In Defense of NeoProhibition
by Mark Worden
I’ve come up with a new slogan. Get this: NEOPROHIBITION IS BEAUTIFUL!
I can hear you now. “What is this ¾ this neoprohibition stuff?” you demand. There is an edge to your voice, the kind of tightness that indicates an incipient breakdown in your customary good humor and easygoing, calm demeanor.
“Easy there,” I say, in an attempt to mollify. “I've come to the conclusion that I'm a neoprohibitionist. And by God, Neoprohibition is beautiful.”
“I’m sure you don’t mean what I think you mean,” you
mutter, shaking your head warily. “Everyone else is running around
the country repudiating prohibition. Walking on eggshells. Being good ol’
boys and girls, trying to make sure they don't get tarred by the
teetotal brush. And you want to be a neoprohibitionist.”
“Not want to be. Am. That’s what I am, pure and simple,” I say.
“I can buy the simple part,” you say. “But tell me more.”
So I tell you. The term “neoprohibition” has acquired a negative aura. Guilt by association. It involves a kind of chicken-littleism heard in the dire warnings issued by various beer and liquor industry clucks whenever the topic of alcohol regulation is introduced. It’s one of those knee-jerk, sound-bite words.
I inject a smattering of history: Even before the end of the Noble Experiment, the term “prohi” was applied in a sneering derogatory fashion to characterize the dour souls who favored prohibition of the manufacture and sale of beverage alcohol. They were branded cranks, quaint fuddie-duddies, fanatics a la Carrie Nation, or sanctimonious religious dotards.
But now, I go on, true memories of the dry decade have eroded. Superficial scholarship portrays Prohibition as an ignominious failure. Concern about the regulation of the drug alcohol has been displaced by alarm at marijuana use by the young.
Fortunately in the past few years there has been a growing interest in the prevention of alcohol-related problems. And there’s research showing tighter alcohol regulation leads to fewer problems.
Thus the label “neoprohibitionist” was born, to discredit the public health movement.
The label is used to resurrect the images once attached to the egregious “prohi”: the pious moralist, the spoil-sport ¾ a pinched, grey myopic person.
Here’s the way it works. If you speak favorably about the common good sense of contents labeling and health hazard warnings for alcoholic beverages, you are called a troglodyte. Same thing if you talk about stabilizing or reducing per capita consumption. Ditto, if you oppose lowering drinking ages.
“Troglodyte?” you say. “Like in Neandertal man?”
“Right," I nod. “Yes, indeed. Bad folks, the neoprohibitionists. They think that alcohol’s a drug, when as everyone knows it’s nothing but a neutral spirit. The problem’s in the man, not the bottle.”
“That’s true,” you reply. “One can even abuse string beans, if you’re so disposed. Or water.”
I ignore you and go on. “Obviously the prohibitionist displays none of the hardy outdoor athletic vigor of the beer drinker. None of the sensitivity of the bon vivant oenophile. None of the strong allure and charm of those who quaff spirits.”
“Well, then, what kind of a man is this neoprohibitionist?" you ask impatiently, eager for details.
“I’m glad you asked me that,” I smile. “He reads the New Yorker, Harpers, Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, Wired and PC Magazine. He drives an old pickup and gets pretty good mpg. He works out at Gold’s Gym, hikes the Cascades, plays tennis, subscribes to three literary and scientific journals, plays three-dimensional chess in his head, has memorized numerous Shakespearian sonnets and the early poems of Ezra Pound.”
“Wow,” you say in awe.
“Then there’s the female neoprohibitionist. She supports ERA. Toils in an organic garden. Reads Carl Sagan, Agatha, Richard Leakey and the collected works of John D. MacDonald. She has nonspecific ESP, and specializes in gourmet low-budget Ornish Plan meals.”
Wistfully you say, “Sounds like neoprohibitionists really have a lot of fun.”
“Believe me they do. There’s no one more funloving than a Neoprohibitionist. That’ s why it’s time for a new set of slogans. Neoprohibition is beautiful. You’re in safe hands with Neoprohibitionism. Neoprohibition is the real thing.”
“I think I get your drift,” you tell me. “Like this: Neoprohibitionists make better lovers.”
“You got that right,” I say.
|Mark Worden is the co-author (with Gayle Rosellini) of
five books on recovery from chemical dependency, including Of
Course You’re Angry, Here Comes the Sun, Strong
Choices, Weak Choices, and Of Course You’re Anxious, (all
published by Hazelden Educational Materials and Harper / Collins), and Barriers
to Intimacy (Hazelden, Dell).
Taming Your Turbulent Past is free on the internet.
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