Thursday 25 September 2008


Sometimes it alarms how something totally unrelated can get my mind drifting back to beer. So it was yesterday when this story was in the news. It was a slow news day so theatrical talking heads were lined up to fill slots on broadcast news across the networks.

What have well-spoken middle-class spongers scrounging money off the government (i.e. the tax payer) got to do with beer?

Use of the language of the evangelist. 

Repeatedly the theatricals droned on about "getting more people interested in theatre". Noticably, none of them ventured to explain what the intrinsic worth of this exercise is. Declaring the truth that "it has the dual benefit of flattering our egos and subsidising our hobbies" would destroy the venture. But I digress.

This "we need to get more people into" rhetoric is what interests me. It's all over the place.

All over the country new students will be assailed by people experiencing this urge. Freshers' Fairs exist only for people to indulge this impulse: not the freshers themselves but society members evangelising for Dungeon&Dragons, Bridge, Cave-Diving, hockey, parachuting, tiddly-winks and so on. Religions, of course, have the evangelising urge explicitly built into their belief systems.

The recent Olympics was a festival of sports talking-heads banging on about "getting more people involved in [insert name of obscure sport]."

CAMRA is a big source of the rhetoric associated with this urge. Think about it – how many times have you heard words about "getting more people interested in real ale"? Often it is manifested as "we've got persuade more people to join CAMRA" (to which the subtext is "CAMRA is an intrinsically good thing")

Here's an example from a CAMRA press release: "CAMRA’s new Cyclops leaflet, and more breweries supporting the scheme, will help to increase the consumer awareness of this initiative and lead to more people understanding and drinking real ale.”

I do it myself. I will bend anyone's ear on the things that  give me pleasure – good beer, Miles Davis's electric period '68-'75, exposing of the vacuity of religion, Brazilian music, proper peanuts in their shells, vinyl records, Macintosh computers ... and many more. In 2000 I put my money where my mouth was (and still is) by opening a specialist beer bar.

This urge to evangelise about what gives us pleasure seems universal. We've all got it. But what could it be? Human behavioural instinct is defined by evolution. This urge to promote what gives us pleasure, I believe, is exactly the same as the urge the caveman has to share the location of the bison herd or the bush bearing berries. The same urge the bee has to get back to the hive and waggle its bum. At its core is the urge to survive – to feed yourself and those who share some of your genes. In a tribal society everyone is likely to share your genes, your chance of survival and the "life" of your genes is enhanced. In our modern society we aren't necessarily genetically related to those around us, and food is no longer a rarity that needs to be grabbed at every opportunity. Our genes don't know that: they're still telling us "shout from the roof-top about what satisfies you, share it with your tribe".

Remember that. You'll be spotting "we've got to get more people involved" rhetoric all over the place from now on. Welcome to my world!

[p.s. Apologies to creationists .... Oh No! what am I saying? What I meant was: Get your hands off our schools and stay out of the White House you bunch of medievalist  nutjobs.]

1 comment:

Ale Louse said...

Trouble is once everyone's on board it's a case of who are all these bloody J. Come-Latelys. Minority interests rule until they're no longer minority interests. The older I get the more I keep quiet about my secret passions lest someone learn the terrible truth!
PS A very good read - I'll be back for more. Cheers.