Rites, rights and obligations

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

When it comes to drinking, adults need to take charge and set a good example, parenting columnist Ian Munro writes.

The festive season is virtually upon us and overindulgence is a given. However, overindulgence of alcohol, especially by young people, is the one that worries the police, schools and parents most.

But let's call a spade a spade.

Overindulgence suggests one or two drinks too many; what people are really concerned about is not "overindulgence'' but abuse: abuse of alcohol, abuse of young bodies and of young minds.

Our society is still a very young one and drinking has been very much a part of its shaping.

A 22-year-old exchange student spoke to me with some dismay about the amount of alcohol drunk and the attitude to alcohol displayed by our young people compared with the attitudes and behaviours back home in the context of her European culture, stretching back more than 1000 years.

The New Zealand drinking culture has not been shaped by the young people but by adults. That is the bottom line.

Adults. Us.

Until adults take charge of the situation and set the example, our summer streets, festivals and camping grounds are going to continue to be awash with young drunks.

Which adults?

Anyone in the role of parent, grandparent, business owner, advertising executive, teacher, medical professional, social worker, youth worker, clergy, coach, sports administrator or any other associated with young people.

In effect, it means virtually all of us.

It is a societal issue, a parenting issue, a health issue, an educational issue, an issue of life and death on our roads and, as is so often the case, an issue of the money to be made.

It is also a political issue, but the majority of politicians have shown themselves to be mealy-mouthed on this.

It all sounds a bit too much to deal with and, anyway, what's wrong with a little bit of overindulgence?

It's part of New Zealand youngsters' rite of passage.

It's the right of every sportsman to get a "little pissed'' after a hard game, every student or worker after a hard week's work.

It's the right of a wife to be beaten up a little; it's the right of a child to see or be on the receiving end of drunken violence; it's the right of our doctors and nurses to be physically and verbally abused in the emergency room; it's the right of ratepayers and business people to put their hands in their pockets to repair the weekend's vandalism and to clean up the broken glass, vomit and faeces; it's the right of a family to have a member killed on the road or to have a maimed teenager charged with manslaughter.

As an adult, what are you going to do about it this festive season?


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