Mal Fletcher
Europe's Teen Alcohol Problem

A German boy, aged 15, lapsed into a coma recently after excessive alcohol consumption at a ‘Flat Rate Party’.

His case serves to highlight again the problem of rising alcohol abuse rates among Europe's teenagers.

The young German was allowed entry to an event where patrons are allowed to consume as much alcohol as they want for a flat fee. Apparently, nobody bothered to check his age -- the legal drinking age in Germany, as in much of Europe, is 18 years.

Many across Europe are questioning why, in an age of unprecedented prosperity and opportunity, young people are turning to alcohol in a way that puts their health, even their lives, at risk.

Indeed, for some young people, alcohol consumption seems to have become a form of personal expression. It's almost as if they feel they cannot be truly alive, or creative, without a few stiff drinks.

Part of the problem, I think, is that we have lost much of the creativity in our culture. Many young people drink to excess only because they are bored. Not bored as in having nothing to do; bored as in having no long-term sense of creative purpose.

I recently conducted a TV interview with my friend, respected social researcher and youth speaker Winkie Pratney. He mentioned that the loss of absolutes in a society always leads to a reduction in creativity.

Creativity requires a certain degree of tension: tension between the possible and the impossible, or the permissible and disallowed.

All visual art requires the tension between colours, or textures. It is the difference between colours, shapes and textures that provides the visual or tactile aesthetic that makes art pleasing to us.

If a painter mixes all the colours of his palette together, he is left with nothing but a mess of indistinguishable features -- a grey blob. It is the 'absolute' lines of distinction between the colours that makes for something artistic and wonderful.

Tension is necessary to creative expression of all kinds. How many of Jane Austen's books derive their power from a form of repressed sexual interest or desire? How many other literary classics draw their power from the tension between right and wrong, good and evil?

Our post-modern culture has downplayed moral and ethical absolutes to the point where all tension is removed. In fact, the removal of tension is the very goal of much of post-modern thinking: everything must be reduced to its lowest common denominator, or at least to the point where it offends nobody.

In this case, art imitates life. Faced with a grey world, where all colours are mixed together in a bland confusion, many teenagers try to find creativity through alcohol and drugs.

We need not just new treatment programmes, or rehabilitation projects, but a return to a world of distinctives. Not of repressive legalism; but of clearly marked parameters for safe living, based upon proven religious, ethical and philosophical tenets.

If young people are encouraged to discipline their fantasies, and natural drives – and if we model that discipline for them – they may discover the pleasure of true creativity without the aid of mind numbing drugs.

Mal Fletcher (@MalFletcher) is the founder and chairman of 2030Plus. He is a respected keynote speaker, social commentator and social futurist, author and broadcaster based in London.

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