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The Demon Drink

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 18 Aug 2021, 17:40

Back when I was a teenager, (about 10 years ago, no really, it was!!!) there was a group of men in our town who were known as the local wino’s.  Now, I remember seeing them drinking down along the water wall, next to the river.  I recall seeing them drunk but not falling down drunk.  I never saw any of them passed out on the street or being sick, and they all lived into their sixties and seventies.  Looking back now, these men almost seem like paragons of temperance and moderate drinking compared to what I see on the streets around me now.  We Irish like to portray ourselves as the ‘easy going, happy drinker, just out for the craic’, but the truth is, we are the world's drunk.  

This is not the land of the ‘happy drinker’, it is the land of the serious alcoholic.  It's hard to believe this country was once known as the 'Land of Saints and Scholars'.  (The saints are thin on the ground now and the scholars have emigrated)  Alcoholism is endemic in our society, and the fall out from it reverberates into every area of our lives whether through days lost at work, the cost to the public purse of medical treatment and court cases, not to mention the long term social problems it causes in families.  The estimated cost of alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland in one year is - £900 million pounds – yes you read that correctly!…….I’ll repeat it for you just to be sure, NINE HUNDRED MILLION POUNDS!!  This is just in the six counties of the North, in a population of less than 2 million people......AND what is the government solution to stem the cost of all this?

 Well, this is the really fun bit……the first thing that our local  minister is proposing in order to help curb the binge drinking culture, is to allow the pubs to open later……yes, that’s right, in order to stop people drinking more, they are proposing to allow the pubs to open longer……..so that people will be able to…..drink more???!!!!……I kid you not! Ye cuddent mick it up (that’s Ulster Scots, by the way, oh sorry , I forgot, we did that already! See previous post - Belfast Riots) 

The next proposal is to allow children to stay in the pub until 9.00pm so that their parents can drink longer!!  Really, I am not making this up!!! This is also to make us more attractive to tourists, apparently!!  Yes there’s nothing like watching the local clientele drink themselves into a state of emotional tiredness to make your holiday in Ireland complete.  If you’re really lucky, a fight might break out, and think how much more enjoyable this scene will be ,when the local steroid-inflated bouncers come charging in to ‘sort things out’ while a couple of children cringe terrified and crying in the corner.  No holiday in Ireland would be complete without it!! 

 Third on the list, and you are going to love this one…..they propose to put the alcohol behind a solid wall in the supermarket so that you have to buy it separately from your shopping!!!!   Well, that should sort everything out now, shouldn’t it!!  

 Yes I can see it now, picture the scene – two adults who imbibe on a daily basis, find themselves at home on a Tuesday night and the drink has run out, the dilemma…..what will they do now?  Which of these do you think, is the most probable outcome?? 

 Will they:- 

A) Decide they’ve probably had enough and could do with an early night, so they go to bed and sleep it off.

B) Flip a coin to see who will go to the supermarket to check out the latest drink offer but decide the stress and inconvenience of having to buy it at a separate counter from the rest of the store puts them off so they call it a night and go to bed!

Or

C) Phone their local taxi service to get them a carry out from the local off-licence?

 Yes, for our inebriated friends, it’s really not much of a competition is it??  Because we all know addicts would walk through hell-fire to get their drug of choice and would quite happily sell their mother, soul, children into servitude, if it meant getting what they wanted.  Oh, and meanwhile up the hill at Stormont (the NI Parliament), they are still debating minimum pricing!

Meanwhile, down here in the real world, the graveyards are steadily filling up, and every day the social problems grow and grow, passing on a legacy of neglect and abuse from one generation to the next.  There is hardly a family in this country that doesn’t have at least one alcoholic and several problem drinkers.

Now as I previously mentioned, the RAAD (Right (bunch of) Assh*les Against Democracy, I think that’s what it stands for????) are busy shooting and beating up young men for recreational drug use.  Meanwhile, the country is rapidly disappearing into an alcoholic haze of dysfunction and depression.  If they were really interested in ridding this country of it’s drug problem, then they should start with the most damaging and costly drug of all, ALCOHOL!!  

