give them jobs,,give them a chance, give them a frikkin' house....and they wont be reaching for the bottle." In other words those who reach for the bottle, dont have jobs nor do they have anything, and its the government's fault that people drink that much. According to you david ;raising the age restriction wont do any good, so the government might as well remove the age restriction, because its nothing but a "strong arm tactic" According to you the government must put on hold any development plans until the elections are over. Also, parents must drink, smoke and sometimes get wasted in front of their kids, then when the kids are old enough , the parents must then buy these things for their children. THOSE ARE SOME 'PARENTING TIPS'!!!

  • Donald - 2011-03-17 09:38

    The problem is not only underage drinking. It is unfortunately much more widespread than that. It has woven itself into every aspect of our society. South Africa reportedly has one of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world. Coupled with this are the high rates of domestic violence, murder and road carnage. Alcohol reaches across our entire society, from the rich upper class homes to the poorest of the poor living in shanty towns, from the very young to the very old and across gender divides. Despite of the obvious social and personal problems it causes, it continues to be actively promoted in our media, by our sports stars and has almost become a symbol of pride. The effects thereof are often underplayed and excused as acceptable. The government has (rightfully) targeted tobacco products and spent considerable amounts on educating people about the dangers of smoking. They have even gone so far as to ban advertising of tobacco products, forced businesses to create no-smoking areas and imposed fines for offences related thereto. However, very little is done about alcohol promotion. Aside from the legal age limit for purchasing alcohol, warnings on certain alcoholic beverages and their debatably effective crack down on drunk drivers, very little else has been done. If one considers the broad spectrum effect of alcohol on our communities and the ripple effects it has, it is easy to realise that it must cost government, business and the general public millions, if not billions, annually. The various public services that have to respond to incidents, such as the police, hospitals, doctors, ambulances, tow trucks, road repairs, judges, advocates, social workers, etc, cost vast amounts each year. Furthermore, there are the costs of imprisoning offenders, providing social services to families affected by alcohol and providing rehabilitation services, all of which are often on-going for years. Even worse is the effect it is having on our youth. Not only those who start drinking early, but those effected from birth right through their childhoods by foetal alcohol syndrome and the negative impact of having drunk parents. These are children who are having their childhood and future stolen from them in the cruellest of ways, children who may have potentially done great things for our country are being doomed to a life of poverty, suffering and alcoholism. It is very concerning that there are so many liquor outlets in poorer areas. Almost every street has a shebeen or informal bottle store. It is hardly uncommon for people to be drinking daily and the children see the adults, their role models, sitting getting drunk. Almost every time one switches on the TV there is another alcohol advertisement. The impression is that government merely does not care. I am sure that they collect vast amounts of revenue from taxes on alcohol and would not want to lose that particular golden calf. However, they need realise that the long term effects of promoting alcohol and not actively tackling the abuse of alcohol will have a very severe impact our country and society in the future. They may lose revenue in the short term by banning alcohol advertisements and taking a stronger stance on abuse, but the benefits will be reaped by having a happier and more productive population.

  • ursanegro - 2011-03-21 11:50

    as the american commentator pointed out, you can fight for the country at 18, but can't drink until 21. actually, in the united states, if you are active duty military, you can indeed drink [on base] at 18. that it's on base means that it's the legal equivalent of drinking in your parents' house under their supervision. also, i saw the government droid on the teevee talking about changing the age to 21 -- and she cited the united states as a place where such enforcement works. what she failed to cite [or even notice] is that the alcohol laws are directly linked to one's ability to drive, and that they take licenses away from people who drink under age until they are 21. very strong deterrent. now this is where it doesn't measure up to south africa: only one in 7 south africans, overall, have access to an automobile. among people who are between 18 and 21, it's closer to 1 in 50. ergo, going to the american route just is completely nonsensical. but i don't think that the south africans have seen that through. [see also: outcomes-based education.]

  • ursanegro - 2011-03-21 14:08

    as the american commentator pointed out, you can fight for the country at 18, but can't drink until 21. actually, in the united states, if you are active duty military, you can indeed drink [on base] at 18. that it's on base means that it's the legal equivalent of drinking in your parents' house under their supervision. also, i saw the government droid on the teevee talking about changing the age to 21 -- and she cited the united states as a place where such enforcement works. what she failed to cite [or even notice] is that the alcohol laws are directly linked to one's ability to drive, and that they take licenses away from people who drink under age until they are 21. very strong deterrent. [in the united states, nearly 9 in 10 people between 16 and 21 have access to an automobile.] now this is where it doesn't measure up to south africa: only one in 7 south africans, overall, have access to an automobile. among people who are between 18 and 21, it's closer to 1 in 50. ergo, going to the american route just is completely nonsensical. but i don't think that the south africans have seen that through. [see also: outcomes-based education.]

  • ursanegro - 2011-03-21 14:11

    as the american commentator pointed out, you can fight for the country at 18, but can't drink until 21. actually, in the united states, if you are active duty military, you can indeed drink [on base] at 18. that it's on base means that it's the legal equivalent of drinking in your parents' house under their supervision. also, i saw the government droid on the teevee talking about changing the age to 21 -- and she cited the united states as a place where such enforcement works. what she failed to cite [or even notice] is that the alcohol laws are directly linked to one's ability to drive, and that they take licenses away from people who drink under age until they are 21. very strong deterrent. [in the united states, nearly 9 in 10 people between 16 and 21 have access to an automobile.] now this is where it doesn't measure up to south africa: only one in 7 south africans, overall, have access to an automobile. among people who are between 18 and 21, it's closer to 1 in 50. ergo, going to the american route just is completely nonsensical. but i don't think that the south africans have seen that through. [see also: outcomes-based education.]

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