BOOTH: We get what we demand, not what we need

BOOTH: We get what we demand, not what we need

Give us convenience or give us death.

The San Francisco think tank/punk band Dead Kennedys coined the phrase in the 1980s and its spirit has only multiplied in the ensuing decades.

We are a society that not only wants it all, we want it yesterday. Nothing is too fast for us – we demand it. Faster internet speed to download pictures of cats; quicker pizza deliveries to clog our arteries more rapidly than the past; up-to-the-second news coverage on self-absorbed celebrities of questionable talent; not just regular transit – rapid transit; microwave ovens to cook chemical-laden frozen “food” in seconds instead of having to wait for the regular oven to heat up; hundreds of television channels including east coast stations so we can watch programs three hours earlier than stations on the west coast; electronics companies releasing newer and flashier versions of their products mere weeks after the devices debuted.

This obsession for all things bigger, better and faster with shinier bells and louder whistles has become a driving force in our society and economy. Lord help the companies that can’t keep pace with the relentless demands of consumers. Often the losers in such matters have a superb product – betamax video tapes, HD-DVD – but once the herd has adopted a path, there are rarely any off-ramps.

Our society’s drive for an instant hit of satisfaction has not been lost on governments. Most elected governments save all of its bad news moves for the first two years of their term in office, followed by two years of shovelling money off the back of a truck in the form of voter friendly announcements and mega projects. The strategy bets that voters will be so dazzled by the government’s recent largesse, they will forget the misery that befell them just two years previous. And it’s a good bet to make, as election results prove.

And speaking of betting, the governments have that figured out too. In the 1970s, the federal government introduced a lottery to help fund the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. It was so successful that smaller lotteries followed. The Western Express offered a prize of a quarter million dollars every two weeks and people snapped up the tickets as fast as the government could print them.

That was followed by a weekly 6/49 scheme with a weekly $1 million prize, which was in turn followed by lotto insanity. Like laboratory rats incessantly nudging the feeder bar, people plunked down their hard-earned cash for scratch and win tickets, thrice weekly lotto draws, pull-tabs in pubs and Keno games with winners every hour. Not satisfied with that stream of revenue, the government turned the cash flow into a river by legalizing a multitude of casinos across the province. Now anybody can itch their gambling jones whenever the mood strikes them. The people demanded it and the government responded to the point now where gambling revenues are a key part of revenue.

With an ever-expanding eye for more vice-related revenue, Christy Clark’s Liberals made another move last week with sweeping changes to the provincial liquor laws. Granted, many of the changes were long overdue. Allowing only beer sales in certain areas at sporting events and roping off sections of a facility for a beer garden were rules that created a monstrous pain in the posterior for consumers and vendors alike. Same with limited hours when liquor can be delivered to hotel guests through room service.

But the end to that red tape wasn’t the rules the general public was so happy to hear were coming down the track. In almost every news story concerning the forthcoming changes, the biggest attraction was a promise to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in grocery stores and convenience markets.

Does anyone over the age of 19 currently have a problem acquiring liquor between the hours of 10 a.m. and midnight? In the past, it may have been an issue. I’m old enough to remember – pre-Expo 86 – when bars were not allowed to be open on Sundays, with off-sales and bootleg beer being your only option once the government liquor stores closed at 6 p.m.

Not anymore. In addition to the network of government stores, the province is now riddled with private beer and wine — and more! — stores that dispense every kind of spirit one could wish for until midnight daily.

If that kind of accessibility to alcohol is too limiting for you, I respectfully suggest you get professional help.

But now that’s no longer good enough for us. Polls show we want to do one-stop shopping and purchase booze along with our frozen microwavable meals, fat-saturated snacks, disposable diapers, processed cheese products and organic veggies (because we want to eat healthy, wink wink).

Do we need it? No. Do we want it because other provinces and states have it? You betcha, and that’s all that matters. How much longer before drive-through liquor stores are legalized? They have those in Australia so it’s probably just a matter of time before they turn up here. Alcohol and driving — what could possibly go wrong?

If we have something, we want more of it faster and if we don’t have a product or service, then we have to have it and the sooner the better. Never mind the social costs that come with such moves. That’s just the price of convenience, right?