What was once considered a means for stress relief and a form of relaxation by the young adults of yesteryear has been taken several steps further by the generation of today as the culture of drinking has fast become the new normal.
The consumption of alcohol has become the new social trend if not a lifestyle. Unlike in the past when people had to scramble their brains and come up for reasons to drink, today people need none of the above. It is almost as if people today have made space in their daily routines to have a glass, bottle or whatever volume of their favourite alcoholic beverage. Who organizes a party or get-together without alcohol? If there is no alcohol, who will come?
The alcohol producers over the years have recorded huge profits and the country as a whole has equipped itself to compete with the world in the liquid genre.
Those who see no fault in the habitual consumption of alcohol have defended their stance on how it is just normal to have a drink now and then. There are just so many reasons to drink. In fact, they say the opportunities to grab a drink are endless and almost at ones disposal.
But who is to blame when products such as cars and great deals only sound and look great when sold with the masses favourite drink?
As one heads to a local Shebeen to buy airtime/electricity, you are confronted by a row of young adults still dressed in their work uniform enjoying a glass or two of Namibia’s finest beverage. For most of them it has become part of what is considered ‘pop culture’. This is modern popular culture that is transmitted via mass media and aimed particularly at young people. The pop culture originates from Europe. And because Africa (including Namibia) is being consumed by the adaptation of Western cultures, what is perceived as cool, trending and socially acceptable as seen on television becomes a way of life.
So young people would watch the UEFA Champion’s League or listen to music at their local bar sipping on an ice cold alcoholic beverage as they enjoy the company of their friends.
“There are just so many reasons to drink these days. After work, one needs to cool down with a beer or sometimes a glass of wine. When Arsenal plays, you need to watch with your friends who are fans with a cold beer on the side. When the game is done, you have to drink either to the victory of defeat. On a normal weekend, you will have to be out with your friends and there needs to be alcohol. If you asked me if I am an alcoholic I will say no. Who sets the limits of drinking anyways? I have a job and I am never absent. I have family that I support so what is the problem?” said a young adult who preferred anonymity.
Another young habitual drinker is Samuel Ndungula (24), a student at Namibia University of Science and Technology who perceives himself as a responsible social drinker. “I feel more social when I am in a drinking environment.” The student explains that he is socially awkward without a sip. It enables him to release his real character.
Samuel admits that drinking has become a lifestyle to him and believes that there is nothing wrong with choosing to live a life in which alcohol forms part of. “It is a matter of personal autonomy.”
Defending his habit, he said there is a fine line between drinking to be socially relevant and dependency. “Self-control is critical and just like anything that you would do for fun you should have the ability to detect when it becomes a problem.”
Oscar Mwandingi (26) echoes the same sentiment. He said that most people consume alcohol in order to escape life. “If you don’t drink in this society people may assume that you are a born again Christian or you are on some treatment”. He explains that the consumption of alcohol is more than just a culture; it is a form of fitting in.
Regardless of the trend and normality, the consequences of the abuse of alcohol can never be exaggerated. Dr. Mandla Simon, a registered psychologist is of the opinion that trends are inconsistent. “What is trendy today will be ancient history in the next five years. Namibian youth should involve themselves in more positive cultures.”
“Take along a couple of friends and go hiking every Saturday morning. This will cost you no money and you won’t have a nasty hangover the following day.”
He explained the reality is that most alcoholics within our society were once involved in the ‘drinking culture’ and are now dependent on alcohol. “You gradually start off by drinking the finest whiskeys, champagnes and wines but the day you can’t afford them anymore you end up drinking tombo.”
Simon advised that young people should not be fooled by these tendencies and that they should think about how this will affect them in future. He said that even if you only take small quantities of alcohol over a long period of time in most cases your amount of alcohol consumption will increase with time.
It is evident that more young people don’t see the harm in their drinking culture. The question remains as to whether they will still share the same sentiments 10 years down the line. Alcohol may not make you fat but you’ll surely lean against tables, chairs, walls or even suffer from a nasty disease.