They have ruined everything they’ve managed to get their hands on. They’ve managed to get their hands on everything, ruined everything – seized it, ruined it, and carried on in this way until they have achieved complete victory, so that it is one long triumphal march of seizing and ruining…

Kraznahorkai

Sober

I’m giving up drinking again. I’ve made it to the 27th January without a drink since NYE. I am ashamed to say that this is the longest I have gone without an alcoholic drink since I was 16. So what is different this year? The first difference, and quite a key one I think, is that I am not giving up on the back of any horrific drunken misdemeanour as has always been the case in the past. Abstinence due to mortification only lasts about a week in my extensive experience. It turns out I am extremely forgiving towards my own behaviour, especially if there is a cold beer or 8 to drown any lingering shame. Last year though, I haven’t done anything that I particularly have to apologise for, that I feel can only be resolved by a promise not to drink so much again.

Following on from this first point, is the fact my desire to give up drinking has been brewing for a while. I feel like I have ‘done’ being drunk. There is no stage of drunkenness that I have not reached and frankly I am getting sick of it. Until the last year I can honestly say that my enjoyment of drinking always outweighed the hangovers or the trouble that sometimes followed a big session. Now though, I don’t think I can say the same. Of course I have still had some great nights drinking in the last year, but more often they have been average nights where I have ended up drinking too much in an attempt to make them great, when really I would have had a better time if I had either stopped drinking completely and had a coffee or just gone to bed.

Lastly, my body is starting to rebel against 18 years of getting hammered at least a couple of times a week. After years of mocking other people for complaining about their hangovers I finally get it. I can no longer go out drinking without writing off the following day completely, and if I am totally honest, it is often 3 or 4 days until I feel better after drinking. Like I said, I feel I have had plenty of experience drinking, it is time to get some new experiences, and time to spend time on other things I enjoy, like writing.

So why is giving up drinking hard? Well for starters, my body is pretty used to regularly receiving vast amounts of alcohol. I’ve had some withdrawal pangs just from a purely physical point of view. Secondly, alcohol has played a central part in my social life the entire time I have been an adult. Whenever I meet up with friends we go to the pub. Doing otherwise will take some adjustment. Quite simply I am not used to saying no, and there are people in my social circle who will take me saying no as both a personal affront and a challenge.

Finally, there is the reason I even need to write this, the ludicrous importance drinking has played in my conception of myself and my relationship with others. I have allowed drinking to be far too important in my own self-image and the way that I have presented myself to others. Drinking was a gateway to social acceptance for me. Growing up I never fitted in with anyone or any group. Ostracised because my parents are Christian Scientists (enough of a badge of weirdness to make anyone think twice about associating with you), too geeky to be a jock, too into sport to be a geek, I was a braces wearing, social outcast.

Playing adult cricket as a teenager changed everything for me. Being around older people I watched how to fit into group situations, and one way of doing so, the way that someone with no self-esteem would be inevitably drawn to, was to play the drunken fool. A few years ago, one of my friends said something insightful about me. I was complaining about people only seeing me as some kind of drunk novelty act. “well,” my friend said, “you do present yourself that way.” It was true then and it is still true now. My default position is to portray myself as a drunken idiot. My idea of small-talk is to tell some idiotic self-deprecating drunken escapade.

So that is why I need to stop drinking, not just for my health, but so I can stop defining myself entirely through alcohol.

For evil to succeed all it takes is for good people to work for charities

“The world of do-gooders is steeped in hypocrisy, and anyone who proclaims the contrary, or even asserts it, is either a subtle exploiter of humanity or an unpardonable idiot. Ninety per cent of the time we are up against subtle exploiters, ten per cent of the time against unpardonable idiots.”Thomas Bernhard

If you walk through any English town centre you can’t help but be confronted by an ever increasing number of charities competing for your money. From charity shops to  young people in branded jackets with clipboards exhorting you to sign up to a direct debit to help Oxfam, or Amnesty International, or Greenpeace, or the RSCPA or the Red Cross and so on and so on, the High Street seems to now primarily exist in order to fund the charitable sector. How is this a bad thing? Because charities and human rights organisations have become the acceptable face of capitalism, foster the belief that there is such a thing as responsible capitalism, encourage the death  of thought and take up the time and energy of people who should be looking to change the world rather than making small differences – and ultimately propping up a failed and corrupt system.

The truth is that capitalism and charity should be fundamentally opposed. Charity works to improve people’s lives, to give some of the most unfortunate people in the world a chance to build a self-sufficient, rewarding life. Capitalism looks to make rich people richer – and to hell with everyone else. Charity under capitalism instead just serves as an easy, and indeed false, way for corporations to demonstrate social responsibility, helps to boost the fading careers of celebrities who, revitalised in the eyes of the public, now have just the image needed to represent corporations and encourage us all to consume more useless junk, and perhaps most importantly charity, especially major campaigns like Red Nose Day and Children in Need help us all to salve our consciences and stop thinking about any uncomfortable issues. The reality is that charities and the issues that cause them are locked together in an eternal embrace.  Look at the recent news about Comic Relief. They can defend themselves for investing in BAE with no apparent sense of irony. You don’t even have to imagine that ludicrous example, it is real!

Whilst we live under capitalism we will always need charities to try and counteract the inequalities caused by the very nature of capitalism. It seems a sorry way to think that the best system for living we as a species can come up with creates an entire industry to try (and inevitably fail) to negate its excesses. If, instead of working for charities, or mindlessly donating money to charities we worked to establish a society that isn’t based around profit and exclusion, that isn’t doomed to wreck the planet chasing the myth of unlimited growth, if we succeeded in creating a more equal, more caring, less profit obsessed society – wouldn’t that be our truly charitable act?