When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. Beliefs, Behaviors, & Alcoholic Beverages is one of my sources.
The parts I generally took notes from were either about the drugs themselves or the prohibition of drugs. You’ll find the information garnered from these books throughout the Prohibition Politics section of this site. It will also have informed some of my own postings stored in the older Prohibition Politics archive.
If you find this information useful, you will want to search out the books themselves to read the text in context. All of the books here are at least moderately interesting.
Subtitled “A Cross-Cultural Survey”, Mac Marshall (University of Michigan, 1979 ) collects essays on the use of alcohol in cultures throughout the world. Perhaps surprisingly, even the intoxicating effects of alcohol appear to be more a matter of psychology than of actual physiological changes.
“Only Pacific Islanders and the indigenes of most of North America failed to discover the manufacture of alcoholic beverages on their own.”
Alcohol and Culture
David G. Mandelbaum notes that alcoholism appears to be tied to societies which do not expect men to get drunk. Further, whether alcohol uplifts or depresses is tied to cultural expectations.
“Tribal peoples in all major parts of the world (save Oceania and most of North America) knew alcoholic drinks;”
“In some languages, as in English, the very term “drink” takes on the connotation of drinking alcoholic liquids.”
The Kofyar, northern Nigeria, “believe that man’s way to god is with beer in hand.”
“The range of religious usage is great. Among the Aztecs, for example, worshipers at every major religious occasion had to get dead drunk, else the gods would be displeased (J. Thompson 1940:68).”
“Cultural expectations regulate the emotional consequences of drink. Drinking in one society may regularly release demonstrations of affection, as is common among Japanese men; in another it may set off aggressive hostility, as frequently occurs among Papago Indians (Joseph, Spicer, and Chesky 1949).”
“The act of drinking can serve as a symbolic punctuation mark differentiating one social context from another.” For example, the cocktail “prepared by the suburban housewife for her commuting husband”…. “an orthodox Jew recites the habdalah blessing over wine and drinks the wine at the end of the Sabbath to mark the division between the sacred day and the rest of the week. Drinking may be quite purely symbolic, as it is in the habdalah rite and in the sacrament of communion, or it may be substantive as well as symbolic, as in the heavy drinking at Aztec religious ceremonies.”
“Most Camba men participate in recurrent drinking bouts, which may last for a whole weekend. A drinker may pass out several times in the course of a bout and, upon reviving, drink himself into a stupor again. Dwight Heath, the anthropologist who has studied Camba drinking, observes: “Hangovers and hallucinations are unknown among these people, as is addiction to alcohol” (1962:31). In general, addiction to alcohol seems to be quite rare outside certain societies of Western civilization. Among most peoples whose men are expected to drink heavily and frequently, a man does not do any solitary drinking nor does he have withdrawal symptoms if he cannot get alcohol. He may not like to do without it, but he does not feel gripped by an iron compulsion to get a drink in order to be able to keep alive.” [The Camba drink a distillate of sugarcane that is 89% ethyl alcohol.]
“When a man lifts a cup, it is not only the kind of drink that is in it, the amount he is likely to take, and the circumstances under which he will do the drinking that are specified in advance for him, but also whether the contents of the cup will cheer or stupefy, whether they will induce affection or aggression, guyilt or unalloyed pleasure. These and many other cultural definitions attach to the drink even before it touches the lips.”
One similarity across cultures is that “drinking is usually considered more suitable for men than for women. It is commonly a social rather than a solitary activity but is done much more in the society of age mates and peers than with elders or in the family circle. Drinking together generally symbolizes durable social solidarity—or at least amity—among those who “share a drink” (cf. Washburne 1961).”
Drinking is considered appropriate for “those who grapple with the external environment” rather than for “those whose task it is to carry on and maintain a society’s internal activities.” In India, Indra “the scourge of enemies, the thunderer, the roisterer, the heavy drinker”, and Varuna “the sober guardian of order and morality (Basham 1954)” show the distinction. In Greece, Dionysius and Apollo do. “Drinking was a prominent feature of the Dionysian rites but not at Apollonian ceremonies (Dodds 1956; Guthrie 1950).”
Warriors and shamans are “more likely” to use alcohol “with cultural approval” than are judges and priests.
“Yet another ban that appears in various cultures is imposed when it is considered dangerous to heighten the emotions of large numbers of people who gather at the same occasion.” For example, “there is an inscription dating from about the year 5 B.C. near the stadium at Delphi which forbids the carrying of wine into the stadium on pain of a five-drachma fine…. similar signs are to be seen now at the football stadia of Harvard and Southern Methodist Universities (McKinlay 1951).”
In a town of Rajasthan in western India, alcoholic drink, (while prohibited?) is still readily available. The Brahmans there “do very little drinking. A good many of them openly drink an infusion of hashish (cannabis indica) which gives them a feeling of detachment quite compatible with the religious meditation enjoined in their scriptures. But the Rajputs of the town, as inheritors of martial tradition, spurn hashish and drink an alcoholic brew called daru. One Rajput explained that hashish “makes you quite useless, unable to do anything. Daru isn’t like that; you may be drunk but you can still carry on.””
In Mesopotamia, wine “was known at Jemdet Nasr, dating from some time before 3000 B.C.” Beer was an integral part of temple ritual and economy. It was a “staple of diet” for two millennia of Sumerian-Akkadian tradition. They also had taverns. The Code of Hammurabi specified price, quality and even credit terms for beer.
In Egypt, one inscription states that “a good mother provides her schoolboy son with three loaves of bread and two jars of beer every day.” One teacher writes to his student that “he hears that his former student is forsaking his studies and is wandering from tavern to tavern. He smells of beer so much that men are frightened away from him, he is like a broken oar, which cannot steer a steady course; he is like a temple without a god, like a home without bread.”
Many Central and South American tribes “requires men to drink steadily into a state of stupefaction.” Drinking is social and religious. “Though drinking is frequent and heavy, no problem of addiction arises. This pattern has been remarkably consistent through time and place”, including the Maya, Aztec, and Inca.
Alcohol In Its Cultural Context
Alcohol helps strengthen the societies that use it. It facilitates social interaction, and allows individuals within the group to make observations and perform tasks that they would otherwise be forbidden to do.It’s one thing to say, as authors such as Ronald K. Siegel and Robert M. Fagen have, that recreational drug use is an integral need of individuals, but from some perspectives it also appears that recreational drug users are necessary for society. Drug users fill cultural needs as social lubricators and truth-tellers.
The Cultural Structure of Mexican Drinking Behavior
William Madsen and Claudia Madsen write that pulque took on, and continues to take on, a ritual aspect.
