It's Lent just now. And it ends in 35 days. 35 days of no alcohol! (This is a first for me). Not that I observe Lent regularly. I just decided to try and exert a bit of self-control over my life and rid myself of some bad habits. Which many might say form an intimate part of 'me' - or at least the 'me' that they know.
The first few days, of course, I was puffed up with a sense of pride about this difficult and entirely-out-of-character decision. And I felt pretty good too, bouncing round campus with my squash racquet at the ready, relishing the sheer wholesomeness of it all. But that visit to the pub today - where I sat holding a nasty orange cordial concoction - was one temptation too far. And now I have to endure self-imposed sobriety for another month for having publicised my vain attempt to be good and not wishing to lose face.
But seriously. Alcohol, and other stimulants have taken over our lives to an extent I don't think many recognise. Now, I admit that I am at the more addictive end of the personality spectrum but I suspect a wide cross section of the UK population would admit to regularly (over) indulging in the following:
1. At number one, natch, it's alcohol - the motor of national cohesion in the absence of religion and common culture
2. Cigarettes/the odd drag on reefer, even if you don't inhale
3. Processed food - yes, just about everything we eat that comes conveniently ready-prepared is full of the kind of nice but nasty fats, sugars and salts that human beings just love to poison themselves with
4. Television/computer games - hours spent passively as a human receptor in catatonic state. Normal, eh?
5. Branded Lifestyles - today's lifestyle choices, from fashion to face-lifts, are part of our endless desire to brand ourselves, and live as marketable 'concepts'. No longer are products functional, and secondary to the real business of human relations. They have become our raison d'etre. That make anyone else nervous? In some places, kids will kill you to steal your watch and trainers.
6. Caffeine - only the most self-punitive health radicals I know have accomplished the feat of replacing coffee with camomile tea.
To take these out the equation in my case would require nothing short of a REVOLUTION. Though TV I could happily live without these days. Perhaps Channel 4 is trying to do us a favour by dumbing down even further. It's part of a mental-health strategy to get us all to turn the damn gadgets off.
Human guineapigs? Us? Yes, all of us. The implications of this takeover of our bodies and minds are pretty scary.