Friday, June 1, 2007

A World Free of Drugs & Alcohol?

My eye caught the following yahoo photo news.

Sri Lankan students carry a giant dummy of a cigarette as they stage a street drama on the eve of Anti-Tobacco Day in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, May 30, 2007.
In the background is the Colombo Town Hall building. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

This reminded me of my time when I campaigned against drugs and alcohol. As a group formed by ADIC (Alcohol and Drug Information Center) we did many campaigns in Colombo as well as in regional locations. The name of our group was 'Organisation of Youth Against Drugs and Alcohol' (OYADA) and I was the Vice President. It really gave me a unique experience and also a high self-satisfaction for doing a service to the community. Directly talking to people on alcohol related issues and educational campaigns were experiences for a life time. One of the best events was when we did an educational campaign on a long distance train. We walked through each compartment giving speeches and acting out dramas to educate people on the bad side of alcohol.

A giant Tobacco Company used to sponsor a popular Sri Lankan arts exhibition every year. It was just like having cigarette and arrack ads in sports grounds, trying to give a feeling that drugs go with arts without a problem. Many school children took part in this exhibition, so they tried to impose ideas into their heads by presenting themselves as helpers of art. We staged a campaign against this right there at the exhibition! (It was in either end 1999 or early 2000) We covered the whole fence of the exhibition centre (Kala Bavana) with posters expressing our displeasure of drug dealers being involved in art. We filled their comments books with our ideas! It was hilarious.

The following is a photo taken at a campaign at Galle (A town in Southern Sri Lanka). A voyage ship traveled all around the world promoting a popular cigar brand and it was scheduled to come to Colombo port, but due to high opposition from pressure groups, they changed the destination to Galle port. We didn’t want to confront with them, so we went a week ahead of them and tried to educate people, especially school children. The photo was taken when we addressed people at the central bus stand (was later completely washed-off by the 2004 tsunami) and it was well received.


99 comments:

N said...

eh...a world without alcohol would be boring...bottled water isn't half as exciting.

Ineshka said...

Hey Vishu!! :) I didn't know you were involved in so many things in school! But BRAVO!!! :) It is indeed a very worthy cause! And look at you when you were small !!!(heheee :))

Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama said...

Hey Ineshka,,,this was actually soon after the school period but prior to uni. About my photo, I would have looked probably the same when we met at uni few months later...."

ravana said...

You sound like you could use a stiff gin and tonic. There's nothing wrong with the informed intelligent use of alcohol. The problem in our society is that alcohol consumption of any sort is portrayed as a bad thing, so there is no outlet for a healthy drinking culture like in France, where older kids and teens are often given wine with meals with families from an early age and life expectancy is very high. Can you call that an undesirable unhealthy practice?

In Sri Lanka alcohol is viewed differently, with alcohol itself, and not just the abuse of alcohol as being morally bad. Hence, people generally tend to hide their drinking from their families, and this in itself leads to an unhealthy culture.

Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama said...

N and Ravana, I respect your views. But let me express myself...

I wonder where you could draw the line between the 'informed intelligent use if alcohol' and 'abuse of alcohol'! Its a funny excuse to drink actually. Just to tell everyone that you are drinking intelligently is a good excuse to drink whilst trying to potray yourself as an intelligent person.

Lets not forget that there is an addiction factor in these. You might start with smaller quanitites (intelligent quantities, in your terms) but with time, you never know where you will end. All high drinkers started like that but couldnt control themselves. It becomes a habbit , then you start to drink when its too cold, too hot, sad, happy, boring, losing, winning ,,basically for every mood/situation in life you drink! I dont disagree that wine has a healthy factor, but addiction is the thing to be careful of. But dont credit wine and alcohol for Frances's high life expectancy! That happens as a result of the better quality of life including health services.

As someone who practised in this area, I've met many people who faced with disasters due to the use of alcohol. Health issues due to these have been explained in media a million times (even though ppl dont listen to them), but the more serious side (in my opinion) is the social implications to the personal ,family & social life.

It's one thing to drink bcos someone cant control him/her self and doesnt understand the reality of it, but it's another to justify it by giving funny reasons whilst trying to convert others to make sure you are not alone...

ravana said...

"...but it's another to justify it by giving funny reasons whilst trying to convert others to make sure you are not alone..."

I could say the same for you, and it would be especially true in Sri Lanka, because Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world, so who's alone in this argument?

But that's beside the point, yes, some people get addicted to alcohol, but most drinkers don't. Alcohol, unlike nicotine and heroin, is not a highly physically addictive substance. Neither is marijuana, if you want to bring that in, but let's keep it simple.

