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Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled…

Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization (edición 2021)

por Edward Slingerland (Autor)

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Título:Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization
Autores:Edward Slingerland (Autor)
Info:Little, Brown Spark (2021), 384 pages
Colecciones:Tu biblioteca

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Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization por Edward Slingerland


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Drunk is the most comprehensive volume on alcohol that I've yet seen. The author brings together various approaches to analyzing it that include neuroscience, anthropology, history, and public health. I liked the wide-range view on offer, as well as the occasional laugh-out-loud moments (particularly towards the beginning of the book). It did feel like it bogged down somewhat in the middle of the book, where there were long stretches devoted to analysis of human evolution and culture and no mention of alcohol. (It was in fact building towards that, but I must confess this section lost my interest.)
The author's love of alcohol is apparent, and was admittedly an aspect of the book that I enjoyed, but I'm sure it will leave the (tavern) door open to accusations of pro-alcohol bias.
With all that said, if you enjoy a drink or two and are interested in *why* most of us do, this is definitely worth taking a look at. Highly recommended for this audience. ( )
  caimanjosh | Nov 25, 2021 |
I was intrigued immediately by the subtitle, and found the book to be as irreverent in its prose as the subtitle suggests, but full of information about neuroscience, history, and cultural rituals. The main thesis is that alcohol and other intoxicants serve to make humans trust each other in social settings, and aid in the creative lateral thinking to come up with new ideas. The main danger is drinking alone. ( )
  neurodrew | Nov 3, 2021 |
Mildly interesting. The main point is that our taste for alcohol is too persistent to be an evolutionary mistake, and alcohol use has definite advantages to compensate for the undeniable disadvantages. Not bad, but quite disappointing coming from this author. ( )
  wester | Aug 6, 2021 |
A book extolling the virtues of drunkenness in 2021 had better be unimpeachable. As Edward Slingerland acknowledges, society has turned its back on alcohol, becoming an intolerant prurient shadow of the thousands of years since alcohol was tamed and made part of civil society. His book, Drunk, travels the globe and plumbs history in a multitude of societies to prove its worthiness of our consideration. If not for all the negatives we’ve had drummed into us, it seems it would be an easy case to make. In this upbeat, chatty book, it is our big differentiator and critical to our survival.

The active chemical in alcohol is ethanol, and the yeast in plants makes ethanol to fend off bacteria that compete for the nutritive value of many fruits and vegetables. Man has stretched the limits of fermentation, trying, and succeeding to greater or lesser extents, with everything from grass to potatoes and cactus. If it has green, it can be grog.

Alcohol found its way into human lives even before we adopted agriculture. It was, it seems, a higher priority than even bread, usually thought of as the end of hunting/gathering. Every civilization figured out early how to ferment fruits and vegetables, and drink whatever disgusting fluid resulted, purely for its intoxicating effects. More recently, we have learned to multiply those intoxicating effects through distillation: layering more and more alcohol into brandies, vodkas and such. This has created a selection of alcohol so powerful our ancestors wouldn’t know how to cope with it, and to an unfortunate extent, neither do we.

Alcohol has swung back and forth between sacred and damned, with damned the current fashion. The very word alcohol comes from the Arabic. These days Muslims wouldn’t touch the stuff in accordance with their religion. But even that is a recent change. The Middle East used to do business over alcohol much as everyone else did, with sometimes elaborate rituals, structured events, and mandatory trials before trust and negotiation could take place.

It used to be that everyone drank. For one thing, water was so filthy, it was far safer to drink beer and wine if you had any hope of making it to adulthood. Today, it is just the opposite. No alcohol until well into adulthood because it could kill you (or you could kill someone else).

Religions are full of references to alcohol, and most require it in various ceremonies from the blood of Christ to a glass of wine for Elijah. Jesus’ very first miracle was turning water into wine. Nobody complained.

