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Home > Blog - In All Things > Paula Nolan > Don’t shoot the messenger

Don’t shoot the messenger

About ten years ago there was a poster Ad campaign on Dublin Bus. The photographic image showed a woman sitting on a bedroom chair doing her make-up. A child stood behind her, her small hands on the back of the chair. We could see the reflection of both mother and daughter in the sideboard mirror. The mother was clearly drunk, a half glass of wine taking priority amidst a jungle of make-up. The little girl was around ten years of age. The caption read:

“When I grow up I want to be just like my mother.”

This was possibly the best advert on the subject of alcohol abuse I had ever seen. It got to the heart of the matter: that addiction and addictive behaviour is often passed from one generation to the next. The jury might be hung as to what part genetics play, but of the role nurture plays, there is little doubt. We are not surprised when the daughter of a doctor becomes a doctor, but we are when a son of a crack cocaine addict does. Or we would be, if that ever happened.

I am weary of outrage, and how it ignores nuance. The current Diageo adverts on Out Of Control Drinking are amongst the best I’ve seen to target the prime cause of alcohol abuse. They call for personal responsibility; for an awareness of consequences. This angle on alcohol abuse has some chance of catching people before their drinking crosses that invisible line, and inoculates them against the hurt and devastation they bring into the lives of people who love them; before they are so wedded to alcohol that all other vows are abandoned.

Alexander Pope wrote, “Most critics, fond of some subservient art / Still make the whole depend upon the part.” Can we not have the argument that, accepting the ‪#‎outofcontroldrinking‬ campaign has its merits, it would be more acceptable as a fully rounded campaign were it not generated by Diageo on behalf the drink industry? This complete outrage is not helpful.

It’s long past time responsibility be laid where it belongs, and you know what? This much-maligned campaign makes a pretty good stab at doing just that. Personally, alcohol abuse has destroyed so much of my life, and continues to do so today, making me more interested in the message than the messenger.