Why our grandparents are so messed up

While searching on a recipe for ricotta cheese, I came across a very old textbook on Project Gutenberg.  Here’s the sage 1912 advice it gives to children regarding alcohol:

Alcohol is a narcotic; that is, it deadens our nerves, for the time being, to any sensations of pain or discomfort, much in the same way that a very small dose of morphine or opium would. We may imagine it does us good because, for a little while after drinking it, we may cease to feel pain or fatigue or cold; but, instead of making us really better and able to do more work, it is dulling our nerves so that we work more slowly and more clumsily. Men who have carefully measured the amount of work that they do have found that they do less work on days when they take one or two glasses of beer or wine than they do on days when they drink only water.

The great insurance companies have found that those of their policy holders who drink no alcohol at all live nearly one fourth longer and have nearly one third fewer sicknesses than those who drink alcohol even in moderate amounts.

Indeed, so strong is the evidence as to the bad effects of alcohol, and so steadily is it increasing, that it will probably not be very many years 154more before the drinking of wine or beer by intelligent, thoughtful people will have become less than half as common as it is now.

Strong, healthy men may be able for a long time to drink small amounts of liquor without noticing any harmful effects; but all the time the alcohol may be doing serious harm to their nerves and brain and kidneys and liver and blood vessels, which they will not find out until it is too late to stop the trouble.

Useless and bad as alcohol is for full-grown men and women, it is even worse for young and growing children; and no child, and no boy or girl under the age of twenty-one, should ever touch a drop of it, except in those rare instances where it may be prescribed as a medicine by a doctor, just as many other drugs are, which in larger doses would be poisons.

Fortunately, it will be no trouble for you children to let it alone entirely; for not one of you would like the taste of it the first time—or, indeed, for the matter of that, for the first ten or twelve times—that you tried to drink it, if you should be so foolish. This is one striking difference between alcohol and all other foods and drinks. Children have absolutely no natural liking, or taste, for the drinks that contain it, as 155they have for meat, milk, sugar, apples, and the other real foods. This is Nature’s way of telling them that it is not a real food, and not needed in any way for their growth and health. Let it alone absolutely, until you are at least twenty-one years old; and by that time you will probably have become so convinced of the harm that it is doing that you will never begin using it at all.

What we have been saying so far applies, of course, only to the moderate use of alcohol. How terrible the effects of the long or excessive use of alcohol are, you don’t need to learn from a book. All you have to do is to keep your eyes open on the streets, and see the drunken men reeling along the sidewalk, and the wrecks of men that hang around the saloons. The poorhouses and the jails and the insane asylums are filled with them. The most terrible thing that can happen to anyone is to become a drunkard. The best and safest and only sensible thing to do is to keep away from the only stuff that makes drunkards. It may do you the most terrible harm, and it cannot do you the slightest good.

And it goes downhill from there.  Up to and including the “fact” that our livers regulate how productive we are and that bile production increases when we’re angry.  It’s no damn wonder our grandparents had so many problems.  Crap like “the plague is caused by dust swirling in the streets so the city sanitation department floods them every night” does wayyyy more harm than good.

UPDATE:  Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this book is a bit out there.

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  1. #1 by Phillip on February 25, 2010 - 8:35 PM

    My grandparents have never shied away from a drink, and a couple of my relatives are maybe but a couple years younger than the book. Maybe it’s a Wisconsin thing. We don’t really care what medical people say, we still do things our way.

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