Slingerland’s longest and best arguments are over bonding and creativity. Strangers bonded over drinks at the local, which does not even exist in North American society any more. If someone stopped drinking, they became suspect, and people guarded what they said around him or her. Drinking beer allowed the locals to speak freely, lower barriers between them, get secrets out in the open where they would do no more harm, and promote agreement.

It was a major de-stressor over ages when there were no other regular distractions. It was both social and therapeutic.

On the creative side, drink produces ideas and collaboration. Slingerland says when a pub finally opened near the campus of his university, the resulting socializing among professors and students led to all kinds of new projects, awards, grants, and recognition. None of it would have happened in the office, the conference room or the hallways.

Much as psychedelics cut off the barriers to connection in the brain, alcohol numbs the prefrontal cortex into submission for a period of time. The prefrontal cortex consists of the frontal lobes above the eyes, the biggest and newest part of the brain. They develop late, in fact last, not fully formed until the age of 21. They then start taking over, organizing thoughts and priorities, restricting connections that are not focused and goal-oriented, and generally killing the child in each of us. Taking temporary control away from the straitlaced grip of the prefrontal cortex is the magic and attraction of alcohol, psychedelic mushrooms and LSD. Wonderfully, the effect is temporary, produces no damage, lasting or otherwise, and has been a blessed relief for all mankind from the very beginning.

Slingerland calls the sum of these factors creative, cultural and communal, and they are present worldwide, fueled by alcohol everywhere. They are the key to differentiating humans from other primates, as well as the key to our success.

Back inside the brain, teenage drunks are the wildest, because they don’t have the regulation provided by a fully developed prefrontal cortex. Nor do they know when to stop. The result is often ugly and sometimes fatal, even if just to the drinker alone. Some societies get this more than others, as age restrictions vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

The book examines the rituals, processes and effects in numerous societies throughout history. The Japanese salary-man is probably the biggest proponent today, getting massively drunk many nights after work, barely making it in the next day. It supposedly builds lifelong friendships and appreciation for who others in the group really are.

Historically, the Vikings seem to be world champions, getting so overwhelmingly drunk they could lose battles. The glorious Beowulf was famous in his own time because he could get stinking drunk without killing any of his friends. This was a unique and miraculous accomplishment for a Viking, never mind a king.

Alcohol consumption today is mutating, and not necessarily for the better. It used to require a trip to a place. Now homes are stocked with vast quantities and varieties, totally unknown in past civilizations. No one drank at home; it was a social lubricator. No one drank alone; it was a community facilitator. No one simply imbibed alcohol. It was an accompaniment to food. The key to drinking in the famously alcoholic countries of southern Europe is that the wine went with the food and not an evening boozing. Getting drunk at home, alone without a great meal would make no sense to most throughout history. Today it is the norm.

And the alcohol is far more powerful now. Man has learned to up the alcohol content of beer to 6% and wine to 15%, when throughout history they were high if they were in the two range. Hard liquor is off the charts.

Slingerland saves the downside to nearly the end. He rushes though the horrors of addictive alcoholism, the killings from drunk driving, and the early deaths from liver damage, and lands on the discrimination. Those who do not drink are not so welcomed into drinking circles. They don’t get the creative, cultural and communal benefits. They are not a part of the in crowd. Can people who don’t drink even be trusted? How much has our civilization lost because these others were excluded when ideas took real shape? To this extent alcohol is not a uniter but a divider.

This may not be a fatal downside to drinking, but it is a factor few talk about. Inequality in boozing holds us back.

Slingerland pleads for more acceptance of alcohol. The evidence he provides is irrefutable. Drink seems irreplaceable. Whether it outweighs the negatives is for society to decide. For Slingerland, “We could not have civilization without intoxication.”

David Wineberg ( )
2 vota DavidWineberg | May 19, 2021 |
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This thirst for a kind of liquid which nature has sheathed in veils, this extraordinary need which acts on every race of mankind, in every climate and in every kind of human creature, is well worth the attention of the philosophical mind.

—Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
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