FOR A MERRIER CHRISTMAS: This Year And In 1956…And In

Psst….Hey Santa..Pass the bottle. Its the pauses that refresh.To some Christmas is a chaotic energy and motivation of fear and intoxication, forces that drive many closer to meltdown. Psychologists call it legitimised deviancy, an unspoken rule that the normal laws of civility and morality are tossed aside at key points in the national calender. How does this arrive? Its hard to explain why this deviance occurs, especially when considering people’s inclination toward conformity: why individuals engage in norm violating behavior.

"And could poor old Santa get any lower than this? Out of all the things he has carried in his sack over the years, Chesterfield Cigarettes may very well be the worst of them. Plus, not only is Santa delivery them as presents, he'€™s decorating the tree with them as well, and hardly acting the camera-shy sort that he is. Chesterfield (Leggett & Morris Tobacco Co.) combined some of the best loved elements of childhood (the ABC's "€œAlways Buy Chesterfield") and Santa Claus to not only convince adults to think of the product as a Gift(ing) Unit, but also to lull children into a sleepy, memory-clouding impression of Chesterfields being somehow good (what with these two primary associations and all). "€œChesterfields have all the benefit of Smoking Pleasure (capitalized in the original) "they're givable, acceptable and enjoyable¦"

Kate Mulvey:… I am always astounded by the effect a bit of yuletide spirit can have. As soon as the obligatory round of parties starts, instead of a few drinks to get merry, most people seem hell-bent on oblivion. And this is not young yobs I’m talking about, it is professional men and women in their 30s and 40s. Why do otherwise sane individuals suddenly feel compelled to make such fools of themselves at office parties? I don’t want to be a killjoy, but there is too much emphasis on booze during the party season. We never hear about the Italians mooning at passers-by, starting fights, or falling over total strangers as a yuletide ritual….

Emile Durkheim believed that youngsters are taught the rights and wrongs of society early in life, with most people conforming to these expectations throughout adulthood.These moral beliefs, in large measure, determined how people behave, what they want, and who they are; their basic identity.Durkheim suggested that societies with high degrees of social integration would increase the conformity of its members. However, and this is what concerned Durkheim, in the modern French society in which he was living, more and more people were becoming distanced from one another- losing a sense of belonging to their community and the norms and expectations of their groups were becoming less clearly defined.

…”Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to end the tradition of drinking at this time of year. All the same, I think it’s getting out of hand.Instead of alcohol being a pleasant facilitator, getting steaming drunk has become the sole reason to drink for millions. As far as I am concerned, the line between having a drink and binge drinking is crossed all too frequently. I was at a private club with some friends. A group of rowdy post-party revellers were in the middle of the room invading everyone else’s space….

Durkheim believed that this condition, which he referred to as “anomie” , was producing concomitant social disintegration , leading to greater degrees of deviance. Thus for Durkheim, although norms still existed on the societal level, the lack of social integration created a situation where they were no longer as significant to each individual.

…”Suddenly one of the men fell forward and knocked a bottle of red wine all over my dress and a pair of satin Prada shoes I had just bought. Not only did he not apologise, when I insisted he pay for the dry-cleaning bill, he threw the rest of the wine in my face.His friends thought it was hilarious, my gentleman companion had no option but to hit him and we just escaped a trip to the A&E. This is the worst part. Instead of the man being berated by his own pals for ruining my dress and my evening, I was given a hard time for making a fuss. It was me who was sober, and me who was berated for being a party pooper.”…

…Despite his concerns about increasing deviancy in society, Durkheim also subscribed to the idea that deviance is functional for society. Curiously, Durkheim felt that deviance produces some positive effects as well as the obvious negatives. At a time when people are worried about the moral breakdown and social disintegration of society, deviance seems to remind us of society’s moral boundaries. It could be called a cabling of an ethic and until its broken down, people do tend to blindly follow a particular idea and notion, until the inevitable disaster. 

…The truth of the matter is that most people drink, and the non-drinking brigade get a bad reputation. It is not surprising, because when you are in the minority these days who don’t drink, you become unsettling to those who are knocking back the pink fizz. I have lost count of the times I have been struck off people’s New Year’s Eve party list just because they can’t get their heads round the fact that I will be on the apple juice instead of the bubbly. And those who do invite me spend the whole evening tutting as they pass me clutching a glass of water. Still there is one recompense: come New Year’s Day, I will be one of the few people in this country without a hangover or a body covered in bruises. Perhaps sobriety is not such a big price to pay after all….

All through the Christmas period we see images of high quality food and drink. The amount to which it all informs who we are, how we feel, and who we should be is open to speculation, but is likely to be significant. Its a lifestyle thing. So the food and booze reflects decadence, and adds a nice bitter irony to the end of the year, where we just eat and drink the world we live in. We buy it and consume and suffer the inevitable hangover.

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…is that the medico-disease concept of alcoholism and deviant drinking has led to the assignment of the labelling function to medical authorities which in turn has led to the placement of alcoholics and deviant drinkers in “sick roles. “10 17 18 The expectations surrounding these sick roles serve to further develop, legitimize, and in some cases even perpetuate the abnormal use of alcohol. There are two basic mechanisms operating through the medical labelling process, which is based on the disease model of deviant drinking, which may serve to reinforce deviant drinking behavior.

The first mechanism is assignment to the sick role, this being the consequence of being labelled by a physician as manifesting illness. The sick role assignment may legitimize deviant drinking patterns since these patterns have been labelled results of pathology rather than as inappropriate behavior. This is due to the fact that one of the main characteristics of the sick role is that the individual is not held responsible for his illness; thus, in this case the illness is abnormal drinking behavior and assignment to the sick role removes the individual’s responsibility for engaging in this behavior. In his discussion of the relation between temperance movements and the different labels applied to drinking, Gusfield points out that the sick role “renders the behavior of the deviant indifferent to the status of norms enforcing abstinence. ”

"It’s a Schlitz ad from 1950 and it was created by famed illustrator Albert Dorne. I love the story unfolding in the ad. The guy is pouring the beer while peering mischievously up at the clock, which reads just a few minutes to midnight. Presumably that means they’re putting up their tree Christmas Eve at the very end of the day. Talk about procrastinators! But then there’s the look on the woman — doing all the work, as usual, right ladies? — who looks aghast at the effrontery. Or is that bemusement? Surprise? Hard to say. But it’s pretty funny, I’d say."

This “indifference” likewise applies to the norms calling for “normal” drinking behavior. This appears to be a significant parallel between the development of the disease model of deviant drinking and the disease model of hysteria, the latter of which developed during the 19th century as an early step in a significant expansion of the aegis of psychiatry and medicine.

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