Just imagine for a moment. Imagine a world where you are woken up every morning by your personalised entertainment system, followed by breakfast and then changing into your standardised clothing apparel. You take a driverless car to work with other colleagues and spend the day at the office. In your spare time you go bike riding, surf the waves and play football competitively against friends – all virtually, of course, through your personal electronic devices.
Thankfully, your meals are pre-selected and you do not even have to worry about what to eat or drink as this is no longer relevant. Because everyone can stay physically and mentally healthy as society is working in a uniform fashion without the chaos of choice or bad decisions.
Clearly this is not a reality as we know it, but rather a dystopian scenario inspired by science fiction. In this specific, alternative reality, society inhabits an enclosed, automated space in a slave-like world, where everyone must cycle on exercise bikes to power their surroundings and earn merits that allow them to purchase food, goods and virtual items for entertainment.
This same society shuns overweight people, who are tasked with menial janitorial jobs and subjected to humiliation.
But could this totalitarian reality ever take place? Consider for a minute the food and drink that we have available – from bottled water to bottles of vodka and bags of salad to bags of sweets. We currently have a choice – good or bad – and those selections determine how we live, how we look and, ultimately, who we are. But the bottom line is that we are free to make those choices.
However, whether you are aware or not, we are under attack and those simple choices which we take for granted may soon be far more limited in the near future than now. And, who knows, they may even be removed from our hands completely as per the alternative reality scenario played out above.
One such example of the changes taking place today relates to Alcohol. The World Health Organisation (WHO) professes to have good intentions in wanting to reduce the harm induced by the consumption of alcohol. This harmful use of alcohol, influenced mainly by the volume consumed and the pattern of drinking, is a component cause of more than 200 diseases in individuals.
In principle, this is a worthwhile aim that should be supported by all of society.
Likewise, certain governmental bodies, such as the Swedish ‘systembolaget’ monopoly, control the distribution and sales of alcohol – generating significant revenues and instigating higher taxes on such products. These types of governmental organisations tend to have been originally created to control consumption and reduce alcohol-related harm, but invariably have unexpected effects on the behaviour of the very people they are trying to control. One of these side effects is to create a higher desire for the product they are restricting and thus potentially drive up consumption of alcohol through other channels. After all, as behavioural science suggests, humans like nothing more than what is not available and/or restricted to them!
Naturally, these health industry organisations are pushing for higher barriers to limit the consumption of alcohol, by lobbying and influencing elected decision makers to reduce access, restrict choice and penalise the majority of people for the mistakes of the few.
At the current rate, alcohol will be treated almost as a dangerous item for human consumption, with severe controls being placed on how it is marketed to the public and retailed across stores and with its products being kept secluded from other items on sale. Just think of the obvious parallel with cigarettes in Australia.
However, we must always remember that humans are complex, adaptable if somewhat slightly flawed organic beings. We do not live in a Utopia with a perfect system for managing us individually and catering for all of our needs. Humans have had a love affair with alcohol for over 9000 years and this has had an impact on our history – both positive and negative. As a recent National Geographic article reminds us: ”alcohol isn’t just a mind-altering drink; it’s a prime mover of human culture from the beginning, fuelling the development of arts, language and religion”.
Those WHO and government officials should learn to recognise the positive impact of alcohol on our history and culture. As such, according to biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, drinking is such an integral part of our humanity that he half-jokingly suggests our species should be called Homo Imbibens.
It all comes down to choices and we should strongly defend the freedom to make informed choices on what to drink, eat and how to live our lives. This should be retained at all costs, as it is one of the last barriers before we take the first steps towards a totalitarian regime controlling our lives. So the next time you hear about your local government or health agency trying to control what you have access to, remember that your choices are under attack!
Best never to forget that the WHO is a lion that can roar, bite and lead the charge on the alcohol category. Global Travel Retail and its Trinity must fight back against an increased number of punitive laws – whether at national or international level – otherwise it will be too late for us to bite back.
The Duty Free World Council (DFWC) has developed an Alcohol Code of Conduct which must be adopted by all. However, this is just a start in safeguarding our channel and, more importantly, protecting our individual choices in the future.