C L A R K  S O R L E Y

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I wrote recently about the new Tesco store in town. I bemoaned the absence of a gathering to celebrate the triumph of plentiful food provision. Interestingly this weekend there actually was a gathering. There were thousands in the park with bands and banners. Why were they there? To demonstrate against the closing of a factory. What kind of factory? A whisky factory.

Now, there may have been the odd mention in the local press of the heritage aspect, that here was two-hundred years of history disappearing. The Johnny Walker brand is world-wide famous. But mostly that was a side issue. The concern was entirely about employment. In a jobber town like Kilmarnock, job loss is its worst nightmare.

Fair enough, the loss of jobs is something that any community will feel one way or another. And yes if I sound unsympathetic I probably am. My days of caring about my home-town and its people are long gone. They don’t care about me either. They barely know I exist.

I care little also because I know their losses will be recovered. Those made redundant will wander off and get someone else to hire them. That is what they have always done in a place like this. The worst that happens is that they have a short period of disruption before finding something else.

They won’t employ themselves of course. Someone else has to do that for them. They won’t go out with a fresh sheet and have a go at something, take a risk, invest their pay-off money and see if they can actually create some new jobs and offer a new thing to the community. They don’t give a damn about the community anyway. Only themselves and their narrowly defined needs. JW may be a heritage brand but Kilmarnock is not much of a heritage place. Few of its inhabitants have any romantic attachment to its past. Who the hell was John Walker anyway? No fucking idea. Just geeza job!

I wonder how many in the park gathering stopped to think about the whisky problem, a drug the consumption of which is virtually a national disease in Scotland. It is a drug which does untold damage to relationships and to mental and physical health. It is a cultural blight. Had the towns-people made demands in favour of a cocaine factory it would have been little worse.

So here’s the irony: The success that is food provision goes uncelebrated, the providers held in contempt. The scourge that is alcohol is lamented. The whisky factory’s demise is mourned not because of history and world reputation but because it will no longer provide jobs to jobbers. A life-enhancing miracle is passed over while a toxic menace gets them out in support. Bullshit or what?

the blight that is alcohol consumption



commentary • 02.08.09