Even those who don’t follow religious news closely know it’s tough to be an Anglican these days. The 77-million-member Church’s assembly of bishops—the Lambeth Conference—meets next month, amid fears of radical ruptures and even schism; conservative Anglicans angry about gay issues are now holding their own counter-conference in Jerusalem. The website Anglicans Online is an extremely valuable and well-designed resource for all things Anglican, including many of the numerous versions of the venerable Book of Common Prayer. Every week or so, Anglicans Online posts an editorial on its homepage. This week’s is thought-provoking, offering as it does a bit of information about booze I’d never heard before:
The Anglican events in the Middle East this week caused us to recall [a story] from long ago. . . .
Towards the end of Harold Wilson’s first term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, we recall attending a lecture by the head of the Beverage Chemistry division of one of the world’s largest liquor firms. This man was responsible for the formulation and quality control of many famous brands of alcoholic beverages, shipped and served all over the world. He told us that it was very important, after making the whisky or gin or strong ale or whatever it might be, to add small amounts of unpleasant chemicals to them. He explained:
“People have come to expect that if they spend a lot of money on a fifth of premium whiskey, and they drink a good bit of it on a Friday night, that they ought to feel terrible on Saturday morning. The most important part of my job is to see to it that just the right amount of fusel is added to the beverage so that their headache the next morning will meet their expectations. If we make our beverages too pure, too free of impurities, then our customers will feel cheated when they hardly have any headache at all the next morning, and they’ll start to think that we’re watering it down. They want their pain, so we add enough amyl alcohol to ensure that they get what they expect. The morning-after aches and pains are a key part of our brand identity.”
We were speechless, but, as you can tell, we remembered and internalized what the good chemist told us: people want what’s familiar, even if it hurts them needlessly.
This is a fascinating story, though the point it makes is rather familiar, and very close to the standard liberal critique of small-C conservatism: They want you to have a headache because, darn it, Grandpa had a headache and if it was good enough for Grandpa it better be good enough for you. (In reality, though, I know precious few conservatives who would not welcome hangover-free Wild Turkey.)