Famous Teetotalers 012: Right-wingers

Theodore Anthony Nugent

Ted Nugent or “The Nuge” is a hard rock/psychedelic guitarist whose musical career dates back to 1963. He has made his stance against drug and alcohol abuse part of his right-wing activism. He is an ardent Republican supporter, and is strongly in favour of gun rights. It is said that his stance against substance abuse had an influence on a part of the Punk Rock movement known as the “Straight Edge” movement.

Bill O'Reilly
Bill O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly, a host on Fox-TV, also won’t ever be accused of accusing the Republicans of anything wrong, unless it involves Donald Trump. And he is also teetotal. His show The O’Reilly Factor, was the highest-rated news show on the Fox network, and brought in the style of news commentary where afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comforted becomes the norm. But he would tell you that his roots are working class. This, like much of what he says, is disputed. However, he there is no disputing that he studied at Harvard; that he has had much experience in journalism before becoming part of the punditry machine that is Fox News.

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Famous Teetotalers 08: Those who are good at what they do

March 1983, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman stands in front of a blackboard strewn with notation in his lab in Los Angeles, Californina. --- Image by © Kevin Fleming/CORBIS
Richard Feynman. Photo taken in 1983.

Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was the only famous scientist I could find that was teetotal by repuation. Einstein was a moderate drinker, and a heavier smoker. Feynman reportedly used to be a moderate drinker also, no reason why not, but on a trip in Brazil he felt a compulsion to drink alcohol in the middle of the afternoon where there was no social reason to drink. He thought about it, and reportedly never drank again for any reason.

Eric Clapton

If there was a Nobel Prize for music, Eric Clapton would deserve it. At age 25 he was already hailed as the world’s greatest living blues guitarist. He was inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a member of The Yardbirds, once as a member of Cream, and once as a soloist. He had a weakness for alcohol and was a long-time alcoholic, but has been a non-drinker since at least 1988.

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Famous Teetotalers 07: Philosophers

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau – Author of Walden and Civil Disobedience, among scores of other books, this 19th-century Harvard-educated American philosopher and writer stands at the top rank of American Literature and philosophy. His connection with nature and desire for a balanced life led him to write “I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man; wine is not so noble a liquor.” While it is not clear if he had not been a drinker all of his life, it seems as if he had been a non-drinker for most of it.

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka – Early 20th-century German philosopher, the long-reigning king of ennui. I found a quote about his feelings toward alcohol, said only in the way that Kafka can say it: “My peers, lately, have found companionship through means of intoxication – it makes them sociable. I, however, cannot force myself to use drugs to cheat on my loneliness – it is all that I have – and when the drugs and alcohol dissipate, will be all that my peers have as well.”

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Famous teetotalers #2: Humanitarians

mandelaNelson Mandela – An anti-Apartheid activist who paid for it with decades of imprisonment. He led an austere life where he never drank or smoked, and was gracious to people in all walks of life. He became recognized as the father of South African democracy, and has received many awards, among them the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

mahatma-gandhiMohandas K. Ghandi – The person who taught us passive resistance, overthrew British rule of India without a shot being fired, and was the inspiration for human rights groups around the world. In India, his birthday on October 2 has been declared a national holiday. He saw India gain its independence in 1947, but died in New Delhi a year later at the hands of an assassin named Nathuran Godse. He and co-conspirator Narayan Apte were sentenced to death by execution in 1949. It is ironic that the manner of justice brought before Ghandi’s assassins would have been something Ghandi himself would have strongly opposed. Back to the topic, Ghandi was definitely a teetotaler, and his reasons appeared to have been moral reasons. He was a supporter of prohibition, and in Ghandi’s memory, many Indian states have passed prohibition laws. But after our bout with prohibition in North America, we know you can’t legislate morality, since organized crime would push back even more, and deaths linked to distilling one’s own “home brew” will be on the rise, as is still being felt in many Indian states where the law is still in effect. The moral of this tale is that teetotaling, like morality, is as much of a personal choice as it ever was, rather than being something that needs to be imposed on people. I would rather say that “I can have all the booze I like: I just choose not to drink any”, and would feel better that teetotaling is an act of will. Passing laws takes away from the dignity of what ought to be a free choice.

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Famous teetotalers #1: Starr and Nietzsche

starkey_2015Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) – One of two surviving Beatles who, from the 1960s, said in an interview after Sgt. Pepper words to the effect that drugs make you a lousy musician and artist: “we were just junkies dabbling in music”, he said in 2001. But as for alcohol, it took its toll on him during and after the Beatles’ breakup. He is clear of that now , and has been inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once for being a member of The Beatles, and once for his solo career.

nietzscheFriedrich Nietzsche (philosopher) – This German philosopher was one guy that never drank. He was frequently in frail health, both physically and mentally. Maybe he should have had a few schnapps. But he lumped alcohol and Christianity together as those two things that prevent us from facing our problems head-on. Alcohol dulls our senses, and never solves our problems, and we need to face life squarely and honestly, he would say. You have to respect that. Sadly, he died at age 55, never knowing the success of his contributions to philosophy. Even after his death, his contributions were used to justify anti-Semitism during the rise of the Third Reich. This was nonsense, of course, but it meant that the true value of his philosophies were not going to be seen until a half century after his death, or until the mid-20th century.


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