The enthusiasm with which central Kenya politicians have intervened to curb the rising problem of alcoholism lacks philosophical conviction.
The noise is more about power and fertility. Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu, who has led a crusade against alcohol, is quoted as saying: “Most young people in this area cannot sire children as a result of this trend.”
But does philosophy in fighting alcoholism matter?
Of course, it does. First, one will note from statements from State House and the antics of some MPs, including Mr Waititu, that their fight is against illicit brews, not alcoholism.
Basically, the politicians are not questioning the values related to masculinity, ethnicity and nationhood that have entrenched the gap between the rich and the poor in Kenya. The poor are drowning themselves in alcohol because of this disparity.
The politicians are not questioning what would replace alcohol in the lives of the poor, which should, ideally, be employment, education and recreation. They are simply questioning the quality of the alcohol.
Rich men are not asking these questions because they are members of golf clubs, and can afford holidays at beaches and abroad.
When they drink Cognac, whisky, lagers and wines, they have drivers or can afford taxis to take them home.
The poor, on the other hand, go for brews with chemicals to ensure they quickly become drunk. They drink close to their homes. They don’t have playing fields or arts centres. There are no rehabilitation centres for them.
Alcoholism is a class problem.
With devolution, this problem will devolve to all counties unless we establish our national values, our political consciousness and our commitment to recreational space and rehabilitation facilities for the public.
All this ties in to the use of land. The rampant commercialisation of almost every inch of soil in central Kenya has led to killings within families, land grabbing, the replacement of food production with rental concrete structures, and now the destruction of the lives of the youth. They are squashed on small plots, with no jobs.
Mother Nature’s wrath does not manifest itself only in the form of drought, famine and the deterioration of tourist sites.
It extends to the destruction of our youths, our nation’s future.
And that’s the second reason why the conviction behind fighting alcoholism matters. It’s meant to ensure other counties avoid the mistakes in central Kenya by viewing alcoholism as a social and environmental malady that can only be remedied through respect for Mother Nature, justice for the poor and a comprehensive social re-engineering.
The writer is a blogger and a senior Literature and French lecturer at Daystar University. [email protected]