Are We An Alcoholic Republic?

2014-03-14 11:35

Being South African and not drinking is almost like being Italian but not Catholic. Even if you don’t drink, it might be considerate to accept an offer to, so to avoid causing unnecessary tension altogether.

South Africans can forgive a lot of things, like murder, corruption, apartheid, but the crime of non-drinking is completely beyond pardon – and probably equivalent to high treason in severity.  The issue might be so sensitive that it is permanently kept outside the halls of discussion.

For my part, I always reviled alcohol. My reasons have been rather biological than moral. I suppose if I had found a common ground with spirits somewhere, then I would be just as great and patriotic an ambassador. Consequently, I feel quite alienated and left out of many great social occasions.

In the culture of the New South Africa, alcohol consumption is like ether in its ability to penetrate almost every facet of society. There’s peer pressure, and then there’s beer pressure, which can feel like barrels of weight in severity. Just the mere ‘confession’ that you don’t drink immediately casts an uncomfortable shadow of silence in the surrounding.

They might not say much or make their displeasure obvious, but they’ll never look at you the same again. Once respect is lost there cannot be done much to restore it to its former glory. You simply accept the long path of solitary exile that becomes your sober existence and get moving. Possibly, you might never work in this town again. As a cast away, I recall my crimes and review the soaring wings of those who despise me.

I understand that during apartheid a lot of people resorted to alcoholism when fear and/or frustration were rife. In the end alcohol manufacturers became very profitable. From all this alcoholism, good eventually came out because some of these manufacturers can now afford to award scholarships to disadvantaged students, whose parents are alcoholics.

If laughter is the best medicine, then in South Africa, alcohol is the preferred medicine. It is infused in the essence of our culture like blood is to the body. This is probably why government didn’t see anything wrong in Castle Lager becoming the official sponsor of the South African soccer team.

This means every time the squad plays you’re likely to see countless clips of the bubbling golden liquid billowing across your screen like an angry river. You’ll most likely see Charles Glass wearing a white apron and holding up a glass of foaming Castle toward the sunlight, beaming with pride and satisfaction.

Drinking beer is mostly a European pastime, particularly Romanian and Germanic. In the Mediterranean Countries of Europe like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, the cultural alcoholic drink is wine presumably. In ancient Egypt, wine was more of a royal beverage while the commoners resorted to (barley and malt) for recreation.

Some traditional Bantu cultures also have their variants, like the popular sorghum beer. Since sorghum and barley are both grains, the concept behind is not that different come to think of it. But I’m sure before Colonialism the consumption level ‘per capita’ was quite moderate.

Fast forward to black South Africa in 2013, and people are even stocking alcohol to funerals. Either I wasn’t attending funerals for a while or wasn’t paying attention, but I’m positive it wasn’t like this over ten years ago. Whether it’s a child, adult or aged getting buried, trust the fact that we’re going to have a respectable drinking session called ‘After Tears’ after the funeral formalities. As is expected with alcohol consumption, a few people will lose their composure and end up behaving inappropriately.

Alcohol has a numbing effect on the nervous system, which makes it a wrong substance to consume when driving or undertaking any potentially dangerous activity that requires proficiency and sobriety. But the fact that people cannot regulate their intake levels doesn’t authenticate slandering the substance altogether. Some people can manage their use rather superbly.

But as more pressure mounted on manufacturers from distraught anti-drugs NGO’s, paradoxical slogans like ‘Enjoy Responsibly’ were eventually tagged onto ad campaigns and bottles alike. But scientifically speaking, no man will perish due to non-consumption.

Some scientists, whether they spoke from proper scientific proof or from personal interest, have argued a glass of wine a day is actually great for physical well-being. Well then, Cheers to that. ©

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