Solutions to violence and alcohol

Further to Drunken thuggery not alcohol’s fault  anthropologist Anne Fox makes some suggestions about how to address a culture of alcohol related violence in New Zealand.

Fox’s paper includes a raft of recommendations.

The first is that we should stop focusing on “alcohol-fuelled violence” and address what she calls cultural reinforcers of violence, such as aggressive masculinity.

A cultural shift can be achieved, she says, by recognising that individuals are in control of their own behaviour and should face consequences, such as social stigma and heavy penalties, for transgressions.

Fox also suggests we should de-emphasise consumption of alcohol for its own sake and refocus on entertainment and group conviviality. She urges better drinking environments, with higher ratios of females (both staff and patrons), a wider range of ages (violence is less likely in mixed-age groups) and a clear message that bad behaviour will not be tolerated. She was alarmed at the number of bars and clubs in New Zealand and Australia that served people who were clearly drunk.

She is also an advocate of consistent, visible policing (she found that police are more effective on foot than in patrol cars) and clear penalties for bad behaviour.

In the New South Wales city of Newcastle, Fox notes, police show little tolerance for bad behaviour and young people are well aware that infringements, such as sexual harassment or urinating in public, will earn them a heavy and immediate fine.

Safe, well-managed 24-hour food outlets are important too, she says, as is adequate transport out of the entertainment districts of large cities.

Fox suggests that even language can be used to change harmful concepts of masculinity and to indicate social disapproval of violent behaviour. In Australia the term “king hit”, meaning a powerful blow delivered without warning, has been rebranded in the media as the “coward’s punch” following a series of highly publicised king hit-related deaths and injuries. The long-term effectiveness of this change in terminology has yet to be measured but Fox calls it a step in the right direction.

She is especially emphatic about the need for better alcohol education. Young New Zealanders and Australians appear to know very little of the basic facts about alcohol, she says. Effective programmes should offer a balanced portrayal of both the negative and positive aspects of consumption and provide unbiased information about alcohol’s real effects.

Scare tactics don’t work and can even be counter-productive, she insists. “The element of risk is, for many young people, an added attraction to drug-taking or binge drinking.”

Establishing a culture that uses peer pressure to oppose and condemn all violence including attempts to use alcohol as an excuse for thuggish behaviour can be done.

We managed to change the New Zealand culture on drink driving where it is now seen as unacceptable by most people and frowned on socially, because it was a serious risk to the safety of innocent people.

Person perpetrated violence via fists and boots isn’t much different to person perpetrated violence via vehicle, except that those who use fists and boots do so very deliberately. We should be more appalled and more determined to change our culture around alcohol and violence.

Most of us already abhor violence in most situations. But we can do more to speak up against it to make it clear that whether using alcohol as an excuse or not thuggery is socially unacceptable in New Zealand.

So seeing a blog describing itself New Zealand’s biggest and best make excuses for socially abhorrent behaviour – see Victim blaming and excusing thuggery – is very disappointing.

Leave a comment


  1. “Very disappointing that a blog describing itself New Zealand’s biggest and best make excuses for socially abhorrent behaviour”? That’s like saying it is “disappointing” when a teenage girl walking home from her mate’s place is picked up by gang members, taken to their lair and sexually violated. Disappointing?

    The site continues to be a cesspit. Wannabes and prospects find haven there while rationality, balance, dispassion and lenity are shunned.

  2. Brown

     /  6th January 2016

    You don’t see much of this violent drunken nonsense in Singapore. What do they do differently?

    I’d double the sentence of anyone using alcohol or drugs as an excuse for bad behaviour. That king hit in Sydney that killed someone would be a life term for both the thugs that started it despite it being likely they never meant to kill the victim.

    • kiwi guy

       /  6th January 2016

      Singapore has a reputation for being an extremely boring, sanitised, giant shopping mall.

  3. Timoti.

     /  6th January 2016

    Finally someone making reality based observations and concentrating on penalties first before wandering into the maize of criminal causation.

    • @ Timoti – I put it to you that “the maize of criminal causation” is essentially the topic here?

      Anne Fox begins, ” … we should stop focusing on “alcohol-fuelled violence” and address what she calls cultural reinforcers of violence, such as aggressive masculinity”

      Such as aggressive masculinity, yes, definitely – a maize of causation – and such as aggressive masculinity fuelled by alcohol?

      But we can avoid this and I strongly suspect we will do exactly that. Just punish people, that will a) remove them from society and b) deter others.

      a) cost lots of money and b) doesn’t work

      Doesn’t matter, we’ll despire to be like the United States, our advanced, prosperous role-model and ally which has the second highest incarceration rate per 100,000 population in the world after the Seychelles (go figure!?)

      The more I read of Anne Fox the more I think, “Here’s a scientist for sale”. Useful, of course, especially if we do investigate the maize, but also diverting attention from the liquor industry and serving their agenda.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  6th January 2016

        I disagree. These people will still be violent without liquor and drugs. Attacking the violence is approaching the root problem which is the culture of oppression rather than opportunity.

  4. kiwi guy

     /  6th January 2016

    Genetic screening, weed out the drop kicks who are trouble on booze.

    “anthropologist Anne Fox”

    I.e. doesn’t have a fucking clue about real life.

    “She urges better drinking environments, with higher ratios of females ”

    WTF?! Seriously, has no one seen the marauding gangs of drunk females around Auckland City on Fri and Sat nights – they hunt in packs.


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