Prohibition debate


Humans have consumed alcohol since beginning of time and will continue to do till the end of their time. 
Rather than an outright ban, what we need to do is cultivate awareness and healthy attitude to alcohol. 

People initially started drinking alcohol for two reasons.  First and foremost, they like the effect of alcohol on their mind and body.  Secondly, alcohol was safer then water in many parts of the world.  Alcohol liberates the mind and helps lower the inhibitions of the consumer.  Drinkers enjoy the feeling of “relaxation” and being able to “speak their mind” as a result of consuming alcohol.   

In many parts of the world, alcohol was the only safe form of liquid they could drink.  Not all tribes lived near clean supply of water.  Mild alcohol / weak beer / mead were used as safe “drink”.  Being mild, it was OK to drink this any time of the day.  Most cultures have alcohols of different strengths for different occasions.  In the past, alcohol was brewed from local sources and there was no major expense in making it.

Most people around the world drink responsibly.  Europe, Japan, Australia, Africa, South America, USA, drinkers in most places consume alcohol in a sensible manner.  Places where its banned, such as the Middle East and parts of India, alcohol is drunk in secret and as a result, it is consumed in irresponsible manner. 

People often equate alcohol consumption with addiction and consider it to be a terrible home wrecker.  Let’s face it, most of us have an addictive personality.  We are addicted to work, smoking, TV, games, books, exercise - anything can be addictive.  When any action or hoby becomes addictive, it can become a danger to ourselves and our families.  More families are probably destroyed by workaholics than alcohol, but, there are no statistics to highlight this.  More deaths are probably caused diabetes (addiction to sugar) than alcohol, but once again, no statistics will be produced for this.


Alcohol and Tribes around the world today –

In the modern world, drinking has become a big problem amongst tribals of the world.  This is maily due to - 

1) Introduction of modern, stronger drinks to the tribal community that go to the head straight away.  These are bad for health as well as society.  People are not used to these and so get too drunk too quickly.  Often, these are imported and tribals have to pay in precious “cash”.  As most of their internal economy is geared towards barter, cash is in short supply.  Spending it on alcohol is not the best use of this scarce resource. 

2) Most tribals are marginalised in the modern world.  To “preserve” them or for various other “human rights issues”, governments give them a lot of sops to keep them separate from the rest of the population.  Their culture is devastated anyway – they can’t hunt or move around as they used to and so often end up living in gov reservations / restricted land.  Taking government sops, they have nothing to do and end up drinking alcohol to kill time and alleviate their boredom. 

There is in lies the problem.
Alcohol is no longer being used for socialising or as a safe alternative to water, it is used to kill boredom !  This is why it causes problems.

We can see this time and again in lots of tribal communities – the Red-Indians of USA, Amazonians of South America, Aboriginals of Australia etc.  In parts of Africa where tribal culture is still more or less intact, you can see the how alcohol is integrated in to the community lifestyle.


Even in developed societies, if alcohol is abused, it causes problems.  Binge drinking amongst any class, age or gender causes problems.  When alcohol is used to simply “get smashed”, it causes a raft of social, physical and psychological issues. 

In societies when alcohol is drunk responsibly and as a social activity, it usually facilitates good discourse and harmony.


Alcohol and India –

In India, due to religious, social and political reasons, alcohol is demonised in the modern times.  Ofcourse, even the religious overtone is rather recent.  In ancient times, we used to drink as regularly as any other culture.  Rise of Jainisum and later the Bhakti sects made it a “sin” to drink.  Later still, Islam introduced its ban on alcohol, while it’s rulers continued to drink like the fish.  Victorian attitudes to alcohol did not help.  The Gandhian  movement was heavily influenced by all of this – Jainsm, Bhakti, Islam, Victorian puritanical attitude and so ban on alcohol became a cause célèbre in India. 

Ofcourse the governments and its various hoodlums have used this to their advantage.  They ban it on one hand and give it out on another to win votes.  Others use it to make illicit money, as a banned item is twice as attractive as a legitimate item.  Human mind is wired in this way and there is just no denying that.

I am not saying everyone should drink, nor am I saying alcohol should be banned. 

What we need is education so that those who consume alcohol, and those who don’t, know the social, economical, physical and physiological reasons of drinking or being sober.  Let people make an educated choice.  Through education, we can make sure that people have a healthy relationship with alcohol.  It’s unfair to deny anyone their rights in order to impose our own “moral right” to drink or not to drink.   


© Bhagwat Shahah   
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