A sense of proportion - Majority may pay for sins of minority

Cypriot banks reopened after nearly two weeks yesterday and, thankfully, none of the feared street violence or chaos in banks materialised.

Thousands of Cypriots queued calmly and did their business within the pretty tight limits agreed — withdrawals of up to €300 a day only — to secure the €10bn EU bailout. It was unlikely that they were happy with the situation, but pragmatism and a sense of proportion prevailed.

It would be reassuring to believe that we would behave in the same calm way if we were in such a very difficult position, but that may be overly optimistic. Though we have not taken to the streets, violently at least, in the last five years it is unlikely that such an intrusion into personal bank accounts would be greeted as calmly as tax increases and pay cuts have been. We might not have stayed as calm as the Cypriots did yesterday, or retained the sense of proportion so essential and stabilising at life’s challenging moments. Indeed, recent events suggest we have, on some issues at least, lost the kind of rational perspective needed to get through this world without going prematurely grey.

The debate around sports events being sponsored by drinks companies has reopened. As we have said time almost out of number the carnage caused by drink in this society is utterly unacceptable, but does that mean that the vast majority of people who drink sensibly and follow a team or a sport supported by a drinks company should lose out?

Rugby and soccer chiefs have warned that a bid to host the Euro 2020 football finals or the rugby world cup in 2023 would be made considerably more difficult if the Government bans alcohol sponsorship in sport. Of course there is a degree of brinkmanship in this statement, but there is also more than a ring of truth to it. That we might put ourselves at such a disadvantage, and axe so many jobs, because a minority, albeit a sizeable one, abuses alcohol seems disproportionate.

Arts organisers have echoed the sports organisations warnings saying that many events or festivals, all vital to local economies and the promotion of the arts, simply could not survive without the support of drinks’ companies.

That we should, in these circumstances, contemplate a ban on alcohol advertising seems at least disproportionate. This argument is strengthened by the unpalatable fact that despite the most vigorous and relentless campaign against smoking, including an advertising ban, around 1m people still smoke; each year their smoking-related illnesses cost around €1bn and 7,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses.

The argument is also strengthened by the uncomfortable, usually ignored truth that our abuse of alcohol has little enough to do with how it is promoted but rather something much stronger, something much more visceral, personal and tragically destructive.

Of course we must tackle alcohol misuse and promote a healthy relationship with the drug — if we choose to have any relationship with it — but cutting off the funding that does so much good, for whatever reason, in this society seems, well, disproportionate.


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