“The Aztecs used an intoxication beverage called pulque made by fermenting the juice of the maguey plant. Pulque was regarded as a divine gift from the goddess Mayahuel. To drink pulque was to honor the gods. Being holy and blessed, pulque was not to be abused. People were expected to become intoxicated on certain holy days, but otherwise public intoxication was forbidden and punished.”
“The Spanish conquest destroyed the Aztec empire and reduced its proud citizens to servile members of a subordinate group. Widespread drunkenness was one of the earliest and most persistent responses to the shock of conquest.”
San Francisco Tecospa is a Nahuatl village in Milpa Alta, Mexico. “The fields which produce maize, beans, and squash are outlined by rows of maguey plants. When a maguey reaches maturity and begins to send up its thick flower stock, this growth is cut off at its base, leaving a cavity which daily fills with the fluid intended for the stock. The fluid, called aguamiel, is milked daily by sucking it into a large, perforated gourd and letting it flow into a container. Then the aguamiel is added to the pulque barrel in the home, where fermentation takes place. The fermented pulque at the bottom of the barrel and the human saliva mixed with the aguamiel initiate the process of fermentation which produces pulque. In early life children become familiar with the process of making pulque. Boys are frequently in charge of milking the maguey plants and the pulque is in large part a product of their labor.
‘Pulque affects the Indian from conception through eternity. A pregnant woman often takes an extra serving of pulque for the one inside her. The suckling infant is given a sip of pulque from the cup of his mother or father. Once weaned, the child receives pulque at meals, since it is considered a nourishing food. The regular diet of Tecospans includes pulque at every meal.”
“Parents teach their offspring that grown men are expected to display courtesy and dignity when they are drunk but women and children should never become intoxicated. Departure from the rule of nonviolence sometimes occurs outside the circle of drinking companions. A drunken man may beat his wife for real or imagined misbehavior. Wife beating is sanctioned and accepted by women because of the belief that a woman who has never been beaten cannot enter heaven.
‘Pulque is associated with the dead and the relationship of the dead to the living. Wakes for adults include copious servings of pulque and food. It is inappropriate to drink to the point of collapse at the wake. After a man’s burial, his friends may gather at one of their homes to drink together in respect to their departed comrade. A drink is poured for his spirit while the mourners propose a series of toasts recalling the good deeds of the dead man. As drinking continues, the conversation turns to recollections of others who have died and stories of earthbound spirits. Such drinking sessions end in gross intoxication.
‘Souls of the departed continue to need the sustenance of pulque. A dead adult is buried with tortillas and pulque to sustain him on his trip to the next world. Upon arrival in heaven the souls start raising crops to provide themselves with food and pulque. When the souls return to earth on the Day of the Dead, pulque is always included in the banquet provided for the visiting spirits. Asked about pulque in Hell, an Indian replied, “The Devil is free to do as he likes, so certainly he drinks pulque. No one drinks selfishly by himself when others are thirsty, so the Devil must share with those souls he has won, for they are now his and belong to his pueblo.”
‘Pulque must be given to the skulls buried in the four corners of fields near the highway to protect the crops from out-of-town robbers. If the skulls do not receive their pulque, they stop frightening off thieves and start frightening the owner of the field.”
“The Indians refer to pulque as “the milk of our Mother,” that is the Virgin. Ceremonial drinking is required for the celebration of all religious fiestas.” In preconquest times, its divine donr was Mayahuel.
“To refuse a man’s pulque is to reject the man, his family, the village, and the Indian world as a whole.”
“The sharing of pulque as a symbol of friendship is a traditional way of terminating a quarrel.”
“Nor is pulque drinking associated with unpleasant aftereffects. If discomfort occurs on the morning after, it is attributed to exhaustion or exposure to night air on the way home. Treatment consists of resting, drinking herb teas and a fair amount of pulque.”
Observations by the Romneys in a Mixtecan Indian barrio in Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca, where the Indians drank heavily during fiestas and never between fiestas.
Questioned about whether or not they desired alcohol between fiestas, the men in the barrio always responded as though this were a peculiar question, because obviously one drank only during fiesta occasions. Most of the men accepted this drinking pattern as the only natural and imaginable one possible. [1966:69-70]
The maguey plant: “A species of the agave (Amaryllidaceous genus), especially Agave atrovirens; also A. Potatorum, A. Americana, and A. Tequilana.”
The Role of the Drunk in a Oaxacan Village
Philip A. Dennis writes about the drunk as a holy fool; I suspect it’s a theme as old as entertainment.
“The drunk is likely to say things that were better left unsaid, to voice suspicions that are only suspicions, and by their nature are incapable of being either proved or disproved.”
“Social gatherings in Amilpas are not complete unless someone plays the role of the drunk.”
“Like the fool in a Shakespearean play, the Oaxacan drunk is accorded the special privilege of speaking the truth.”
The Social Uses of Alcoholic Beverages in a Peruvian Community
Paul L. Doughty describes the creation and social use of chicha in Peru.
“Chicha is brewed in the home by virtually all Andean peoples of all social classes. Chicha in Huaylas is made of dried yellow maize which, having been moistened and allowed to sprout is called jora. The jora is ground, added to water, and boiled. It is then allowed to ferment with the help of brown sugar which is added to taste.” Usually ends up being about 3 per cent alcohol.
Alcohol Use by North American Indians
The relationship between a culture and the drug use of its enemies is a complex one.
“The Drunken Indian”: Myths and Realities
Joseph Westermeyer notes that when the focus is on drug use in minority cultures it can be difficult to overcome our own cultural blindnesses, but more importantly that it becomes easy to ignore true problems.
Indians cannot hold their liquor: “the samples in such studies have been matched for only a few of the variables important to such investigation. In addition to marred method, the logic for such physiologic studies has been poorly worked out so far. For example, the observation that Orientals respond to alcohol in a physiologically different manner from whites has been used to explain why Orientals have less alcoholism, but the same argument for the same reasons has been used to explain why Indians (a group quite similar to Orientals in numerous hereditary characteristics) have presumably more alcoholism.”
Alcoholism rates are very high among Indians: “American Indians do not comprise a single group concerning which generalizations can be made… when Indian rates are compared with national averages, some group sand tribes do have rates of alcohol-related problems that exceed the mean, and some have rates that are much lower.”
Alcoholism is the major problem among Indian people: “For any one Indian or group of Indians it is difficult to separate racial prejudice, family disintegration, or economic oppression from alcohol in the genesis of various problems. However, the danger exists that if alcoholism is focused on as the biggest problem, urgent political and economic issues may be ignored. This is especially true because much of what is done regarding alcoholism is done at the individual level, ignoring important social, cultural, and intercultural problems….”
