The Sumo
The Sumo

Hands off my beloved brown bottle

I reiterate — I love beer. The golden nectar is truly a gift from the Almighty. There is a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin that goes “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” and I believe that this may not be far from the truth. My happiest moments have been while, before or after I’ve had a brown bottle clutched in my hand.

I also love beer jokes and there’s a joke my token coloured friend, Stevland Marney, a renowned contributor on RMS, told me a few years ago before it made its rounds on the net. It went something like:

There was a coloured man sitting outside his house breaking beer bottles (possibly quarts) and another “Bra” asked him what he was doing. He answered that all the trouble in his life was caused by beer and that he was quitting. He was breaking the bottles as revenge for what the beer had done to him. Surprised, he comes across a full and sealed beer bottle, which he sets aside stating that it had not been involved in his downfall and which he would probably consume that later.

It was funnier when he told it.

Anyway, the matter that troubles this tub of lard is the attack that has been unleashed on my favourite beverage ie all things alcoholic barring the pink type.

First it was SABMiller coming out with an initiative they will launch in October where they will better equip Metro Police to hold more road blocks and better nab drivers who have drunk more alcohol than what the law deems enough. One can’t even own their drunkenness these days — sad times, we live in.

And now I hear that some bored British researcher type has published a report stating that alcohol abuse is dangerous (really, oh my word, no, please say it ain’t so!) And he has gone on to say that teenagers abuse alcohol (this guy is on a roll, this is like ground-breaking stuff) and has attributed all of this to alcohol advertising.

And to bring all this home, my nephew, who is a Metro cop and is not on the take, I am proud to say, SMSed me this morning from a conference. I thought this to be odd as I was not in Durban and it was not a weekend evening and I didn’t need tips on where the road blocks were being set up so I could avert them. No, he had a warning for me this time which went “Ntwana, kuzoshuba emgwaqeni. I’m at this workshop about the new system, hayi ngiyasaba. Anyway, hope you are good” (Lightie, things are going to get really tough on the roads. I’m at this workshop about the new system, I am scared [for all breakers of the road laws]…).

Basically, other people have decided that my favourite pastime is both destructive and dangerous to me and those around me and that I should not engage in it unless under circumstances dictated by them. And I cannot receive information regarding this pastime through advertising because I am presumably unable to make the right decision. They are doing this to save me and those I might affect in my drunken state.

The reasons for regulating alcohol are well-known and accepted even by alcoholics like me — the smart ones anyway — but we have to ask whether my rights as a happy alcoholic are still being protected here. Granted the rights of those unhappy sober people should not be infringed upon by me, but what about me? With all the valid reasons given, I still have to ask “What about me and my source of joy?” Am I to be limited to enjoying myself at home only and alone unless I can provide accommodation for all those of similar mind and dependency as me because they aren’t allowed to drive after consuming a six-pack?

Both SABMiller and the government passing the new activities against alcohol abuse are misguided. They are not looking at the root cause of the problem. Alcohol impairs judgment, this is a by-product of making one extremely happy, smart and brave (something has to give for such glorious gifts). The problem here is the judgment being impaired and then the impaired person driving, which may result in gruesome fatalities. This I accept, but to solve this problem they should be looking at what alternatives a person who has had more than a few drinks has, rather then wait for the unthinkable to happen and then punishing the poor bastard who has the alcohol dependency. Public transport — what public transport? And would it even be safe in this country? People do want to be responsible, but what options do they have?

Medical reasons for regulating alcohol advertising are also offered, not the health detriment of the adult drinking, that is secondary, but when it affects innocent people like unborn babies — this is a serious problem. The labour practices in areas where this problem is prevalent have to be addressed, minimum wages have to be enforced. People should not be paid in alcohol — ever! And of course there is an element of education that is also missing. I do not believe that all those expectant mothers who deliver affected babies are aiming to harm their children — I believe they are trying to cope with harsh situations, coping with hopeless lives that offer them little — the root cause.

No one wants to endanger another person by their drinking; it goes against the whole purpose and drive of alcoholism. The worst thing you can do to us is land us in a situation where we cannot drink ie say I go out and have a few, I have to drive home because there are no cabs in Gauteng and leaving my car in a parking lot isn’t too attractive either. On my way I get into an unfortunate accident (whether it was my fault or not doesn’t matter as I am over the limit) now I get arrested:

1. I would have to spend a few hours in a holding cell and, unless you are Schabir, these don’t come with a mini-bar.
2. Then I would have to attend the trial — you can’t drink in court. More uncomfortable sober moments of reflection.
3. My lawyer’s fees would come straight from the beer budget, leaving me with less to drink on average.
4. If I thought I was about to be found guilty I would have to buy either the docket or the blood samples from the detective as they travelled to Pretoria — yup, out of the monthly beer budget.
5. If I have a detective not on the take on my behind (they are the majority, by the way), I would probably have to do some community work like chopping chickens at a home for the aged in Claremont or something, if I’m lucky, and during that time I would not be able to drink.
6. Jail — we all agree this is undesirable.

The list goes on. Trust me, no true alcoholic goes out of their way to harm another human being or engage in an activity that if it escalates, may result in less drinking occasions, not unless they have a choice anyway. Alcoholics may seem to behave recklessly, but it is only because we are left with very little in terms of options.

When I lived in Durban I used to park my car at my flat and walk around the corner to my favourite pub, Jack Rabbits in Glenwood, I would then crawl back later, get a lift or a cab to take me for R15. I now live in Joburg where there are seemingly no cabs and those I have tried have been ridiculously expensive.

We are not the problem here; SABMiller and those other do-gooders are whipping the wrong ox by aiding the Metro Police gather more funds through collecting fines and bribes — this doesn’t solve the problem. Their social enterprise activity should be centred on offering their loyal consumers an out if they choose to take it — counselling, a free cab service of some sort, sponsoring ethical sourcing practices in farm areas for workers to be able to report unscrupulous remuneration practices and other such activities.

Trust me — if you offer me an option so that I may drink merrily and get really sloshed and not have to put mine and others lives in danger by driving myself home, I’ll take it every single time, even at an inflated fee. My freedom to wake up the Saturday after the Friday before and get some more is worth at least that to me.

For now I will keep my strategy going, I drink mostly at home, which has increased my consumption immeasurably or I trick friends and colleagues to drive me around to drink — I am quickly running out of excuses though. I wouldn’t want to ever be caught out, not in the correctional system we have.

I rest, troubled

The Sumo