HydeOkay, so everyone can groan at something stupid said under the influence; whatever was said, however, it’s probably safe to assume few ships are sunk these days due to lips loosened by alcohol. In the bigger picture, an utterance is the least damaging side-effect of the demon drink when too much is consumed. From what I can gather, I’m a relatively entertaining drunk – very theatrical in my behaviour and quite amusing; for me, the inner extrovert is released for a few hours, which I don’t mind as long as Quentin Crisp knows when it’s time to go back into his box. I’d hate to be the kind of drunk I grew up being exposed to – not so much the physically violent as the verbally violent.

I don’t necessarily believe excessive drink reveals the hidden core of a person, but I do believe it can unleash an element of a personality that social convention suppresses. It can certainly bring an X-rated anger to the fore that festers during extended sobriety; it can also elevate an unpleasant nastiness espousing previously-unheard bigotry and prejudice to the surface. I once had an extremely PC friend whose publicly-aired opinions ticked every right-on box, though I recall an occasion when her alcoholic intake exceeded its safety limit and she suddenly began disparagingly referring to Muslims as ‘them’, something that served to render her political correctness a sham subconsciously engineered to survive and prosper in her chosen social demographic. For some, drink can have more serious ramifications when it gives Mr Hyde the green light.

Yesterday, a 23-year-old student called Samuel Watts found himself behind bars for a crime committed when he was under the influence, though this was no embarrassing utterance. He killed someone. The victim was a 72-year-old pensioner called Melvyn Hargreaves who was walking his dogs with his wife when they encountered the pissed student itching for a fight; Mr Hargreaves stood his ground when Watts let rip with a stream of profanities and shoved him, leaving Watts without the scalp he clearly craved. Watts retaliated by chasing after the old man as he walked away, pushed him to the pavement from behind and then proceeded to literally kick Hargreaves’ head in. Watts then did a runner and the ambulance arrived. Hargreaves died of his head injuries within a couple of days of the attack.

What emerged from the tragedy once Watts was arrested thanks to CCTV footage was that he had already had a go at five other individuals unfortunate enough to cross his path before settling on Melvyn Hargreaves, the consequence of heavy drinking in Derby city centre that night. During his trial for manslaughter, Watts claimed he had no memory of the attack, which may well be true; but it is equally true that he was conscious of his actions at the time if his immediate flight from the scene of the crime is anything to go by. He made the choice to drink himself into a rage, just as he made the choice to inflict a vicious beating on a 72-year-old, just as he made the choice to run once his despicable deed was done. However, the fact that his appalling behaviour was attributed to the drink gave his barrister the opportunity to play the ‘diminished responsibility’ card, which resulted in a sentence of a paltry nine years; and, as we all know, perhaps only half of that will be served. Samuel Watts will probably be a free man again before he reaches thirty. Some justice for the family of the man he murdered, eh?

If a violent streak isn’t already present, drink cannot bring it to the fore; drink doesn’t have the power to transform us into completely different people, merely the ability to expose a symptom of our personas that others can be unaware of. There was evidently a psychopath nestled deep in Samuel Watts, one that drink could coax out of its shell, and one that drink did indeed coax out on that fatal evening just over a year ago. But is drink a sound excuse? Obviously not where many rape accusations are concerned; in those circumstances, drink is viewed as incidental to the perpetrator’s inner rapist and there is little talk of diminished responsibility when juries and judges go to work.

Whichever incarnation of Mr Hyde that drink can let out of gaol, there are many occasions when he badly needs some compassionate leave, if only to let off steam that will then keep him subdued when it’s time to return to the cell. Drink can be good for that. It just depends what shape Mr Hyde takes before we let him out, for if he happens to be a psychopathic sadist when obscured by abstinence, he’ll still be a psychopathic sadist when his cell door is opened.

