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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Why I refuse to drink

Published: November 16, 2007
Section: Opinions

During my first semester at Brandeis, I took Introduction to Political Theory with Professor Abramson. Among other wonderful works the entire class was required to read the Platonic dialogue the Crito. In this work, Socrates is in jail and is sentenced to be executed. His friend Crito says that he has bribed the jailer, and Socrates can make his escape. Socrates then replies that he will stay for his execution. He explains that he does not have the right to go against the laws of the state, and he is ready to accept his punishment. This piece struck me in a profound way. What right do I have to determine which laws are good and which are unjust? How do I have the audacity to assume that I am brighter than our politicians and have the ability to break laws? From that point forward, I resolved never to break a law again. This has most notably manifested itself in my unwillingness to consume alcoholic beverages. Though we are at college, for the past two years, I have perhaps once broken this solemn vow. Id like to rationalize this position and perhaps change perceptions about a popularly accepted activity.

Once, I entered the Golding Auditorium, and there was a question written on the board. It said, In a democratic society, do citizens have the right to break the law? I thought for a little bit and came up with a response: in almost all cases, no. We elect people to make decisions for us and this is the nature of democratic society. We put trust in our government and hope that they have our best interests at hand when we grant them the ability to determine law. What right do we have to disobey them? Seriously, what gives us the audacity to assume that some punk college kids have the nerve to go against elected representatives of millions of their countrymen? What would happen if people just arbitrarily broke laws? Speed limits would mean nothing and white-collar crime would be ignored. A state of anarchy emerges, and it is out responsibility to respect the system of order until we can democratically change our institutions.

Sure, people will state that one can disobey laws when they are unjust. Some might also state that they are drinking as a form of protest against stupid legislation. These positions are egregiously ridiculous. First of all, I think that not being able to drink when you are 21 is not an unjust law. I dont think the social contract includes your right to crack open a brewsky.

And to tell you the truth, I dont see why it really matters that someone can vote and get drafted and still not drink. Maybe that will make them more sober in their duties. Furthermore, people sometimes say that it makes no sense for one to be magically of age at year 21 when they have the same sense of reason at 20 and 364 days. Okay, our system is not perfect, but just as in other parts of our society, we have to establish boundaries. I think you are just as old the day after you become a senior citizen than the day before. I think that a Presidential candidate is just as smart the day before they turn 35 and the day after. We have to establish cut-offs in our society and 21 is just as reasonable as any other age.

Furthermore, there are many practical reasons not to drink. I can spend a whole article talking about how stupid it is to enjoy losing control of your body, or how endangering alcohol can be. I will avoid these easy targets and say that an abstinence from alcohol makes reaching the age of twenty-one that much better. My good friend and teammate, David Gay, wrote an article in the Hoot last year called Less Fun When Youre Twenty-one. In it, he detailed that drinking before coming of age was exciting and now that he was of age, it was lame. I believe that if one waits, it will be thrilling to finally drink rather than execute a practice that you have been doing all along. If you wait, the longing will make the eventual reward all that much better and hey, you might even feel good about the fact that you waited to consume alcoholic beverages until it was legal.

About two years ago, I pledged never to break the law. I thereafter never talked on the phone while driving in New Jersey, never jay-walked, and stopped doing a number of other illegal actions. This stance has also made it so that I will not drink alcohol until I come of age. In a democratic society, everyone must obey the law or try to change it through our democratic means. Anything else would lead to anarchy. Furthermore, all the excuse to drink are lame reasons that people create make them feel better about their illicit activities. Finally, holding out until Im twenty-one is having a wonderful effect as I have more reason for that birthday to arrive. And so I pledge not to drink and never to break the law. But every stupid legislation listed on doesnt count.