Drunk Writing: The Drinking Age, Philosophized
The American drinking age is one of numerous signifiers of how weirdly inconsistent our government is. This is most easily summed up by the oft spoken protestation: “If I can smoke, vote and die for my country why can’t I have a drink?” While I’m a big fan of pointing out logical inconsistencies (especially in regards to governmental systems), my preoccupation with the regulations surrounding the drinking age as a 20-something is more personal in nature.
I’m very different than the person I was at 21. Right now the most compelling way to look at regulating the drinking age is centered around alcoholism as a public health issue. While I partially blame the education we receive in schools and a very religious upbringing for my formerly abject fear of alcohol for the longest time, the lessons learned through that kind of programming may have prevented a LOT of my generation from making incredibly regrettable decisions that could've cost people their lives.
In this light, my struggle with figuring out if the drinking age should be lowered falls neatly along the lines of political philosophers Locke (man is good) and Hobbes (man is dicks). Namely, if man is evil then higher restrictions and regulations should be placed upon them and, by that logic, the legal drinking age should be as high as possible. While this doesn’t explain why we chose age 21, it does take care of the argument against lowering it. But by that reasoning, why do we consider age to be a measure of maturity? Why don’t we instead regulate the ability to drink like we do driving cars? Let’s say after you turn 16, you can opt to get some sort of mental and physical health assessment before you’re allowed get your “alcohol license." If you test outside of the healthy criteria, then you won’t be able to buy alcohol until undergoing some kind of restorative therapy.
All this aside, I prefer to think of the world in Lockean terms and assume mankind is inherently good (or at least interested in the pursuit therin) and that as such we should do our best to educate our populous into how to continue to make good choices. Having done this, we shouldn’t need the restriction in the first place, knowing we could trust everyone’s education (to a point) has included responsible drinking habits.
But real-talk; it’s 2016. Why are we still getting our jollies by drinking fermented plant juice, especially a kind that makes your emotions go bazonkers and turns your fine motor skills to jelly? Why has drinking culture remained relatively unchanged for the past hundred years?
I mean, I’ve got a computer in my pocket, one that connects me to a network of similar devices and can display almost any manner of recorded media. The GPS within said device has the power to direct me to any place on Earth, including the bar I just returned from where I was hanging out with my friends and consuming- you guessed it- copious amounts of alcohol.
At the end of the day, I just love how alcohol tastes. For others, it doesn’t matter that it’s alcohol, they drink BECAUSE we’ve been doing it so long. We could be a society that replaced drinking culture with knitting culture for all it could’ve mattered. People like drinking because it represents a tradition spanning back to the earliest “man who got up into some water that tasted kind of funky that one time,” all the way to frat boys in college, brewers making the latest and greatest of IPAs, or me sitting here writing this while sipping on a nice pour of Japanese whisky.
And it is in this light that I reach my conclusion: Alcohol tastes good but is also dangerous. Parents, teach your kids how to drink so they don’t ruin this for the rest of us. Kids under the age of 21, unless your parents are like the ones mentioned above, wait your turn. I promise we as a society will do better to teach ya how to get up in this shit right.
Feature photo by Toronto Eaters/ VIA Unsplash