© The Editor

5 thoughts on “MAN’S LAUGHTER

  1. I was surprised to read of the benefit of being drunk when committing a crime (as per sentencing guidelines); it must have been that footballer whose expected lengthy jail-term had me browsing the relevant pages recently.
    As you say, Petunia, it only seems to work for SOME crimes and I can’t for the life of me understand this distinction. Other than in unusual cases – perhaps a youngster’s first disastrous experiment with a big bottle of cider, say – I can’t see what justification it can be in ANY event.

    That it doesn’t excuse one in sexual cases but does in matters of violence (even leading to death) is amazing, particularly so given the role alcohol plays in many courtship rituals (and now also drugs, I suppose).
    I’d personally like to see people judged for their actions, regardless of the state they voluntarily chose to enter into prior to carrying them out. But in this age of NewRape & RapeLite – when a woman can retrospectively decide that she isn’t NOW in agreement with the consent she gave THEN (see for example that bizarre case of the barristers) – it seems even more of an anomaly.

    P.S. Another good natured drunk here! Not that I really get drunk anymore, but when I did it was without causing problems for others; there’s nothing worse than a pissed up nutter looking for a fight – enough to drive a man to drink.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My thoughts immediately turned to an ex-colleague of 30 years ago who, for the purposes of this comment, we shall call Alan (for that was indeed his name). As a large group of 20/30-something chaps, we had many boisterous corporate nights out, invariably fuelled by alcohol but with a secondary objective of humping anything female, warm & breathing, if at all possible.
    Alan was a thoroughly normal, likeable, friendly, helpful bloke, but talk about a Jekyll & Hyde ! He had a ‘trigger-drink’, usually somewhere after the third pint, when he would suddenly switch, in the blinking of an eye, into a raving drunk, accosting females in a most uncouth way, squaring-up to anyone who tried to intervene, including his very good pals from work, rambling, incoherent, quite frankly dangerous to himself and others.
    Although he never to my knowledge did anything quite so violent as the featured example, I could easily imagine that happening once he’d passed the ‘trigger-drink’ point, because he was well out of any logical control.
    The next day, he would be back to his usual bright, friendly, professional self, with never a mention of any misbehaviours of the previous night – a really decent bloke, but one who could be instantly switched simply by the imbibing of Mr Tetley’s nectar past the trigger-point.
    That’s no defence for Samuel Watts, as Alan too would have had no defence either, but it demonstrated to me how different can be the reaction which different people have to the ‘demon drink’.
    For myself, I’ve always been too much of a control-freak to sacrifice that (and my driving license) to excess booze, so my drinking was always limited to ‘moderate social’ and still is – but maybe that’s why I never got laid as often as the others on those memorable nights out, dammit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I worked in Korea for a while and like the way they approach drink there. In short, establishing friendly social relations is a pre-requisite to doing business. The Koreans will take you out for an evening’s entertainment with the sole purpose of getting you drunk, because they believe that your true personality emerges when you are drunk, and this gives them the chance to decide whether they like you enough to want to do business with you. (Of course vice versa, you can also decide from their drunken state about doing business with them.) I had some of the worst hangovers of my life in Korea after drinking games in karaoke bars involving ‘atomic bombs’ * and ‘hydrogen bombs’ **, but learned one vital lesson: always drink a LOT of plain water during and after your night out, otherwise you will wake up dehydrated and the hangover will be much worse and longer-lasting.

    As for murderers and rapists pleading diminished responsibility when under the influence, I have no idea how truthful they are being but I find it impossible to sympathise.

    * atomic bomb = a shot glass of whisky floating in a glass of beer, the whole lot to be downed in one
    ** hydrogen bomb = a shot glass of beer floating in a glass of whisky, the whole lot to be downed in one

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve found regular glasses of water between ‘the hard stuff’ invaluable to minimising a hangover. Mind you, I’ve never had to deal with a bomb, either atomic or hydrogen!


  4. I am an unreliable drunk – I can be Mr Jolly or Mr Curmudgeon… so I prefer not to find out too often. However, drugs make me a reliably chatty, upbeat fun soul. That’s my argument to legalise them (solipsistic, subjective and selfish, I know).

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.