Straight Edge Rebellion

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons - Kyle Sullivan (KyleJSullivan)

There’s no easy way to say this. If you are a drinker (the liquid in this case being alcohol) you are not rebellious, nor are you fighting the power in any way. I’m not trying to shade you, promise; I just figured that honesty is always the best policy. That image you have in your head of defiance to mainstream society upon every shot you take or beer you chug, crush it, just crush it, because it’s false.

I hate to be the one to break it to people, but the turn up culture and drinking culture are not counter culture or edgy. In fact, they’re just a huge, manufactured part of mainstream culture. It is the culture that is thought of as the least rebellious that turns out to be the most counter culture, and that’s the straight edge community. Just take a moment to absorb all of this, before I explain the truth.

Statistics across the web report the approximate percentage of college students that drink at around 84%. It’s not just college students. Approximately 2/3 of adults report that they drink alcohol, according to a 2012 study by Gallup. These numbers are important because they represent the fact that drinking is completely commonplace in America. More than half of us are doing it in college, and this continues into adulthood.

This means that at no point in our lives (sans childhood) will drinking be a counter culture activity. Some could argue that peer pressure plays a role, but what is probably the biggest factor in the high consumption rate of alcohol is the advertising and encouragement from the corporate powers in our society. It’s not just the commercials, the billboards, or the marketing campaigns. It’s the fact that alcohol has been ingrained into  moments in our lives.

Take twenty-first birthdays, for example. It has become commonly accepted, and expected that folks binge drink alcohol, all in the name of celebrating their new ability to legally drink. I, as a non-drinker, found this to be ridiculous when it came to my twenty-first birthday. I demanded ice cream cake, and informed guests that the party would be as dry as the Sahara. People seem dumbfounded by this. Is it possible to celebrate your twenty-first birthday without drinking?

Yes, and it’s really quite easy. You just don’t drink. But it’s been forced into our society as some longstanding tradition or rite of passage that in the end only serves to benefit the alcohol industry and its sellers. Some will argue that it’s simply people utilizing their new power under the law to purchase alcohol. However, that still doesn’t explain why people feel the need to consume to the extreme. If they want to use their new power to purchase and drink alcohol in bars and clubs, they can buy a few and then stop. But no, society has been able to turn it into a huge binge drinking fest.

It’s not just birthdays. St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday dedicated to celebrating Irish culture, has been morphed in America into another excuse to drink excessively and without restraint. Ask anyone from Ireland and they’ll point out the differences. On St. Patrick’s Day they go to church, dance, and come together as a family. Yet, unsurprisingly, America has turned it into this. Starting to see a pattern? We all know drinking is not limited to St. Patrick’s Day, and that, in fact, most holidays include elements of drinking. That’s because the market for it is huge and powerful.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that overconsumption of alcohol is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Alcohol is legal all across the nation. Meanwhile marijuana is only legal in 21 states. Deaths related to marijuana don’t even come close to alcohol. In fact, most sources will state that it is simply not possible to overdose on marijuana, even if you use a lot. But the government fights marijuana and not alcohol. Why? It’s all about the green.

Money is the name of the game in this country, and yet we are always too shallow to see the fact that we are constantly being advertised to and influenced by the society around us. What drinkers are doing is just playing a part in a system that is bigger than them. Alcohol isn’t by inception some form of fun potion, but in America it’s so strongly associated with partying and fun because that’s what we’re told. There are those that buy into it, and then there are those that don’t.

That’s where straight edge culture comes in. Often unfairly, and rapidly labeled as condescending, folks view straight edge culture with a slew of hostility, like this. The choice to not drink or use drugs is suddenly demonized to the point where people that are straight edge often feel pressured to explain that they are not judgmental. But the frustration and joking about straight edge culture comes from a place of mainstream fear. Society doesn’t want us to stop drinking. Bars don’t want us to stop drinking. Liquor stores don’t want us to stop drinking. Straight edge people are rebels, turning their backs on something that has taken such a prominent role in our society.

It might be hard for some people to accept this logic, but choosing not to do something can in fact be more rebellious than doing everything. We, straight edge people, are the minority, and are the ones who are actually counter culture. The next time you’re tossing back your shots, thinking that you’re sticking it to the man, please think again. And if you’re straight edge like me, let’s keep the movement going, and give a nice little hair-flip to the haters, because fun and happiness don’t come in a glass or a bottle for us.

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