It’s Sunday morning. And every Sunday morning, were you to take a walk in Albert College Park next door to the DCU campus, you would see it was the morning after the night before. Every Sunday morning, throughout the year, you will find empty beer cans, vodka bottles, whiskey and other spirits scattered around the park, with a particular concentration in the children’s playground next to the campus. Every Saturday night this is the meeting place for a significant number of local young people, and what they primarily appear to do is to drink. Seeing them every so often, the average age is perhaps 17.
Albert College Park is not some horrible exception to the rule – the scene is replicated all over Dublin, and I am sure, beyond. And it tells us something pretty bad about the society we have allowed to emerge, and are doing very little to contain. It is not just that these young people are drinking to excess, but also that as they do so they are likely to terrorise the local residents.
But before anyone gets all high and mighty about these youthful miscreants, just ask about where they are getting the impetus. All over Dublin, and all over Ireland, people of all ages are doing what they regard as important – they drink. And I don’t mean that they sip a glass of wine; they drink pint after pint of beer, or shots of spirits. And eventually they leave and off-load the consequences of all this on society.
We have to come face to face with reality: as a country, we have a serious drink problem. We are being talked about, not just here, but elsewhere in the world, as this article in the New York Times shows. It is a problem with serious consequences for all of us, as we have to deal with the medical issues, the destruction of property in drink-fuelled rages, dangerous driving on the roads, the terrorising of innocent citizens. And we have to face the reality that, despite occasional appearances to the contrary, we are doing absolutely nothing about this.
And through a mixture of cause and effect of this drinking epidemic, we are losing the concept of society. As we drink, society disintegrates, and as it disintegrates we drink more. It may be that we think we are having fun in drinking groups – but fun isn’t worth much if you can’t remember it in the morning. Instead, the drunken stupor is robbing society of genuine social interaction.
This can’t go on. It is just too destructive. And sooner or later, someone has to be brave enough to do something about it.