Thursday, September 30, 2010

If, by Stella ...

If, by Stella, you mean the evil liquid that gives courage to burglars, fuels wife-beaters and encourages rotten drivers to give it the beans, then it is a canker on society and deserves to be consigned to the darkest pit of hell, from whence it certainly originated.

However, if by Stella you mean that perfect complement to a night of chilling-out for the weary Magistrate after a hard day in court,  that thirst-quenching fruit of the Belgian brewer's art, that golden chilled draught that calms the mind and relaxes the body, then I am wholeheartedly in favour.


I'm not the first person to hold several mutually contradictory opinions on alcohol. The classic source is the 1952 speech by Noah S "Soggy" Sweat Jr. , a young Mississippi lawmaker who held forth on the subject of whether Mississippi should continue to prohibit alcoholic beverages. This is the so-called "If-By-Whiskey" agreeing-and-not-agreeing response:-
My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be.
You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

My last Magistrate session was an object lesson in the evils of alcohol. Businesswoman driving drunk, banned teenager fancied a trip down the pub, homeless alcoholic set fire to a bin that he didn't like much and a   habitual burglar decided to smash a window six days after doing eighteen months for several similar.

In all of the cases, the booze seemed to give them the illusion of superhuman powers and a cloak of invisiblity.

But it's no good blaming the alcohol. Ban it and they'd find some other way to get off their heads and all you would do is to upset the large number of responsible drinkers (including me).

Strikes me that there's a medical answer here somewhere, but that's not the business I'm in. We make our honest attempt to provide punishment, rehabilitation and protection of the public and just because we aren't perfect doesn't make it a bad system (i.e the "Nirvana Fallacy")

Anyone got any better ideas ?

(In the spirit of full disclosure, this blog posting was typed under the influence of one bottle of Stella.)

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