When the serpent offered the forbidden fruit to Eve, it was relying on the most human of instincts to kick in: to do what is not allowed. Temptation and humans don’t go well together, something the Bible certainly picked up on as, outside flogging and the degradation of women, the idea of temptation is one of the most common things brought up throughout both testaments. We just don’t cope very well with it.
We’re not great at following rules either. It is our nature to break them, and it often takes supreme effort not to cave to it. This doesn’t just apply to rules in school or university, but also to the law. By this I of course don’t mean that it takes every one of us a constant concerted effort not to stab everybody we pass in the street, but that some smaller laws are constantly bent, or broken. As far as these laws go, it doesn’t really tend to matter that much if you do break them. For example, throwing chewing gum on the street, driving a couple of miles per hour over the speed limit or urinating behind a bin on a night out are not be the most positive ways to break the law, but they are certainly some of the most common ways laws are broken. None of these things is especially bad, especially if done in moderation. ‘Big laws,’ on the other hand, are taken far more seriously. And as far as they go, by far the most commonly broken one is the under-age drinking law.
In the UK it’s 18, in the US it’s 21 and in Europe it depends on where you are and what you’re drinking, but almost everywhere there are enforced laws on the consumption of alcohol. Yet, almost everywhere you will find people who are breaking those laws. Remember when you were under-age? Somehow you would always get your hand on some alcohol. Be it by stealing it from your parents’ cupboard or standing outside a shop and begging anybody who looked like they wouldn’t report you to buy you something; you’d always stumble upon something which would get your adolescent self on the road to poor decisions, self-loathing and vomit. But bloody hell was it fun. Nothing can beat the feeling of strolling out of a shop, Strongbow in hand, and knowing that you had beaten the system. You’d done as Mr Schneebly asked you: you were sticking it to the man. Slowly the texts would filter through from your friends telling you what they had managed to get and a glorious evening of drinking in a park lay ahead of you. Sure you’d inevitably only manage to make around ten o’clock before the blackout kicked in, and even if it did last longer the police would likely catch wind of it and confiscate your hard won bottle of mother’s ruin. But, it didn’t matter, because by that point you were pissed and therefore everything was more fun, including running away. It was all terrifically exciting.
With this in mind imagine my reaction upon receiving an e-mail offer to become a ‘pub mystery shopper’. The email advertises an organisation that will pay you about £7 if you are between 18 and 19 years old, dress young, go into a shop or pub and try to buy alcohol. If the person behind the till doesn’t ask for ID, you report them, and get to keep the alcohol and your money and everyone is a winner.
Apart from the owner of the pub, or the person who served you in the shop, who will lose their job or face a hefty fine. All because a jobsworth young adult decided to earn an extra 15 quid a month by signing up to this ridiculous programme. Things such as this will not stop under-age drinking. It will still happen. And to be honest, so what? You’ll get hammered, maybe trip over and cut yourself a bit and then within a week you’ll be back on it. It doesn’t matter. There is serious truth behind the fact that if things were a bit more laid back with age limits then maybe there would be less belligerent, vodka powered 17 year-olds stumbling around random parks, and instead more young adults who are simply merry after a few pints at the local. With a person behind the bar to keep an eye out, they can be refused service if too drunk, and then wend their way home. They wake up with a deserved hangover, and life goes on.
I am not saying that people of any age should be able to buy alcohol, but actively signing up to a programme where you are going to anonymously contribute to somebody losing their job or business just because they assumed you were of age, or even simply forgot to ask, is not only pathetic, but downright cowardly.
No matter what you do, people who are not technically adults yet will still be able to get their hands on alcohol. There is a reason why we are the generation with the internet, Voyager 1 and oil spills. It is because we are naturally resourceful, bold and just a little bit self destructive; all the attributes you need to attempt to buy alcohol underage. Paying too much heed to age rules, and sending out gangs, of what I assume to be miserly, self-important and deeply unhappy young people, to grass on some poor bloke who served them a crate of Becks without asking for proof of age is not only stopping people doing what is natural to them, but is also a lamentable sign of how claustrophobic society is beginning to become.