And if you want examples of bizarre beliefs and weird customs, you need look no further than our attitude to drinking and our drinking habits. Pick up any newspaper and you will read that we are a nation of loutish binge-drinkers – that we drink too much, too young, too fast – and that it makes us violent, promiscuous, anti-social and generally obnoxious.
Clearly, we Brits do have a bit of a problem with alcohol, but why?
The problem is that we Brits believe that alcohol has magical powers – that it causes us to shed our inhibitions and become aggressive, promiscuous, disorderly and even violent.
But we are wrong.
In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly. But it does not cause us selectively to break specific social rules. It does not cause us to say, “Oi, what you lookin’ at?” and start punching each other. Nor does it cause us to say, “Hey babe, fancy a shag?” and start groping each other.
The effects of alcohol on behaviour are determined by cultural rules and norms, not by the chemical actions of ethanol.