So what could be done to curb the drinking problem?  Well, here’s a few ideas that I would like to propose.  Firstly, restrict the opening hours of off-licences and close them completely for two days a week, say Sunday and Monday.  Better still, let’s close everything on a Sunday.  I’ve been to many countries in Europe and it was a revelation to me that everything still closes down on a Sunday.  Why can’t we do the same, allow the shops to open later during the week if necessary, but couldn’t we all do with a day off from everything.  I remember lazy, quiet Sunday’s when I was young, they were great, we wandered around town and out into the countryside, we had peace and time to explore. 

Next, lower the tax on beer and hike it up on spirits, wine and alco-pops, and remove all tax and VAT from non-alcoholic drinks, like Becks Alcohol Free, which I drink myself and would highly recommend.  (For the record, I'm not a reformed alcholic, I've just seen and experienced too many of the negative effects of alcohol, and I have better things to do with my time and money) 

Next, they could try enforcing the law in relation to age, and prohibit the sale of strong spirits to under 21’s.  It wouldn’t do any harm to ban all advertising that glamorizes alcohol while they’re at it.  So what do you think, not very drastic measures but worth consideration?

And then, maybe we could all start telling the truth about alcohol.  We treat it as our best friend, no occasion is complete without this guest of honour, but in reality, it is our WORST enemy, and who in their right mind would invite their worst enemy into their home and family?  Alcohol destroys families, wastes lives, money and talent, and the long term damage to children is something that would be almost impossible to quantify.  Alcohol needs to be treated with care, because if you don't treat it with respect, it will strip you of yours. So, if you take a drink, enjoy it but remember that the view through the bottom of the glass is a false one and no problem was ever resolved by drinking yourself into a stupor.   Life sober really isn't that bad, I still enjoy a night out but I can drive home at the end of it, I wake up with no 'morning after', my purse isn't empty, and I actually remember the nights events.  So, try it sometime, who knows, you might even grow to like it.

As usual, comments are welcome.

Permalink 5 comments (latest comment by Aideen Devine, Thursday, 2 Aug 2012, 21:23)
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Weddin

In Defence of Young Men

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 18 Aug 2021, 17:42

One of the items on the RTE News this week caught my eye (one of the advantages of living along the border, we get all the British and Irish Channels).

Apparently, there has been an increase in suicides among young men due to the economic situation here.  Figures showed that 38% of these young men were unemployed, while 32% worked in construction, which is the sector suffering most since the downturn.  I also read in the New Statesman, that suicide rates in Greece have gone up 40% since the austerity crisis.

The high suicide rate, relates to men and boys and a few years ago there was a European report which showed that the suicide rate, in this part of Ireland, was 73% per cent higher than anywhere else in Europe.  So, although the present economic situation is partly to blame at the moment, there are also other reasons why young men are suffering so much. 

 One of these I believe, is the level of violence aimed at young men.  I never knew how bad it was in this country for young men until I had some of my own.  Throughout their lives, from they were children until they were grown up, their primary experience of dealing with older men and boys was one of threat, violence, bullying and intimidation.  I remember having a conversation with my youngest son many years ago, when he was at secondary school, and he said to me, ‘Mum, you have no idea what it is like, every day, all you get is, I’m gonna fight you, I’m gonna get you.’ 

This level of threat has followed them right through their lives, from their teachers, to their peer group, to work colleagues.  I remember as a teenager, witnessing a teacher slapping a twelve year old boy on his hands with a leather strap that was a quarter of an inch thick, and feeling physically ill.  (I was in another classroom that overlooked his)  I have seen numerous acts of violence committed against young men throughout my life and so it was no surprise to me to read that young men under the age of twenty five were more likely to be victims of violence than any other group.

