Undoing the ‘Drinking Nation’ Curse

Yet again, local news, radio and tv discussions are awash with the problem of Alchohol. Mr. Mututho is the star of the moment. We are irked that 80 people have died needlessly after consuming Countryman! Everyone is accusing government and officials concerned of negligence. We want heads to roll. We want those involved to be found and severely punished.

But our anger and frustrations will soon fade away. We will bury the victims and move on with our lives. People are born, live for the time that they have been assigned and ultimately die. That’s the process of life! Something else will happen, like a teacher’s strike or, God forbid, another terrorist strike, or something more dramatic and juicy like naked photos of a politician in a hotel room. We will completely forget this tragedy. Until it happens again. Then we will repeat the same script all over again.

Solutions to the alcohol problem go beyond regulating it’s production, advertising and consumption. It is a social problem, a symptom of the poor lifestyle and quality of life that the regular citizen has been exposed to due to the systematic disregard for an essential human need: recreation.

The need to do something for recreation is an essential part of human biology and psychology. Unfortunately the regular Kenyan has has nothing to do for recreation besides going to the bar or a drinking den. Only the rich can do such things as go to the park for picnic or play a game of basketball or soccer. The Kenyan poor has no access to recreation.

Our villages and neighbourhoods and the socio-economic structures therein are designed to stress and turn the youth into alcoholics! Spaces that were initially set aside for recreational use have long been grabbed, converted to other ‘important’ uses or are undeveloped or in a dilapidated state! There has been very little investment towards giving the ordinary Kenyan any worthwhile recreation options.

We need to start prioritising investment in cultural,sport and recreation infrastructure as a matter of urgency particularly at the village and neighbourhood level. Otherwise the tough regulations will only shift the problem to the black market.

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