“This is not to say that alcoholism treatment programs should not be undertaken, but rather that they should not be considered an across-the-board panacea for all the difficulties faced by Indian people.”
The relationship between alcohol use and “certain problematic events”—suicide, homicide—are not likely related to drinking; for the Navajo, they have remained steady since 1880, while the use of alcohol has increased.
Similarly, arrest rates for alcohol-related events may “indicate intercultural discontinuities as readily as they indicate alcohol problems.” That is, behaviour that the Indians deem acceptable may be inacceptable to the majority.
“Alcohol problems that exist among Indian people bear many resemblances to those common to many ethnic groups in the United States.”
The Role of Alcohol among North American Indian Tribes as Reported in The Jesuit Relations
R. C. Dailey writes about Jesuit perceptions of Indian alcohol use, but also notes that these writings were for a European audience and were designed to generate funding.
The Jesuits were “unable to secure more than token support for total interdiction. Bowing to church pressure the colonial administrators in France did agree to stop the liquor traffic,” and some governors of New France even tried to enforce it, but were ineffective. Shortt, in Canada and its Provinces summed it up: “The real issue, therefore, which the church and the colonial government had to face was whether the Indians should have brandy and orthodoxy at the hands of the French, or rum and heresy at the hands of the Dutch and the English”
The Jesuits blamed liquor for “most of the general disorders and physical violence among the Indians.” It was blamed for the break-up of families. “Disunion and dissolution of their marriage invariably result from their drunkenness, owing to the sorrow and despair of their wives when they see themselves despoiled by their drunken husbands who take everything from them to obtain liquor; and who are deprived of the proceeds of the hunting, which belong to them, but are taken from their husbands before they reach the village by their creditors” so that women and children went hungry, and cold in the winter.
One problem was that for many, the custom was to consume “everything at one sitting”, so that the “brandy feasts” were like the “eat-all feasts” described in the following quotations: “In feasts, it is the rule by general consent and custom of the race, that all the food shall be consumed. If anyone eats sparingly and urges his poor health as an excuse, he is beaten or ejected as ill-bred, just as if he were ignorant of the art of living”.
There is no evidence that violence or murders increased with the introduction of alcohol. In fact, “murders motivated by dreams or sorcery or revenge in gambling bouts may have been just as prevalent before Indians began using alcohol as they were afterwards…. Moreover, since the effect or power of alcohol was not understood by the Indians, intoxication was included in the category of the supernatural. Under its influence the inebriated person was given full license to behave as he pleased, even if it meant killing a person. This was the identical treatment accorded those compelled to act out their dreams.”
It may be, then, that alcohol was used as a short cut—replacing fasting for days—as a means of attaining spiritual experience.
“Because this experience was highly valued and admired, they would openly and proudly announce their intentions to drink, shouting, “I am going to lose my head; I am going to drink of the water that takes away one’s wits”.
As access to alcohol increased, the Indians realized that it had to be controlled. “A common method was to tie down those of their comrades who became violent when intoxicated. In other instances potential inebriates were required to surrender their weapons: “Indeed, so sensible are they of their own infirmities when in this state that when a number of them are about to get drunk, they give up their knives and tomahawks, etc., to one of the party who is on honor to remain sober, and to prevent mischief, and who generally does behave according to this promise. If they happen to get drunk without having taken this precaution, their squaws take the earliest opportunity to deprive them of their weapons.”
“It must be remembered that the Jesuits were writing to an audience in France, whom they were obliged to please and shock in order to get financial support.”
“As for the increase in immorality and licentiousness imputed to the effects of liquor, there is not much to say. The native’s moral code, which among other things condoned premarital sex, was so removed from the Christian code that the Fathers could conceive of it only as caused by some evil force such as liquor.”
Indians, in fact, often pleaded with the whites not to sell them liquor. “Anybody who understands the law of supply and demand would realize that a plea to stop the supply is not equivalent to an actual reduction in demand. It was up to the Indian to show a determination to end the demand. Unfortunately, he was not familiar with this economic law. His behavior was based instead on a moral code involving trust and honor. On this account the Indian and white man never understood each other…. The Indian made his situation very clear to the white man, a tactic which to us seems naive, but to the Indian, honorable. He admitted he could not resist alcohol as long as it was available. He never thought of this as constituting a weakness. Thus he put the onus on the white man to stop the trade…. If the white man complied with the code of honor, he should stop the supply. Since he did not, the Indian put all the blame on him and his liquor. He could not blame himself for his behavior while under the influence because he was not even in possession of his mind at the time”.
The World’s Oldest On-Going Protest Demonstration: North American Indian Drinking Patterns
Nancy Oestreich Lurie compares European use of tobacco with Native American use of alcohol.
“the Indians’ tobacco was as attractive to Europeans as European alcohol was to the Indians. Europeans took over smoking with only slight modifications of form and use but the religious functions and sacred meanings of smoking and tobacco itself were irrelevant”.
The Epidemiology of Alcoholic Cirrhosis in Two Southwestern Indian Tribes
S. J. Kunitz, J. E. Levy, C. L. Odoroff, and J. Bollinger discover that, just as for Europeans during alcohol prohibition, prohibition of alcohol in reservations does not reduce the dangers of alcohol.
Comparing Navaho, Apache, and Hopi; the Apache have alcohol available in tribal package stores; it is prohibited in Navaho and Hopi reservations. It has been available since 1960. “Yet they still have lower death rates from cirrhosis than the Hopi. Accidental and violent death rates do not seem to explain the disparity, and we would suggest that in this case, too, we are seeing the persistence of an earlier mode of behavior which does not predispose to death from alcoholic cirrhosis.”
Alcohol Use in the Pacific Islands
Europeans introduced fermentation and distillation to Pacific islands, from roots to oranges to coconuts.
Forms and Pathology of Drinking in Three Polynesian Societies
Edwin M. Lemert writes that the use of kava provided a pattern for alcohol consumption throughout Polynesia. As in other societies, it tended to be limited to use by men.
