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Alcohol: A Social Chemical
[ Issue 153 Page 11 ] Wednesday, May 03, 2017, 22:18:52 Jae Hwan Jeong Junior Staff Reporter jeong7331@kaist.ac.kr

    A dainty but not far-fetched analogy draws parallel between our social lives and the performing stage. It’d be more accurate to speak of a stage where each and every performer is drawn out with one’s own spotlight. On daily basis, we become subjects of attention, not just pertinent to our looks, but more so on the things we say and the things we do. Our rhetoric may be appraised on the spectrum of political correctness or the credibility of our anecdotes may be questioned. Such latent sense of judgment has urged us to seek leeway to expand our social freedom – to be more accurate, to disguise into “something else” in order to avoid accurate judgment. Alcohol is not just a chemical perfidy, but a social mechanism that has become an essential part of how we interact both externally and internally. Perhaps it is the furthest thing from technology that still makes it hard for us to discern reality from the figments of our thoughts.

    From its pronounced presence in Gatsby’s revelry, to the royal fad for it in Victorian literature, alcohol comes with a historical connotation of wealth and luxury. However, its association with the prosperous does not denote its inaccessibility from the commoners; we are far too familiar with the image of an old man binge drinking on the streets in his trinkety outfits. The common denominator seems to be the alcohol’s role in putting things to ease – whether it may be the ease in interacting in others or the ease in dealing with depression, it seems to rupture our enclosed thoughts into a realm that runs much slower than the world we know with our bare minds. It grants us a sense of confidence to do things we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I believe that there are things we are not able to achieve at the absence of alcohol. With the right amount of regulation, alcohol can be exploited to encourage social amities between people and allow them to converse through topics that are normally kept hidden. With the heavy load of occasions that demand seriousness, we need something to loosen us up – break up the accumulated stress throughout the day.

    Scientifically speaking, the University of North Carolina (UNC) directs us to two specific parts of our brain that is implicated as a result of alcohol drinking. The amygdala is an area that is associated with stress and anxiety, and the VTA is a pleasure center that responds to rewarding properties as well as addictive ones often found in drugs and alcohol. The UNC researchers found out that these two areas are remotely connected through projection neurons, and the finding implies that our mind can be maneuvered into thinking that drinking is an avenue to vent out stress. It’s a well-known fact that drinking habits have led to adversities in the society and the science further enforces a notion that the effects of it cannot be controlled. However, no matter how accurate and logistically undeniable, people who have drunk before know that science fails to encapsulate the true essence of the experience. For it to repeatedly be used in work of arts to denote a sense of extravagance, and for it to be a core ingredient in hosting an ambient party, alcohol simply offers more than what the chemists and psychologists suggest.

    When embracing important judgements, we draw up past thoughts and ideas so as to come up with the fairest conclusion. However, we often come face-to-face with the wall of misjudgment over and over again. We stop and realize that some point along the way, we had built an impression that is outright wrong – dispirited at the realization that we are the victims of our own decisions. Such human errors are expressed in the form of disappointment and surprise, and at that point we concede to the fact that we are all impressionists and that absolute objectivity does not exist. So, what if we could have had a chance to look at things from a different perspective? What if we could have had a chance to do things in the way we simply didn’t have the confidence to do? Something close to a paradigm shift. Alcohol has the power of revealing all the colors on our palettes and we can offer others to see it without shame (at least while we are drunk). It’s hard to deny that we could venture into personalities of others we never knew existed. In that sense, I believe that in the social context, alcohol provides us with ideas to form better judgments of others. I don’t mean that alcohol magically does all the work for you, but just that it helps to facilitate something that no other thing can do or could do in the past. Given these intangible benefits, alcohol deserves a better appraisal in its role in relieving the society of tension and imminent misjudgments.

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