Are the French becoming PC wowsers?

Wine to water  

At a time when we are discussing binge drinking and alcohol induced gang violence in Australia, and when a recent incident where the Victorian Education Department allowed teachers of Ringwood High School to have a drink on a school camp attracted inordinate attention, it comes as an amusing contrast to see reports, published world wide, that French riot police [the infamous CRS] are complaining bitterly about new rules depriving them of their habitual red wine at lunch time.

Didier Mangione, a representative of the CRS trade union, said the new rules were based on an “exaggeration.”
He said recently released pictures of officers drinking while having lunch on duty had “upset the management of the CRS far more than public opinion.”
“Decisions like these should be based on studies of the actual negative effects (of a small amount of alcohol). There are none,” Mangione said. “This ban should be withdrawn, especially if the drink is being consumed with a meal away from the public eye.”

For heavy drinking cultures like our own, it comes as a shock to imagine responsible drinking in the work place. In my younger years as a graduate student in Paris, I was bemused to see that the issue of a small bottle of wine, beer or cider was standard in student canteens throughout France. It was without fuss, without abuse, and certainly without drunkenness.

Later, at a parachute jump centre near Paris I was admittedly mildly shocked to see the parachutists and pilots having lunch with carafes of wine, and the pilots knocking down a cognac digestif with their cafes, before going back to the aeroplanes for the afternoon. The contrast in Australian parachute clubs is, well, a contrast. There is an almost metaphysical belief in the danger of anyone opening a can of beer before the last plane of the day had landed.

Around that time, I subsequently learned that Air France pilots had a special dispensation from IATA to have a glass of red with the meals in the cockpit of passenger jets. That, I thought, was civilized. But of course, to do that depends on a culture that does not see alcohol abused in the way it so often is in Australia.

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