“Historical sources are unequivocal that Polynesians, like most of the Indians of America north of Mexico, were without alcoholic beverages in their pristine state. Liquor was first brought to Polynesians by European voyagers in the middle and late eighteenth century. While the original reaction to liquor was one of distaste, this soon changed to avid liking, and a lively trade grew up in many areas. Around 1800, escaped convicts from Botany Bay in Australia taught Hawaiians how to distill a highly potable liquor, okole hao, from the fructose sugars of the ti root. Hawaiians in turn carried their skills to the Society Islands, where the consumption of locally distilled liquor from ti root and breadfruit underwent a period of efflorescence and then decline. It was replaced by ava anani, a crude wine made from the juice of oranges, perfected by enological experiments conducted with a kind of early technical assistance program of whaling crews. In 1848 traveling Tahitians carried the techniques of brewing and drinking “orange beer,” as it came to be called, to the Cook Islands, where much to the discomfiture of the missionaries, it quickly became established in a distinctive pattern of drinking known since 1910 as “bush beer schools.”
Except for Samoa, which “even more than the Pueblo Indians of our Southwest, stands as a classic case of cultural conservatism in relation to the readily diffusable and utilizable cultural item of alcohol.”
“The prototype for patterns of alcohol consumption in all areas of Polynesia except New Zealand is found in the kava circle. Kava, an astringent infusion made from the root of the plant Piper methysticum, was everywhere drunk in sacred, ceremonial, and secular contexts. Drinkers customarily sat cross-legged in a circle and were served in a common cup from a fixed point by one or two persons charged with responsibility for its preparation. Drinking was pretty well confined to men, and it tended to be monopolized by chiefs and priests.”
Holy and Unholy Spirits: The Effects of Missionization on Alcohol Use in Eastern Micronesia
Mac Marshall and Leslie B. Marshall note the interplay between alcohol use and traditional kava use on the arrival of European missionaries.
“The evidence is overwhelming that Micronesians lacked alcoholic beverages at European contact. While the islanders might obtain an occasional bottle of gin or rum from a passing ship, they did not learn to manufacture their own strong drink until foreigners settled among them. Beachcombers lost no time in teaching the islanders that fermented coconut toddy made an alcoholic beverage that could be increased in potency through distillation, and the techniques of manufacture were well known all over the Gilberts and on Ponape and Kusaie by the 1850s. Marshallese apparently did not learn the process until the 1860s and 1870s, and Trukese had no locally produced alcoholic beverages until at least the late 1880s and possibly the 1890s.”
“Although kava drinking seems to have been widespread on Kusaie up until the coming of the missionaries (Jones 1861), its open consumption appears to have ceased almost coincident with their arrival, and the kava ceremony has not survived on that island. Ponapeans, however, were much more deply attached to their “national beverage,” and in spite of more than a century of Protestant missionary opposition to its use they have clung tenaciously to their kava customs (Glassman 1950; McGrath 1973; Ward 1974). Today kava consumption is so popular on Ponape that a number of “sakau [kava] bars” have opened in the center of Kolonia (Demory 1974).”
Sardines and Other Fried Fish: The Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages on a Micronesian Island
James D. Nason writes about consumption in Micronesia and covers some of the terminology around alcohol and its use.
Fermented coconut toddy was achi to the Truk people on Etal Island. A general term for alcoholic beverages was sakau, which also refers to the state of drunkenness.
Alcohol in Asia
Asia is a large area, and alcohol usage patterns vary widely throughout; they also share the recreational drug stage with other drugs.
Notes on Drinking in Japan
Bufo Yamamuro writes that Buddhism preached complete abstinence from “strong drink”. Japanese mythology appears to have considered alcohol almost a weapon and they had several abortive bouts with prohibition.
Confucious, (550-479BC), said “Drinking knows no limit, but never be boisterous with drinking.”
Buddha’s five commandments were:
- Never kill living beings.
- Never steal.
- Never be lewd.
- Never tell a lie.
- Never take strong drink.
“One of the sutras of primitive Buddhism enumerates six sequels of drinking: (1) loss of property, (2) disease, (3) discord and strife, (4) loss of reputation, (5) disturbance of temper, and (6) daily loss in wisdom. Other sutras mention ten disadvantages and thirty-six faults of drinking. Not only personal abstinence but refraining from the sale of strong drink is an essential qualification for Bodhi-sattva (Buddha elects) of Mahayana (the Greater Vehicle). Except on rare occasions for medication, Buddha emphatically advocated the strictest principle of total abstinence. Buddhist scriptures, naturally, are full of teachings on the matter. Buddhism was introduced into Japan in A.D. 552 and became the national religion before long.”
“Sake was etymologically an abbreviation of “sakae” (prosperity) because the merry feeling associated with intoxication reminded drinkers of prosperity. The original form of the Chinese character  representing strong drink, was , which symbolizes the shape of a pot for strong drink. (The prefix  is the emblem of water.”
“The origin of alcoholic beverages was yashiori no sake, fermented by Prince Susanoono, younger brother of the goddess Amaterasu. He made the eight-headed monster serpent drunk with it, and killed him. Prince Yamatotakeru, son of the Emperor Keiko (A.D. 71-131), again intoxicated Kumaso, the vicious Ainu lord, and killed him.”
“The most primitive method of fermentation was to chew the grains to imitate natural fermentation. Another method was to lead sprouting and saccharifying grains to fermentation. During the reign of the Emperor Ohjin a Chinese named Susuyari became a naturalized subject and taught an excellent method of fermentation. In this way refined sake (a transparent liquid) gradually became popular, taking the palce of amazake [non-alcoholic sweet sake] and raw (unrefined) sake. Rice, leaven, and water were used to produce refined sake. Even in Shinto festivities or ceremonies, refined alcoholic sake became predominant.” Previously, they had only used amazake for Shinto temples, shrines, and ceremonies.
After Buddhism, prohibition “was decreed from time to time.” On record:
Under Emperor Kohtoku, March, A.D. 646 Under Empress Kensho, July, A.D. 722 Under Emperor Shomu, July, A.D. 732, and again, May, A.D. 737 Under Empress Koken, February, A.D. 758 Under Empress Shotoku, July, A.D. 770
“Lord Tabito Ahotomo, an outspoken and reactionary decadent, contributed thirteen poems in praise of sake to the noted Manyo Shu” and rivaling U.S. prohibition’s Franklin P. Adams.
Far better to get drunk and weep
Than sagaciously speak like a wizard.
Rather be a pot of sake than a human being
To be saturated with sake.
If only merry in this present world
Never mind being insect or bird in the next.
