Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ireland: a quiet drinking island with a fishing problem.

I took the title for this post from a bumper-sticker. (The original read 'Courtmacsharry: A quiet drinking village with a fishing problem.') Although humorous, it betrays the country's ambivalent attitude to alcohol abuse. from time-to-time the Taoiseach (an Irish title for the prime minister meaning 'chieftain') or some other minister will pay lip service to the problem but nothing seems to change, least of all our dumb sheep-mentality where we drink to excess because 'ah sure, that's what everyone does'.

In trying to find a few facts to add meat to the bones of this post I came across this very well written article that nailed down much of what I wanted to say, only much better than I could have: Ireland's Alcohol Problem. It is heartening that at least some people on an individual level are raising the issue. And In an Irish Time's feature on March 22nd, Drinking ourselves into a stupor, Brian O Connell wrote:

'At the heart of the Irish experience, there is a need to filter the way we experience the world. We're in danger of drinking ourselves into a national stupor.'

'Ireland is a hard society in which to be sober. Giving up alcohol in a country with a drink problem can mean the end of friendships, feeling like an outsider - and being treated like one too.'

what is the drink industry's response? To stick a small slogan on their ads 'enjoy alcohol sensibly'. Good one. Thy are selling a mind altering substance capable of rendering rational behaviour impossible and asking you to behave rationally while under its influence. 'Please lose your mind in a sensible fashion.' The compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary could not have defined the word oxymoron any more eloquently.

Now, added to to problem, we have other substances thrown into the mix. Cannabis has been called a 'gateway drug' by some well-meaning but misguided people. If any drug deserves that epithet in this country it is alcohol. Once accustomed to getting obliterated on alcohol, drugs like cocaine and ecstasy seem mild in comparison. Even in small towns in Ireland (or perhaps especially in small towns in Ireland) drug use is widespread. Recently in my home town a young man took his own life. He had a serious cocaine problem. When someone at his funeral suggested this may have contributed to his death he was admonished for daring to suggest that cocaine could have been a factor: 'He just couldn't handle his drugs. There's nothing wrong with the coke.' Such is the level of denial and a sad reflection of the addicts' mentality and the emptiness of their lives. I thank God that surfing came into my life. It added value and meaning to it. It gave me a reason to get fit and healthy. It became an addiction. And until more Irish people can find meaning in their lives I think Ireland will remain in a stupor.


Anonymous said...

Leo, I get the impression that your blog is quite new, so can I wish you the very best of luck with it.

Thanks for puting up the link to my own site (Andrew Lawlor not Andrew Taylor!!).

Sarah's blog is well worth a daily visit, although she's been a bit recalcitrant of late. She's probably been gardening or something. (If ever there was a gateway hobby, that's it.)

Your friend's reaction to your responsible and worthy intervention in his alcoholism is fascinating. In this tale we can see a microcosm of Ireland's relationship with alcohol. It is one area of our lives where we have yet to even begin to grow up as a nation.

Leo Cullen said...

Thanks for the support Andrew, sorry 'bout the misspelled link! I've rectified that one. I can identify with your frustration at our political system. Another area of public life where people need to grow up! Backhanders and palm greasing is not 'just being a cute hoor' or being a 'bit of a lad'. It's theft and dishonesty.