Unquenchable passions of anti-alcohol activism
By Nous
It is not a matter of mere conjecture that the habitual and excessive consumption of alcohol is widespread in this country – and intemperate drinking evidently is not limited to the type that frequent Sedawatte, the lion’s den of the people’s brew.

The seriousness of the problem cannot be overstated, though admittedly as a nation we are hardly conspicuous for the practice of moderation or the habit of rational self-restraint in provocation, in passion, in the pursuit of gratification, in the exercise of a feeling, or for that matter in our responses to any object of desire.

We are after all a nation in which abuse of power and corruption are said to be endemic, both in government and at every level of civil society, and perhaps, more importantly, one which has witnessed suicide-bombers – the seekers of ecstasy through suffering and martyrdom.

Although the practice of moderation is not a conspicuous attribute of our national ethos, it would nevertheless be absurd to suggest that a representative and consensual government, however ineffectual, should shun paying attention to a social problem of the magnitude that the drinking problem presents.

And nothing of the sort is suggested here.
Moreover, the drinking problem as a problem does not cease to exist even if we were inclined to view narrowly the current interest in the problem and the regulatory measures proposed in the private member’s Bill as responses stirred by fury, by political expediency or by business conspiracy.

Indeed, let it even be said with the conspiracy theorists that the Bill is covertly fomented by the monopolies that control the alcohol and tobacco markets in the country - because of the terror inspired by Chinese-owned enterprises that threaten the status quo, armed with low-cost methods and the willingness to match if not surpass the existing monopolies in business thuggery.

For sure, the Bill will slow down the growth of existing popular brands, but will prevent altogether the emergence of new brands. However, irrespective of the personal motives animating the proposed Bill, which are anyway not open to objective inquiry, the drinking problem remains a serious social issue.

And the curious thing about the proposed Bill is not the personal motives but the ethical thinking at the back of it – thinking that appears to be in conformity with the establishment ideologies of both Buddhists and Christians in this country.

Now, smoking and drinking remain to this day in our society practices that many are accustomed to viewing as taboos – or, to put it more plainly, the practice of abstaining from alcoholic beverages and tobacco is considered a mark of good character.

Although such a connection might defy commonsense, we nevertheless make it. It might be a needless elaboration to point out that one is not witnessing a freak of nature, if human vices in any combination, from viciousness, greed and lechery to niggardliness, vanity and the like, were seen manifesting themselves in teetotallers and non-smokers.

However, to those who are commonsensical to a degree, the connection that exists is between the practice of alcohol and tobacco abstinence and health.
Thus, the practice might signify a response rooted in imperatives having to do with the body’s health. It might also signify a response rooted in the fear of failure to practice moderation – and in so far as it signifies a feeling of impotence and despondency, it is a mark of vice. But it is difficult to see how it could be said to signify anything else. In any event, to the uninitiated at least, the practice of total abstinence is no indication whatsoever of nobility and goodness of character.

Because of the toxicity of alcohol and tobacco, addiction or slavish devotion to them spells ruin. But of what could it not be said – every single slavish devotion to life’s pleasurable activities is demonstrably self-destructive.
In fact, with the possible exception of philosophic and historical study, there is nothing of which the unrestrained pursuit or indulgence could not spell ruin or fill man with disgust in the end - from sexual indulgence, eating and the exercise of feelings of anger or love, to the pursuit of wealth, power and professional or social distinction. Addiction or slavish devotion of any kind, in other words, is more a result than a cause of an unruly moral disposition.
Habits indeed bring moral dispositions to maturity. Hence, we do need to control the character of our activities to acquire good and noble habits. But in doing it, it is a desperate ethic that seeks to regulate tightly anything that might be deemed by some to be a needless challenge to the practice of moderation and self-mastery.

An ethic of renunciation, self-denial or ascetic flight may have been natural enough in an era of meagre opportunity, gruelling poverty and degradation.
But in an era of increasing prosperity and abundance, it has no emotional resonance and any law grounded in it undermines law-abidingness.
There is provision in nature for everything that is possible to do, getting rich, to getting angry, and even for getting drunk. It is because we live in such a world that we have the occasion to become temperate, just, considerate and the like.

Unhappy with the actual characteristics of the world, communistic laws tried to create unselfishness, ardent reformers brandishing regulatory measures on alcohol and tobacco are similarly rebelling against the way the world was made.

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