During the Heian Era (A.D. 794-1184), “prohibition or temperance was often decreed to guard against luxury, riotous festivities, and extravagant banquets.” “The Kamakura Era (A.D. 1184-1333)… marked the start of the feudal age, and Bushido, or knighthood, came into power. Under the influence of Myoe, noted Buddhist saint, the Hohjohs, the feudal rulers, exemplified temperance and thrift, laying foundations for Bushido. The Mongolian invasian was a great national calamity, and Tokiyori Hohjoh prohibited the sale of sake (dated 30 September 1252). It is recorded that 37,274 pots of sake were destroyed in Kamakura alone.” Eisai, the pioneer of Zen Buddhism, brought tea seeds from China and encouraged tea drinking instead of sake drinking. “Throughout Japan, a stone pillar stands at the entrance of every Zen Buddhist temple with the inscription: Garlic and wine never to be admitted into the gate.” The principle of total abstinence loosened under the Buddhism of the Shin and Nichiren sects. The Edo Era (1603-1867) saw many feudal lords establish prohibition or encourage temperance on their estates. Some “leading scholars” advocated or required abstinence from their followers. After the Restoration of Meiji (1867), western liquor was imported and temperance movements prospered. “The Emperor Hirohito is not only a distinguished biologist but is also internationally known as a staunch total abstainer and nonsmoker.”
Changes in Japanese Drinking Patterns
Margaret J. Sargent writes about drinking and sociability in post-war Japan; she also mentions in passing that the “bad” alcohol was made by disliked foreigners, in this case Koreans.
In village societies “early in the 1950s”, sake was the most common alcoholic beverage, with 14-16% alcohol. The cheapest was shochu, averaging 25% alcohol, and made by distillation of mash left over from making sake, or from sweet potatoes. Doburoku was also popular, “because of its cheapness and potency”. It was an unrefined mash-fermented drink “said to be made illicitly by local Koreans.”
“Plath gives a glimpse of the philosophy which prescribes drunkenness: “The ideal self must be capable of entering into relationships of human feeling and intimacy… Drinking parties are an example of how this is manifested… To drink and ‘not crumble’ (kuzurenai) is to reject an opportunity mutually to offer human sympathy” (1964).”
Sexual and aggressive behavior while drunk were rare.
Use of Alcohol and Opium by the Meo of Laos
Joseph Westermeyer writes about the wonders of drug use among the Meo; his account seems a little too rose-colored, but I know nothing about Laos personally.
Meo: a tribal people in the mountains of “several southeast Asian countries.” The largest minority group in Laos—100,000 to 200,000 people. The produce and consume both opium and distilled grain alcohol. “This paper reports on a sample of Meo resident in Laos during the years 1965 to 1967. I visited fourteen Meo villages. A total of seven months was spent in one village; others were visited for a few days to a few weeks.”
They live in “politically autonomous villages of one hundred to three hundred people.”
“Meo drink alcohol in the form of a strong whiskey distilled from rice or corn mash. Each household makes its own supply. Social imperative strictly regulates when alcohol is drunk, by whom, and in what amount. All drinking occurs as a social activity within the nuclear family, extended family, or friendship group. Alcohol usage is closely integrated with other elements of Meo culture: rites of passage, important extra-kin relationships, unpredictable crises, annual celebrations.”
Teenagers and women drink “only a fourth to half the amount drunk by men, and only on the most imnportant occasions.” A drinking contest occurs between the groom and the bride’s male relatives at weddings. “A rigid etiquette governs host-guest drinking: the host offers a toast and drains his glass of whiskey; the guest must then match the host glass for glass.”
“Should someone imbibe to the point of impaired speech, vision, or ambulation, he quietly slips away before his impaired functions attract the notice (and badgering) of his comrades.”
“Nonsanctioned use of alcohol and the bio-psycho-social “alcoholism” syndromes do not occur among the Meo. Enough alcohol is readily available for binge-drinking, yet it does not occur. Moreover, even the medicinal use of alcohol common among adjacent ethnic groups is not encountered.”
The primary importance of opium is its economic value. Each household grows it to trade for silver and iron. A Meo adage is “Every home should have opium.” Individuals decide whether to use it as medicine, for pleasure, or “(rarely)” to commit suicide.
“Many Meo refuse to use opium for fear of becoming “one who enjoys opium.”” 90.2 percent are in this category, although he says that “a better estimate” would be 65 to 80%. Occasional use, according to reports (“as often as a few times a week or as infrequently as every few years”), was 7.5%, but he estimates 20 to 35% “would be more correct.”
Habitual users (once a day, i.e., one or two pipefuls in the evening) comprised 1.8%, and “working addicted” (2-4 times a day, who feel withdrawal upon stopping) were .5%; incapacitated addicted did not show up in the sample, but do exist. They may end up begging for opium, but will not steal.
“A society adopts that drug use pattern from which it derives social benefit.”
“Opium use need not be addicting, even in the chronic user…. Physical disability, crime, and social disruption are not inevitable sequelae of opium addiction.”
Daru and Bhang: Cultural Factors in the Choice of Intoxicant
G. M. Carstairs in 1951 researched the usage patterns between alcohol (daru) and marijuana (bhang) in Rajasthan, India. There was also some mention of opium among the respondents. Bhang tended to be used for worship, and daru (and opium) for driving away fear. Warriors preferred daru, and Bramin preferred bhang.
Daru is “a potent distilled alcohol” from the flowers of the mawha tree (Bassia latifundia). Bhang is an infusion of the leaves and stems of Indian hemp (Cannabis indica). This was in the state of Rajasthan, in northern India.
Intoxication was nasha, and there were other forms. “Villagers frequently spoke of the nasha caused by drinking cups of sickly-sweet tea infused in milk. Some went so far as to blame the breakdown of traditional piety on this modern indulgence in “English tea.” They would also describe the nasha induced by a few puffs from a communally shared cigarette, and of that brought about by an unaccustomed feast of meat…. It [opium] was remembered by the warrior-caste, the Rajputs, one of whom explained that in the old days they would take opium before a battle in order to steady their nerves and to inhibit untimely bowel movements. Another Rajput, of humbler rank, put it more prosaically: “Yes, they’d issue a lump of opium to every man in those days, and glad to get it.—Might as well enjoy it now—may not be here tomorrow.””
The Rajput caste hold “a position of social supremacy” in Rajasthan. They are the rulers, and have been for “centuries”.
“As fighting men, the Rajputs had certain special prerogatives, notably the right to eat meat and drink alcohol.” Also, the Sudras (artisan castes) and Untouchables (and not all of them) eat meat and drink alcohol.
“In striking contrast, the members of the other top caste-group in the village, the Brahmans, unequivocally denounce the use of daru. It is, they say, utterly inimical to the religious life—and in matters of religion the Brahmans speak with authority…. no Hindu who has tasted or even touched daru will enter one of his temples (not even a goddess temple [Kali relishes a diet of blood and alcohol]) without first having a purificatory bath and change of clothes.” They, instead, use bhang, and would be “mortally offended” if a comparison were made between their intoxication and that caused by daru.
