Aussie Life

Aussie Life

5 March 2022

9:00 AM

5 March 2022

9:00 AM

I’m thinking about acquiring a drug habit. As a New South Wales Seniors Card carrier I may have left it a bit late, but I’m still working, and still some way short of the deposit on the Noosa unit I have my eye on, and recent events have caused me to think that the regular inhalation or injection of a banned substance might help to get me over the line faster than merely upping my super contributions.

This may come as a surprise to friends and colleagues. They know that for most of my adult life I’ve held the view that the only way illegal drugs can increase your net worth is if you participate in their manufacture or distribution. And that merely taking them at best compromises the quality of the work you do and at worst renders it worthless. I may be the only person who did an arts degree in the 1980s without smoking marijuana, for example, and the only person who worked in advertising in London in the 1990s who never tried cocaine or ecstasy. At the risk of sounding prudish I’ve even long suspected that the novels of Ernest Hemingway might have been better if Papa hadn’t been plastered most of the time that he was writing them. As the editor of this magazine will confirm, I, too, have had my share of long lunches and can attest that the memorable slogans and arresting headlines which my art director and I scribbled on our napkins before we had smart phones invariably turned out to be neither memorable nor arresting when those napkins were unfolded the following morning. In fact they were usually crap and their crapness directly proportionate to the amount of alcohol we’d consumed.


But it is also true that we referred to the cigarettes that we smoked back then as ‘thinking sticks’, and I know that in recent years some neuroscientists, the great Sam Harris amongst them, have argued that the human mind’s capacity for problem solving is enhanced by the ingestion of certain naturally occurring – if not Medicare-funded – chemicals. The change in my position on what the UK and US justice systems call Class A drugs only began, though, when I saw a documentary on the History Channel which showed what a big part one of them played in Germany’s early military success in the second world war. Specifically, how the astonishing speed of the Wehrmacht’s advance through the Ardennes – a vast expanse of Belgian forest which Allied commanders had deemed impassable – was due less to the superiority of German armaments than to the fact that the night before the blitzkrieg began all the troops involved were ordered to take pills which turned them into ruthless killing machines, happy to march, drive and fight for several days without sleep or food. The psychoactive ingredient of these pills, sold in pharmacies under the inoffensive brand name Pervitin, was methamphetamine, and when the Nazis saw what it did to their soldiers they gave it to their munitions factory workers, too – and with equally spectacular results.

I doubt whether Geoff Bainbridge, erstwhile CEO of Tasmania’s Lark Distilleries, watches The History Channel. Given the phenomenal growth of the company over the last few years it seems unlikely that he spent much of that time on a couch, and if the allegations which led to his resignation prove true, he will be remembered as a man more disposed to creating content than consuming it. Which is a shame. Because he was, by all accounts, and by almost every measure, a pretty effective CEO. Not just from the point of view of Lark shareholders, but also as the figurehead of a company which has done more than any other to establish the now formidable international reputation of Australian whisky. Until the events of the last week, few people in that industry would have said that he did not deserve the $3.5m house he bought last year. Unfortunately, the furnishings of that house subsequently served as props in Mr Bainbridge’s regrettable home videos, and rather undermined the credibility of his cover story. It remains to be seen what, if anything, he can salvage of his career. But in the meantime, I can’t help wondering if Lark would have done quite so well, and if its shareholders would have been quite so happy, if its CEO had finished each day by just putting his phone on a charger and treating himself to a couple of glasses of his own single malt.

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