Alcohol, Can Thou Be Our Good?

By Immanuel Lokwei,

Such would have been the lived philosophy of my old comrades and schoolmates within Kapseret and the surrounding Kabongo area had alcohol not taken a heavy toll on their physiques and debilitated their capacities to do work to the fullest extent of their potentials. There is this famous inn, much like a 24/7 operational saloon, if you would only stop and inquire therein where I live you would surely not lack a single individual who would offer to escort you to my residence. The reason is too obvious; I grew up with most of the usual visitors of this drinking-house.

While I can enjoy this form of popularity, it is evident that the snares of alcohol have almost spared not even myself. Yet, it would be a rushed mistake if I were included in one fold with these old friends. The discrepancy, I think, lies in our outlook on alcohol, the extremity of our radicalism of sorts, and our artistic partialities. I fairly represent the metropolitan drunks of course minus some exceptions while my erstwhile schoolmates upcountry drunks.

But of course again, irrespective of which camp one belongs to or even regardless of the strength of ones penchant for alcohol, three things, two of which were mentioned by (I’ve forgotten), cannot be dispensed with in life: the quest for a shared experience of social life (sociality), the paradoxical drive to find ones unique bearing and distinct place and recognition (individualism) in this very social maze, and the esteemed value of creative productivity (work).

Of the first – the quest for collective intersubjectivity – perhaps the only group whose experiences can rival that of a riff-raff of drunks is a tight-knit body of truly religious persons. I wish you were last weekend in one of those drinking halls at Belasco in the city of Eldoret; you would have grasped this sensation. The hubbub and verve of the place was a perfect spectacle of all types of emotions flanked side by side in one space and time. Though this is the era of religion decline, the need for shared sociality is indispensable. Alcohol-lairs therefore become the new “churches.”

Sociality however without “content” is as good as nothing and this is what sets apart different groups of drunkards. The “content” is relative – it is the material for discourse and makes core activities of sociality. Without disparaging my upcountry comrades, if they were interested in subject-matters that I usually find myself engrossed in once we’ve all imbibed our “thing”, there is no doubt I would have stuck with this lot. But I tend to gravitate towards a certain coterie of friends who coincidentally happen to hail from various metropolises.

My upcountry old friends’ drinking habits have proved they lack discipline. They would rush to the nearest brewery the sooner they land on a shilling be it in the morning hours or at midnight. Since most of my metropolis colleagues are super-ambitious people with respect to work, and since our discourses revolve around our weekly progress and achievements, it would be counterproductive to lead a carefree drinking lifestyle. That would be suicidal and certainly self-alienation from the metropolis faction; nobody would like to be seen less worthy amongst his or her clique. But the reckless drinking habit of my upcountry friends cannot only be blamed on their outlook on work but also on the commodification of alcohol and the rarity this shilling in these upcountry areas. So any opportunity that presents a shilling, is an occasion to celebrate.

And thus to many of my upcountry colleagues their cry is tinged with a form of defeatism and goes as follows, “Oh Alcohol, why art thou our downfall?” But to many of my metropolis friends, alcohol is but an addition that can wait till weekend or end month and whose function is to liven up our discourses and ease our anxieties especially those that are about our works. Alcohol can therefore be a good and a kind incentive if one is only too sensitive on the kind of drink-buddies one entertains. It might be quite impossible to eradicate alcohol, but changing ones clique is not.

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