My point is that the way to combat alcohol abuse is not to rid the world of alcohol. It's to teach people to drink responsibly. You're never going to keep the majority of teenagers that you preach to believing for the rest of their lives that alcohol is a social evil, when invariably they will later on in their lives see occasions when the presence of alcohol helps to vastly improve a social occasion. They will start to question your message and reject it totally after awhile, and then they will have no other guidance on drinking responsibly. What I'm saying is that your black and white view that alcohol is absolutely bad and that abstinence is better than responsible drinking, or even refusing to acknowledge that such a thing as responsible drinking exists, is not a credible point of view. It is easily proven wrong and experienced to be wrong. So why fight a losing battle? Teach responsible drinking, not total abstinence.

The other thing is, prohibition doesn't work. Alcohol free days don't work. It just increases the sales of alcohol, especially illicit alcohol like kassippu. The day before an alcohol-free period, like the day before Poya day, or the day before the Wesak week ban, or the Avurudu ban, has enormous sales of alcohol, over and above the total sales that would have taken place that week. This is because people stock up "in case they run out". It's a totally short sighted policy.

N said...

wine and eating lifestyles plays a huge part to play in France's high life expectancy...also I have plenty of friends who don't drink but I hang out with and have fun with, they respect the fact that I drink, I respect the fact that they drink...campaigning for responsible drinking, prevention of minors from drinking, etc I'm all for...but preventing everybody from drinking? Eh...nonsense

N said...

correction:
"I respect the fact that they don't drink"

Ladyline said...

A man who doesn't drink, and man enough to admit it, is a man indeed!!!

Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama said...

Firstly I thank you for the interest in the discussion.

When it comes to this argument, you are pretty much true that I am on the minority side. Thats a successful result of the conversion process. At social occasions, young people are made to believe that without that, its difficult to move on , so naturally people start drinking, but addiction comes into the picture making it uncontrollable. But I am happy to be on this side of the fence as I have always been whilst having a lot of friends (both drinking & non-drinking!), enjoying life, participating and organizing occasions and living in different parts of the world.

Its a myth to believe that you cant have a nice social event without alcohol. There are so
many events all around the world without alcohol held successfully, and there are so many successful people who are teetotallers. What needs is just courage to stand on your feet and enjoy the social gathering/occasion without alcohol. If someone drinks bcos they feel that its not social/nice, I question the courage and self-beliefness. Isn't life nice and enjoyable without stuff that make the person unreal and unnatural?

I question how 'alcohol helps to vastly improve a social occasion', it actually vastly helps to mess nice occasions. Some occasions such as weddings are marred by fights that start due to the over use of alcohol, horrendous incidents that happen at big matches are no secret to both of us. Again, the problem is , where to draw that line between abuse and intelligent drinking (or social drinking). When the mind is not in a proper state to think
after a couple of drinks, would someone be able to decide intelligently to stop at the right
point? If someone could, that's great, and I don’t have an issue with that, but my reading is, the majority cant control themselves and exceeds that line you are talking about. I take your point of intelligent drinking if the majority can control themselves. But if you look around the town, its clear that this is not the case.

In Australia, currently, a campaign is run by the government to educate young people on this, specially drink driving. Drink driving has become a major problem. Its fair to say that drinking is a part of life, and the concept of responsible drinking and education from early ages happens, but still, it is a problem. It is a problem is the UK and USA as well. The concept looks nice but practicality has a big issue all over the world. The most developed western countries (where that responsible drinking education happens at a family level as its a part of life rather than an imposed one) are facing drink related issues. I guess France is the same.


I totally agree with you that alcohol free days (done in SL) are not effective at all. The important thing is to educate people and make them understand on the downside, so that they don’t drink , which will make each day an alcohol free nice fresh day.

Regarding alcohol Addiction , following would give more info and proof.

http://web4health.info/en/answers/add-alcohol-how.htm

http://www.bma-wellness.com/papers/EtOH_Psychobiology.html


For the record, I am not involved in campaigning now due to time pressure and location changes, but my principles have not changed.

I appreciate both of you for forwarding your ideas straight and I guess readers would be the deciders here as opinions and reasons have been presented in detail by all of us.

Kasun said...

hey buddy this is cheesy of you... can't help but leaving this line... remember the time you actually drank dry gin which was Bada-Gayya's Bday treat at Prof Epa's lecture at PLT? that was F$%*ing hillarious... LMAO... cheers buddy

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