Cannabis indica is “second only to alcohol in the volume of its use, the variety of its recipes, and the profusion of its names.”
“When a cannabis preparation is taken alone and in moderate strength (as is the case with the village bhang drinkers), Porot (1942) describes the following sequence of events: (a) a transient euphoria, a rich, lively, internal experience, in which ideas rush through the mind and there is an enormous feeling of superiority, of superhuman clarity of insight; (b) sensory hyperesthesia, and coenesthesias: sights and sounds become unusually vivid and meaningful; (c) distortion of sense of time and space; (d) loss of judgment; (e) exaggeration of affects, both of sympathy and of antipathy; (f) the phase of excitement is succeeded by one of placid ecstasy, known to Moslems as el kif, or “blessed repose”: the “will to act” becomes annihilated; (g) after some hours of the trancelike state, sleep supervenes.”
“The only Brahman who could be called an addict to bhang in the strict sense was also an opium eater, and at seventy-five was one of the oldest men in the village…. In this village, at any rate, there were no instances of crimes attributable to the drinking of bhang, nor was there any evidence to support the suggestion of Dhunjibhoy, among others, that it gives rise to a characteristic psychosis. It remains open to proof whether such cases are not, as Mayer-Gross (1932) maintains, simply schizophrenic illnesses occurring in a cannabis-taking population.”
Gordhan Singh (a Rajput) described a “typical Rajput celebration: “They sit drinking heartily till they are senseless, and then they talk loudly and make fools of themselves, and spill their food down the front of their shirts, and shout to the dancing girls; and some of them pass out altogether—oh, it’s a fine sight to see, it’s good fun.””
Another Rajput, the ex-ruler of the village, said “In time of war, when the drum beats, only opium and daru drive out fear.”
Shankar Lal, a Brahman, said “It [bhang] gives good bhakti, you get a very good bhakti with bhang.” Bhakti is “the sort of devotional act which consists in emptying the mind of all worldly distractions and thinking only of God.”
While the Brahmin rail against daru, the Rajputs will generally take bhang if offered, although they prefer daru.
Drinking Patterns and Alcoholism in the Chinese
K. Singer surveys alcohol use and the perception of use in China and Hong Kong during and after World War II. As the center of the illegal opium trade, narcotics were a bigger problem in Hong Kong than alcohol.
The earliest observations include La Barre, while serving as naval officer in Kunming during World War II, who concluded that “the Chinese are not so voluntarily addicted to excessive use of alcohol as have been some northern European peoples…. The fact seems to be that in spite of ample and even copious consumptions of alcohol on defined occasions, its use appears never to become an emotional problem”; Shu, “reporting as a social worker” on China before the War, “stated that alcoholism as a cause of mental disorder was as rare in China as it appeared in the United States.” Lin, in 1953, found only two aolcoholics in Taiwan, from a survey of 20,000 inhabitants, and reported that in seventeen years among the population there had been no more than ten cases of alcoholism.
Hong Kong, a colony of the United Kingdom, had “an estimated population at the end of 1969 of four million thirty-nine thousand.” 98.5% are Chinese, and 58% are of Hong Kong birth. Most are Cantonese, from the neighboring Kwangtung province of China. Main religions are Taoism and Buddhism, with 10% Christians. Confucianism “pervades” the various religions and the social fabric.
“Drinking finds a place in the four vices or disasters: “womanizing, gambling, drinking, and smoking (narcotics).” Also “the good son does not drink.” But there is no real moral code against moderate drinking, little concern with drinking or alcoholism as a problem, and little guilt or hostility attendant upon drinking, provided the rules and procedures are followed.”
The Chinese word for banquet is yum, or drink.
“In contrast to alcoholism narcotic consumption is a major problem in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong until 1841 served as the center for the opium trade. Efforts at restriction were made since the 1880s, but use went unabated; in 1959 “stringent efforts were carried out to enforce the law against consumption.”
Africans and Alcohol
Surveys of African cultures indicates that societies that drink more have fewer alcoholics. Some of the indicators of a healthy relationship with alcohol seem to be viewed through biased lenses: as though, if seen among the Irish or Italian immigrants, would be considered indicators of an unhealthy relationship. I wonder, for example, what a researcher would say about Irish giving their children beer before they’ve been weaned.
Alcohol as a Contributing Factor in Social Disorganization: The South African Bantu in the Nineteenth Century
Bertram Hutchinson sees, among the Bantu, the same problems we saw during our own alcohol prohibition, and still see for other forms of prohibition.
Describes the attempts at prohibiting Bantu from getting European drinks. The prostitution resulting from women going to town, etc.
Drinking and Attitudes toward Drinking in a Muslim Community
J. Midgley surveys Cape Town and finds that the low rates of reported drinking among the Muslim community match “previous findings”.
In 1968, there were five hundred million Muslims—one-sixth of the world’s population.
“In Islam the prohibition of alcohol is only one aspect of the religious taboo (haraam) on a number of foodstuffs and practices. These include eating pork or any meat not slaughtered by Islamic rite, gambling, the use of narcotics, and, of course, the consumption of alcoholic beverages.”
The next stuff talks about the Muslims of Cape Town. Islam was introduced there in 1667, fifteen years after the Dutch established a station on the Cape of Good Hope. The first Muslim slaves arrived in 1667, further augmented by “free blacks” (Indonesian clerks and other free servants of high-ranking Dutch officials). Arabs, Indian traders, Turkish coreligionists (sent from the Ottoman Empire to consolidate the faith of the local Muslims) came afterwards.
“12 percent of those interviewed reported drinking. This is fairly consistent with previous findings.”
“Of the 14 who reported drinking, 12 were regular drinkers (drinking at least once a week, usually on weekends); 4 were daily drinkers. The rest drank less frequently.
‘A further 11 indicated that they had “tasted” alcoholic beverages, mostly beer, out of curiousity. Thus, only 21 percent of the sample admitted some experience of alcohol.”
Beer as a Locus of Value among the West African Kofyar
Robert McC. Netting sees no drinking problem among the Kofyar, who begin drinking before they are weaned. They mark their calendar by the brewing period and find beer at the end of the rainbow.
“It has been suggested that in societies where drinking is an integral part of the culture and only minimally a response to the needs of the individual, the rate of alcoholism will be low (Simmons 1960). I propose to examine a case in which drinking customs are not only well established and consistent with the rest of the culture but in which the alcoholic beverage has become a focus of group interest and the center of a highly ramified functional network…. Not only is alcohol addiction absent but the social and personal costs of drunkenness have been significantly limited; there is no drinking problem.”
