It was a huge topic in national news last week: people aged 15 to 24 in my country drink too much. They drink so much they can no longer do as much as walk or talk, and are often left to fend for themselves by friends after that. The government and universities have been trying to figure out how to solve the problem, and are now talking about either making alcohol a lot more expensive or upping the legal drinking age to 18. I can already tell you now that neither of those solutions is going to help.
See, by upping the legal drinking age or the costs of alcohol, or by doing preventive or curative actions regarding binge drinking, in the end all you’re doing is trying to fix a symptom of something much bigger. People (read: politicians, parents, Responsible Adults™) think is drinking and partying is the biggest “problem” among students, but it runs much deeper than that. In fact, I strongly believe it comes down to the fact that people my age are all goddamn escapists, myself included. We grew up in violent times, even though it may not seem like that on the surface. None of us are still really surprised when we see images of war or terrorism on television. On top of that we are constantly bombarded by having to make life decisions at a very young age (at 14, 16, 18, ??), and having to take up as much responsibilities as we possibly can both regarding school and social lives (GET GOOD GRADES AND HAVE HOBBIES AND HAVE LOTS OF FRIENDS!!). So yes, we are escapists.
Bingedrinking is quite frankly only one way in which this shows on the surface. There are many ways in which this escapism takes form – yes, you have the party-goers, but I also have friends who’d spend their entire day watching Netflix if they could, or who skip classes to just go for long walks around the city by themselves, or who play games on their computer until 3 am, or who scroll away the day on the sites like Tumblr or Instagram, or who bury themselves in books until those make up 80% of their room (yes, that’s me). I even know a few people who seem to use studying as a form of escapism. Many of us know how to deal with this in a healthy way, only going out once or twice a week, still taking school very serious and getting relative good grades. But for some, it’s starting to become quite problematic – and the binge drinkers getting media attention right now are only one group of many.
I don’t think there’s much the government can really do about it, given it’s such a fundamental problem as peace of mind. I feel like a complete and utter restructuring of society as a whole would be necessary to even just slightly get to the source of it, and let’s be real here: who has time – and money – for that? On top of that, it’s hard to change someone who doesn’t want to change. For many of us, this escapism only shows in still relatively healthy ways, balancing on the edge of “hobby” and “problem”. I know for a fact that I probably won’t ever stop buying one or two books a month, and reading twice as much. And I know for damn sure none of the people my age who enjoy it will stop getting drunk at parties, just because you upped the drinking age or the price tag.
In the end, I don’t think it’s really something you can “solve” at all. You can confront the people with whom it’s gotten problematic. You can help them. But I highly doubt that it’s a problem that will ever disappear. We are escapists, and I don’t believe that’s ever going to change.
- L. Parole