Thursday, March 20

Stopping Drunken Behaviour in Public

This might sound like a dirty topic but there is a serious element to this discussion. How do you stop people peeing in public? By all means, the people seem to have done all that they could to stop this from happening. I quote:

Two public toilets were placed in downtown Linköping close to the town’s entertainment district following discussions about how to alleviate the problem of public urination on walls and building entryways in the downtown area.

The temporary toilets are well illuminated and clearly identified with large signs. The problem instead is apparently that some people, primarily young men who have been drinking alcohol, prefer to pee on walls.

When asked what to do about these men, suggested answers were:

The solutions offered including public shaming, castration, fines, electrified walls or the classification of people peeing in public as terrorists. A minority felt public urination shouldn’t be punished at all, while one respondent felt the politicians should be punished, for not creating more public toilets.

It is a question of incentives. What these punishments are supposed to do is to make sure that you as a rational human being, do not pee against a wall under threat of punishment.

But the point is, the chaps are drunk and in which case and by default, they are unable to take rational decisions. I mean, to get drunk itself is a bit of an irrational decision, no? (I know you will quibble with me, but remember the quote, "how come whenever anybody wants to drown his sorrows, he never uses water?").

So the question for us to ponder is, what do you do when citizens are inebriated or drugged up to such an extent that they are unable to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad behaviour, encouragement and punishment?

The standard answer is, throw them in jail, public shaming, castration, fines or wire up the genitals via the liquid stream to an electrified wall (god, the man who came up with that idea has an evil mind!) will simply not work. It might work with that man itself, after getting a genitalia shock, he might not relieve himself again, but that will not stop the next drunk young man from doing so.

Taken to the worst case scenario, alcohol abuse and inability to function is a national problem in many countries. Russia is suffering very badly from this phenomena although it has reduced a bit from the very bad days of the last decade. In the United Kingdom, the problem of youth drunkenness is hitting crisis situations. See here for some statistics in Europe for binge drinking.

So what are the policy responses? Here is a very good overview of what you can do to combat this problem. I quote the key bits:

Firstly, not all alcohol policy measures are equally effective. Secondly, policy measures that influence and change the physical, social and cultural environment around alcohol are more effective in preventing and reducing alcohol related harm, than measures targeted at the individual drinker. Thirdly, policies exclusively targeted at young people, while ignoring the wider adult population, are doomed to failure. Fourthly, while education programmes can influence beliefs and attitudes about alcohol....educational strategies show little or no effect in reducing alcohol consumption or related harm.

.....the ‘best value’ for an effective alcohol policy response should combine measures targeted at the general population (taxes, controlling access to alcohol, RBT, Lower BAC), at high-risk groups (minimum age, enforcement of on-premise alcohol laws, community mobilisation) and at high-risk drinkers (brief intervention).

So to go back to our problem with our young men and the stinky walls, jack up the price of alcohol (via taxation) to eye watering levels (pun intended), increase the permissible age of drinking, mobilise local community / neighbourhood people (get your local neighbourhood old lady armed with an umbrella to poke your pee'er in the back).

But will it completely stop drunken men relieving themselves? Doubtful. Not sure. Mind you, I can only be a tiny bit relieved that I am following in the footsteps of that ancient Egyptian dad who is moaning at his son (as translated from the Sallier papyrus) and I quote:

I am told that you neglect your studies, have a desire for enjoyments, and go from tavern to tavern. Whoever smells beer is repulsive to all; the smell of beer holds people at a distance, it hardens your think it proper to run down a wall and to break through the board gate; the people run away from you...Do not give the beer mugs a place in your heart; forget the beer-pots...Don't undertake to drink a whole pitcher of beer. If you then talk, so from your mouth comes nonsense...your drinking companions stand up and say only: away with the drunkards.

What do you think? Can we ever stop drunken behaviour? If we can, then I will raise a glass or two (or more) of Balvenie to you :)

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

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