Grenada, though small is a rather complex territory. We record a history of turbulence, conflict and revolution. Our nation has evolved in many respects. Our culture is a particular aspect of evolution.
Though some things remain constant it is evident that some old patterns have extended themselves to troubling boundaries.
In the older days almost every village, whether rural or urban can recite stories of drunken and to a lesser extent women. Almost every household possessed such a character. It was second nature that every boy understood the craft of “drinking”.
Several decades have passed and we clearly see fruits of that “cultural practice”. The dilemma of cultural alcoholism is a sprawling, bearing tree with roots extending itself deep and wide.
What is cultural alcoholism you may ask? Is there such a thing? Apparently yes. Seems nonsensical to connect alcoholism with culture. After all, alcoholism is a serious life-threatening condition. Who would dare endeavour to make such a thing cultural? Apparently Grenada.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report issued in 2014, Grenada recorded the highest per capita rate of yearly alcohol per year consumption of 12.5 litres of pure alcohol per person per year. Think about 8, 1.5 litres bottles of Glenelg water. Most people will not even consume 1.5 litres of water in a day. This should help put the alcohol consumption into perspective where Grenada is concerned.
Why do I say this is cultural? Well our SpiceMas is laced with cultural activities. It is like the epitome of our cultural expressions. If one should pay even vague attention they would quickly realise that rum is the tune that sells, is gyrated to and is what forms the center piece of almost all soca rhythmic songs.
The message is often instructing the revelers to get drunk as that seems to correlate to having a grand time. It calls for civil disobedience without care just because “it’s carnival”.
What have we seen socially since our soca instructions have evolved from waving a rag or flag to getting into a state of drunken stupor? An alarming rate of alcohol consumption by not just male adults, but also women and children. Perhaps it may be wise to record and release the statistics on the number of alcohol consumption by children between the age of 10-18 years old and women. The results may be staggering.
Why should we care about this? It is clear that we have not examined the full effect of this. Perhaps the powers-that-be may be more apt to regulating what message is disseminated during times of festivity. If we only possessed foresight of the future issue we may rush to amputate such a cultural locust.
In a few years from now the beast will be born. We will see the full effects of a drunken population. With respect to young men they are at risk for infertility and impotence. There is increased risk of cancer to the throat, esophagus, liver and colon. Kidney and liver functions are at risk for tremendous damage.
In the case of women there is increased risk of birth defects in the unborn (Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) that can lead to mental retardation in its most severe form, miscarriages, premature delivery.
Generalised effect on the heart and brain are also well recorded instances of alcohol abuse. So, what does all this really mean? In the case of higher risk for mentally retarded babies our productivity is directed attacked.
Lower competencies and academic excel can be expected. The health system will be mauled with overwhelming severe cases requiring expensive medical intervention.
More monies will therefore have to be committed to addressing this issue. More Taxes may be the answer to addressing complex health cases.
Are we truly prepared for this? Have we mentioned the social effects? Statistics have proven that persons under the influence of alcohol are more likely to assault people without cause.
The safety of society at large is therefore under threat. The safety that we boast of as a unique tourism competitive advantage is therefore compromised.
This issue is not a light one and requires the ability to quantify future impact. The allowed cycle of alcoholism must break. Our nation’s future depends on it. Our youth depends on us. The unborn silently speaks. The unseen impact of this problem is colossal. We must act now.
What can we do? Widespread education. Schools must be visited. Churches need to come on board. Community-based programmes dealing with the issue of alcohol abuse. All forms of media must be used to reinforce the message of alcohol abuse and what it can do to people and even what it can do to our nation.
The centrepiece action lies with our cultural foundation. A blind or drunken eye must not be turned to this problem. Music is a most powerful medium. It is almost hypnotic by nature. Under the rights sets of circumstances music can make you perform that which it commands.
Because of this incredible advantage, artistes and their music can make you perform that which it commands.
Because of this incredible advantage, artistes must be more responsible. Cultural tents, Government ministry and the cultural foundation all must collaborate to set higher standards for release of music.
The calypsonians as well must be skilled enough to strike a balance between a play on words and positive messaging.
Music is an art and so is culture. This means that they should act as healing agents for society that stimulates the need to improve; not regress.
Let us say no to cultural alcoholism. Let us stop aborting our future.