The Kofyar are “sedentary subsistence farmers”.
“The Kofyar make, drink, talk, and think about beer.”
“Among equals, the presenting of beer is a mark of esteem and affection. A jar will be saved for a close friend, and institutionalized friendship among male contemporaries is by means of a named drinking society. Beer is given during courtship by a man to a woman, and the public exchange of beer is typical of lovers in the licit extramarital relationship. Friends or lovers frequently drink together simultaneously from the same calabash. Occasions which involve the entire community are difficult to imagine apart from beer.”
“A nursing mother is entitled to take extra beer home with her in a gourd bottle.”
“The most severe punishment meted out to a man by his community is exclusion from all occasions for beer drinking. It is the equivalent of social ostracism.”
“Rent is invariably paid partly in beer.”
“If “malt does more than Milton can/to justify God’s ways to man,” the Kofyar certainly believe that man’s way to god is with beer in hand.”
“The only words in the Kofyar language for short periods of time are based on the brewing cycle. A week of six days is shimwos, “the time of beer.” Markets are scheduled to coincide with this time span. Each of the six days is named, and appointments are made in terms of them, e.g., “I will meet you on Jim” (the second day of malt grinding and thus five days from the present)…. God is an important farmer who gives beer in exchange for labor and dispenses it at councils.”
“Whereas the European folktale puts gold at the end of the rainbow, and Ali Baba finds jewels in a cave, the Kofyar story tells of Crownbird opening a magic ancestral stone and finding a jar of beer inside.”
“Kofyar beer is tasty, nutritious, and only weakly alcoholic.” A thick, frothy brew.
They substitute beans and palm oil for beer in rewarding work parties of adolescent boys.
He estimates the alcoholic content as 3-5; it hasn’t been measured.
“Children may be fed beer before they are weaned. The young probably do not consume as much as their elders, but this is due to their lack of money, their home duties, and their lesser participation in work parties rather than to any ambivalence about their right to drink or the effects of alcohol on them.”
“There is never a suggestion that a man is not responsible for his behavior because he has been drinking.”
Problem-Drinking and the Integration of Alcohol in Rural Buganda
Michael C. Robbins finds among the Buganda the same as among Europeans and Americans, that when societies drink to get drunk, they will have an alcohol problem, and when they drink to be friendly, they don’t. Watch out for those “Irish, mestizos, Irish-Americans, and Italian-Americans”.
“This paper summarizes the results of an anthropological study of alcohol use designed to examine this hypothesis in a rural parish in the Buganda region of Uganda. It focuses on the differential functions of a well-integrated, traditional beverage, mwenge, a banana beer, and a less integrated, recently developed distillate of it, nguli. Together the two constitute the most important locally produced (and consumed) alcoholic beverages in the parish.”
“In general, it has been found that irrespective of the type of beverage (e.g., fermented or distilled) or the amount consumed, when alcohol is well integrated into the sociocultural system (i.e., positively regarded as a necessary and appropriate component of a wide variety of activities and accepted from an early age), little or no emphasis is placed on its “escape-providing” qualities or psychological problem-solving, personal effects. Instead its positive social value in facilitating convivial social interaction, its cultural value in sacred, ceremonial observances, and physiological value as a healthful enhancement of the diet will assure prime importance.” Research among the Italians, rural Greeks, Austrians, Nahuatl, Andean Indians, and the Kofyar “suggests that when drinking is (1) the prescriptive norm, (2) an important expression of social relationships, religious observances, and other customary activities, (3) learned early and in domestic settings, (4) a frequent accompaniment of meals and thought to be of nutritional and medicinal value, and (5) where consumption patterns are regulated and controlled by custom in a known, agreed upon, and consistent manner, its use for personal psychological effects will be minimized.”
But when, as among Irish, mestizos, Irish-Americans, Italian-American youth, and several native North Americans, “drinking (1) is a source of social and emotional concern, (2) occurs in an ambivalent or nonscriptive normative environment, (3) has been recently introduced, (4) is not interwoven with family, social, or religious institutions, (5) is not a part of meals, (6) is learned later in life, (7) occurs mainly outside of the family in secular situations, (8) is associated with status transformations from adolescence to adulthood, and (9) is thought to be a personal disinhibitor of socially undesirable sexual and aggressive behavior (and as a consequence often is; cf. MacAndrew and Edgerton 1969), alcohol will be used primarily for its personal psychological effects. There is also evidence to show that when alcohol is defined for its personal effects it tends to be associated with heavier, deviant drinking and higher rates of alcoholism than when it is defined more for its social and physiological effects (cf. Mulford and Miller 1960; Larsen and Abu-Laban 1968).
How to make banana beer: “Bunches of mbiddle [plantains] are cut and then placed in a deep circular pit (kinnya) dug in the garden (about five feet in diameter by four feet in depth). They are surrounded by plantain leaves which line the pit and then are covered with earth. To aid ripening a smoldering fire may be started among the plantain leaves. After four days of ripening and fermenting the earth is removed, they are taken out, peeled, and placed in a large (nine feet in diameter by two feet in depth) depression (lutyatya) near the pit, which has been lined with long strips of plantain trunk stalk.
‘The lutyatya is waterproof and a hard grass lusenke (Imperata sp.) is mixed in with the mbidde. This is then trampled for several hours (depending on the quantity) and the juice (mberenge) is squeezed out. Water is added. Trampling (kusogola) is the work of men. Women are forbidden because, as informants say, the work is too difficult and they fear contamination if a woman begins menstruating. Magical rites and taboos are enacted to insure good weather throughout the duration of the process (e.g., certain signs are marked on the ground, visitors are not greeted, etc.). The trampling is exhausting, and requires considerable skill. When completed the mberenge is diluted with water forming mubisi, and it is placed in a large canoe-shaped vessel (lyato). Sorghum (Sorghum vulgare) which has been ground to a flour and roasted is mixed in to expedite fermentation and, as the Baganda say, to reduce the sweetness. The lyato is then covered with banana leaves and allowed to stand another day. The liquid is then filtered through grass into alrge gourds (ebita) and is ready for drinking.”
Avarage alcohol content: 5.57%.
Nguli, (also called waragi) is a “gin” distilled from mwenge. Alcohol content averaged 43.57%. It is also illegal, but officials are “easily bribed (often with nguli)”.
