Monday, 4 August 2014

A Wee Note on Alcoholism and Control of Self

In some quarters alcoholism is referred to as a "disease", with the intended implication normally being that alcoholics cannot help their behaviour, just like one cannot simply quit getting the sniffles, even if taking every conceivable precaution. But if alcoholism is a disease, it is one which can be avoided by never taking to drink in the first place (as, for instance, I have done). Whether alcoholism really is a matter of choice or beyond one's self control, non-drinkers must place some positive probability on their taking to drink causing them to eventually sleep on a park bench. Many non-drinkers will take a risk and become consumers of alcohol. They can claim never to have imagined the nasty consequences would actually happen, but so can bungee-jumpers who get hurt and bitten snake handlers. Everything that happens as a result of alcoholism is therefore also the responsibility of the drinker himself.
This does not mean that one should not feel sympathy for those wont to drink rather heavily. After all, the above reasoning indicates that everyone is a potential alcoholic (the risk might vary with genes, prices, social conventions, etc.), so that actual alcoholics - if alcoholism is beyond the drunk's control - have merely been unlucky. One can feel sympathy with people who die climbing mountains (say), so by analogy, sympathy for the drunks is not out of place. What the argument suggests is that alcoholism cannot logically be out of the drunk's control, because he was aware of the risk when he first took to drink.
Just like sympathy does not go out the window, one may still argue for various policies to combat drunkenness. Even if the drinkers have only themselves to blame, maybe there are clever ways of inducing them to behave better. However, ultimate responsibility for alcoholism must logically lie with the alcoholics themselves. Sympathy is OK, but they are not victims, only unlucky risk-takers at the most. It needs to be said.

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