 Here in the North, there is another more sinister side to this violence that comes from a self-appointed Republican paramilitary group RAAD, who are shooting and beating up young men for minor drug offences (the major drug dealers pay protection to other criminal groups, so they don’t get touched).  They think if they add Republican to their name, this gives them some sort of legitimacy within the Nationalist community.  We have had the extraordinary situation of parents bringing their sons to these people to be shot out of fear that if they didn’t, there would be worse done to the whole family.  

 There is also the cultural aspect to this, the macho culture that continually supports the ridiculous idea that males need to be toughened up.  A few weeks ago, I read a letter in the Observer newspaper from a doctor, (unfortunately the paper went to the recycling) who said that males were the weaker sex, that a premature child was more likely to die if it was male.  I was also speaking to a school principal who taught at a girls school for many years before becoming principal of a boys school.  She told me that there was a huge difference in them, and that girls were smarter, quicker and matured earlier, and that the boys were more naïve and took a lot longer to mature.  I have to say that concurs with my own experience of bringing up boys and girls.

 The question I would like to pose is this – What if all this violence was being directed towards young girls?  What would we be doing then, society would be in uproar!  A friend of mine asked this question at a recent community meeting.  He works with, and counsels young men.  After the meeting, he was taken aside and told not to ask the question again by members of one of our ‘political parties’.

 What kind of society have we created which accepts that young men are legitimate targets for violence, and do not deserve to be treated with the same gentleness and kindness as young women?  Why do boys have to be toughened up and made to repress their emotions. 

 There are also paradoxes to this here in Ireland, and that is in the way young males are ‘mammied’.  That is where their parents, whether through their own narcissism, or through some warped idea of their role as a parent, mollycoddle young men and do everything for them, indulging them all the time.  The outcome of this, is to leave a grown up boy who is incapable of caring for himself, who has never learned how to deal with issues in a mature fashion and who finds himself in adulthood, completely unprepared for and unable to cope with, the realities of life.

 A boy is a human being, and as such, has the same emotional range as a girl.  He needs to be allowed to freely express his feelings as a child, in order to learn how to manage and control them so that they don’t overwhelm him then when faced with crises in adulthood.   

 The role of a parent is to prepare your child for life in the real world.  To spoil a child is about the worst thing you can do for them, and is not a sign of your love for them but a sign of your own emotional immaturity.  Most of us love our children and only want the best for them but spoiling a child is the laziest form of parenting because it requires no effort.  I watched Rabbi Shmuley Botech on Oprah a few years ago, and he drew a great analogy that has always stayed with me.  He said that if we thought about it in terms of meat, it would help us to see it more clearly, a piece of meat that is spoiled, is rotten, and no good to anybody.

 This is exactly true of children, the worst people to deal with in life are those who have been spoiled because they expect everything their way, have no empathy for others and have an overbearing sense of their own importance, (the front bench of the Tory party is a fine example of this) and while your child may be important to you, the rest of the world is not so enamoured.

 As a society. we need to re-think how we treat our children, boys and girls.  Our young men are in crisis and there are not enough grown-up men to help them negotiate their way into adulthood.  We all need to take a long hard look at ourselves as parents and human beings, because we are failing our children.  We try to impose cultural falsehoods on them about how they should act and behave with no regard for the human being that they are.  We allow these levels of violence against them to go unchecked and even believing it is for their own good.  Men will not stop being violent until they are brought up without violence, when it is seen as the evil it is and not as something all boys need.

 So be kind to your sons and if you want to spoil your child, spoil them with your time and attention.  Make an effort and show them their true worth and how to value it.  The constant threat of violence only leads to more violence and inevitably plays out in the ultimate act of violence against the self, suicide. The job of parenting is probably the hardest job there is, you are responsible for preparing this other human being for life, it’s a profound role  and it requires effort but it has it’s own rewards when we see our children grow up into happy respectful people.

 As a final thought I would like you to think about this, the Lakota word for child is Wakanyeja, it translates as ‘sacred being’.  Imagine what kind of world we could create if every child born was treated as a sacred being.     

 

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