When asked why they liked mwenge, informants replied (in order of frequency):
- contains vitamins
- gives strength
- everyone else drinks it
- settles the stomach
- sweet taste
- the national drink
- doesn’t make you drunk or disturb you
- makes you feel happy without “hangovers”
- readily available
When asked why they liked nguli, they replied:
- strong enough to get drunk on
- a more economical way to get drunk
- like the taste
- gives strength
- makes you less shy
- makes you happier
Mwenge must be present at feasts, and legal/political events. Chiefs host feasts. One informant said “the essential qualities of a good chief (are)… beer, meat and politeness”.
Another: “friendship thrives on beer.”
“They often take a small dose (two or three ounces) before they expect to have sexual relations. Since there is widespread anxiety among males about their sexual performance nguli may help relieve tension and alleviate fears of failure. The main concern of Baganda men is ejaculation before the woman reaches a climax. It is even more desirable to delay ejaculation until the woman has attained several climaxes. A man able to do this is said to have strength (ammanyi). One unable to do so is derogated as “weak” (munafu) or a “chicken” (enkoko) based on the observation that chickens copulate for brief durations. Since human and animal research presented and reviewed by Farkas and Rosen (1976) suggests that alcohol can delay ejaculation and depress ejaculatory responses and low doses of alcohol also tend to facilitate penile tumescence rates (higher doses decrease it), there may be some basis in fact for this practice.”
Alcohol Use in Euro-American Societies
Among the interesting bits here is a catfight between William Madsen and Patricia O. Sadler on whether or not Alcoholics Anonymous is a “crisis cult” and can reasonably be compared to them. Otherwise, what we’ve got here is why the Irish drink, why the Jews don’t, and why the French are good at it.
Alcoholism and the Irish
Dermot Walsh quotes someone named McCarthy about the Irish love of a ruined drunk. If this were some ethnographic monograph on a far away jungle tribe, saying “drink is the synonym for hospitality” would be something taken literally.
“Among the Irish Catholics, drink is the synonym for hospitality.”—McCarthy, Irish Land and Irish Liberty
“There is a kind of veneration for the man who has spent a fortune or ruined a career by drink; and people expatiate on the great things he might have done, if it were not for drink.” —McCarthy
“Thus the heroic spirit of Ireland insisted that there was no more honorable way in which a man, be he rich or poor, might ruin his career and even his life than by drink.”
The Great Jewish Drink Mystery
Mark Keller attempts to unravel the mystery of why Jews don’t drink to excess while the Irish do.
The lack of Jewish alcoholics is legendary. The Russian folk hero Golovan gave milk to the Jew Yushka for his children, in one tale, in order to discover the “two valuable secrets” of the Jews: “That of the Judas lips, which enable one to speak falsehood in court; and that of the hairy vegetable, which enabled the Jews to drink without getting drunk!”This whole section reminds me of Thomas Szasz’s writings in Ceremonial Chemistry. If this had been a book about truth, would this article be about the legendary lack of honest Jews?
D.D.Glad found the following differences (1947b): “The Irish boys thought of drinking as promoting fun, pleasure, conviviality; the Jewish boys thought of it as socially practical and religiously symbolic and communicative.”
[Discussion of history of drunken debauches among Jews in order to find out when they changed their minds about drink.]
How French Children Learn to Drink
Barbara Gallatin Anderson argues that the French are thick when it comes to wine, and that people don’t understand that when the government says wine is bad for children, that also includes watered-down wine. More likely, they just don’t trust their government.
“Frenchmen everywhere drink with unflagging dedication and a quiet passion.”
“Men and families cannot socialize without wine. For a host not to offer wine is at best impolite.”
As far as children drinking, “the recent literature is more cautious. It suggests, as a more suitable time for introducing children to alcoholic beverages, four years of age rather than two.”
“Wine drinking begins while the child is still in near-infancy. And government efforts to show that wine hurts children run into a semantic trap. A child does not drink wine: he drinks “reddened water.”
‘To the French, the consumption of wine in quantities of less than a fourth of a quart is equivalent to abstinence.”
Mac Marshall summarizes that alcohol is popular for parties all over the world, that men have more problems than women, and that modern societies produce more significant amounts of pathological behavior than pre-industrial societies. Oh, and prohibition never works.
- Solitary, addictive, pathological drinking behavior does not occur to any significant extent in small-scale, traditional, pre-industrial societies; such behavior appears to be a concomitant of complex, modern, industrialized societies.
- Beverage alcohol usually is not a problem in society unless and until it is defined as such.
- When members of a society have had sufficient time to develop a widely shared set of beliefs and values pertaining to drinking and drunkenness, the consequences of alcohol consumption are not usually disruptive for most persons in that society. On the other hand, where beverage alcohol has been introduced within the past century and such a set of beliefs and vlaues has not developed completely, social—and sometimes physiological—problems with ethanol commonly result.
- The amount of pure ethanol in the beverage consumed bears little or no direct relationship to the kind of drunken comportment that results; i.e., one cannot assert that the stronger the beverage the more disruptive the comportment.
- All societies recognize permissible alterations in behavior from normal, sober comportment when alcoholic beverages are consumed, but these alterations are always “within limits.” The limits for drunken comportment usually are more lax than those prescribed for sober persons in the same situations.
- Beverage alcohol usually is defined as a social facilitator (i.e., as a substance that promotes friendship, camaraderie, social solidarity, etc.), and this belief may persist despite considerable evidence to the contrary.
- Socially disruptive drinking occurs only in secular settings. When alcoholic beverages are used in sacred or religious contexts they seldom produce socially disruptive drunken comportment, unless such comportment is considered an appropriate part of the religious worship.
- Beverage alcohol is used for restive, ceremonial, or ritual celebrations the world over.
- Where opportunities for group or community recreation are few and alcoholic beverages are available, alcohol consumption will become a major form of recreational activity in a community (“the boredom rule”).
- Typically, alcoholic beverages are used more by males than by females and more by young adults than by preadolescents or older persons. Hence in any society the major consumers of beverage alcohol are most likely to be young men between their mid-teens and their mid-thirties.
- Not only do males usually drink more and more frequently than females, but males’ drunken comportment usually is more exaggerated and potentially more explosive than that of females, regardless of relative ethanol consumption.
- The drinking of alcoholic beverages occurs usually with friends or relatives and not among strangers. Where drinking among strangers does take place, violence is much more likely to erupt.
- Peoples who lacked alcoholic beverages aboriginally borrowed styles of drunken comportment along with the beverages from those who introduced them to “demon rum.”
- When alcoholic beverages are defined culturally as a food and/or a medicine, drunkenness seldom is disruptive or antisocial.
- Alcoholic beverages are the drug of choice for a majority of persons in any society, even if alternative drug substances are available.
- Once alcoholic beverages have become available in a society, attempts to establish legal prohibition have never proven completely successful.