Why is it that different cultural diversities exhibit different tendencies when they drink alcohol in large quantities or frequently and do not exhibit drunken behavior? Malcolm Gladwell, known for his bestselling materials such as Outliers and The Tipping Point, provides a cultural perspective on the consumption of alcohol in The New Yorker titled Drinking Games. With numerous references to his anthropological and sociological research, the author posits the theory that societies derive meaning to drunkenness, which results primarily in standards and norms that more or less decides how people take alcohol and their behavior under the influence. Using illustrations of the Camba people in Bolivia, the tribesmen of Central Kenya and the Italian immigrants of Connecticut, the author argues and sheds light on the nature and problem that alcohol has created in American society and colleges. The story is about two anthropologists who accidentally discover a finding that raised a very important question at the time. Is it really possible that the manner and quantity we drink, and the behavior we portray when drinking, more significant than the general health and social consequences of consuming alcohol?
Generally, I do not know of anybody who can enjoy a story about a wild goose chase if the chase is used to make a point that cannot be delivered if the rest of the back story is ultimately known. As most people would guess, most college students would be keenly interested in the thesis topic of Gladwell’s essay. However, this time the author strikes out in comparison to his other works in The New Yorker. In my opinion, Gladwell fails to get inside the mind of the readers, and more importantly the minds of those who studied culture and the subject of drinking. The question he addresses never seems to get enough traction from the get go, not the least because a better question soon crowds it out from the mind of the reader. The reader is left with the looming question of why the author did not narrate the rest of the story, or if he even bothered to research about the rest of it.
All though this article, Gladwell uses his signature style and gets insides his subject’s mind and lets them tell the story through their perspective. As is common with his work, his essays are about people who fundamentally stumble upon insightful adventures and findings. The story on drinking took place over 50 years ago and was narrated by people who did not entirely know what they had discovered. The story can be compared to the one involving coal miners in Wales where George Orwell famously responded by saying, “When we were told about it” when they learned that their housing situation was bad. A reader can be able to tell that he/she is reading a New Yorker article and not just written by Gladwell when a story on drinking commences with a flight into a World War II bomber donated by the United States government followed by the long trudge to a remote location where the natives do not speak an identifiable language. With such a beginning, one expects a great secret or discovery later in the text, or at least at the end. However, there isn’t any striking conclusion as one would seriously expect from the author.
An engaging and provocative article, Gladwell’s tone and mode of passing his ideas can be effectively used to promote and trigger discussions around colleges- among students and administrators alike- with regards to cultural and environmental dimensions of the alcohol crisis. The article couldparticularly prompt conversations on how behavior and signals sent by social institutions and popular culture are teaching young adults how to act when consuming alcohol and whether education can have an influence on the altering those cultural norms.