Monday, March 23, 2009

What's In Your Bottle?

Writing at the Front Porch Republic, Susan McWilliams tries to draw a connection between bottled water, beer and civic life:

The news is dreadful: According to the Census, since 2006 we have been living in a republic where, for the first time in the history of the republic, Americans drink more bottled water than we drank beer.

Why is this important? It's important because beer is a socially oriented beverage, and bottled water is a privately oriented one.

There's a reason that beer commercials tend to include lots of people hanging out in a room together, and bottled water commercials tend to include lone individuals climbing things and running around by themselves, usually on a beach at sunrise--even though they are not being chased.

Drinking beer emanates, albeit clumsily and with all the familiar risks, from essentially social impulses. Most people drink beer to lower social inhibitions, to make it easier to have conversations with other people, to assuage loneliness, to grease the wheels for engaging in what my students euphemistically call "relationships"--in other words, to give a form and excuse for social life. You don't drink beer to improve your private, individual health.

Ahem, ahem. Have to beg to differ there. While there is an undeniable social component to beer, there is also a great deal of personal satisfaction to be had by indulging in a tasty brew. As someone with no social life to speak of, I can testify that my impulse to drink beer is not essentially a social one. In fact, her entire premise that beer is public and bottled water is private seems rather flimsy when held up to scrutiny.

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