THE beating to death of a pandit by drunkards. Our society, social mores and culture have really fallen. Our adults have no respect for religious figures. The police didn’t have time to visit the neighbourhood to stop the drinking binge and end the noise nuisance, but they found time to visit the murder victim. A simple police visit could well have prevented the murder. The politicians have not issued statements condemning the murderous act or proposing how to address the noise nuisance and public consumption of alcohol. Both must be banned and effectively enforced, fining (heavily) and locking up the perpetrators for long periods with flogging (yes, let us return to flogging for criminal acts. When the “White man” governed us and used flogging as a remedy to correct our waywardness, we behaved ourselves).
I travel all over the coast and frequently, every couple of months and for decades. I can attest through my observations that alcoholism and the noise nuisance are widespread problems throughout the country, more particularly so in poor neighbourhoods. The loudness of minibus music can turn one deaf; the drivers and conductors don’t respond to complaints and the police don’t take effective action. A proposed solution to the minibus noise nuisance is to ban all music on public modes of transport and to put a decibel limit on music loudness at private events.
I am not an expert of specialist on the effects of alcoholism or loud noise, although some three decades ago I did teach a course on hygiene and health sciences for a few years. My memory on both issues is, they have deleterious effects on health and go together — imbibing alcohol tends to be accompanied by loud music – damaging the brain, liver, ear drum, etc. As I found in my travels, men tend to be violent when they are drunk and don’t get their way.
Drunkenness has a tendency to cause people to lose control over their senses and feelings. That would have played out in the murder of Pandit Bharat. And that is why it is important that laws against public consumption of alcohol be enforced. If there are no laws, then Parliament must legislate! It must be made punishable and the murder of the religious figure has given politicians on both sides of the aisle an opportunity to effect legislation on the subject. In the Guyanese diaspora, developed societies, especially in North America and Europe, public consumption of alcohol is against the law and violators are fined. Alcoholic drinks cannot be displayed in public and underage drinking is also prohibited and laws enforced against sales of alcohol or cigarettes to minors. We must enforce same in Guyana as too many underage youngsters are seen drinking alcohol and smoking.
Alcohol has the toxic effect to impair one’s ability to think rationally and to function optimally, whether at work, at home or in the public, not to mention its effects on the physical health of drinkers. Health experts say that anything above four drinks daily will lead to health issues. In my observation, most drinkers gobble down a dozen shots if not more and in a short time span, not allowing the body to process and dispose of the poisonous substances in alcohol. That leads to all kinds of health and social problems, including violence in the home where females and children are abused. As experts note, alcoholism contributes to a range of health and social problems, including automobile crashes, drowning, heart disease, hypertension, various cancers, interpersonal violence, HIV infection, unplanned pregnancy, alcohol poisoning, and foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. A lot of money is spent to address health-related disorders resulting from drinking.
It also leads to many deaths with over 100K Americans dying ‘from overdose’ of alcohol every year, not to mention the hundreds of thousands who die annually from alcohol-related health effects. Figures for Guyana on alcohol-related deaths are not available, but must be higher per 100K than the developed countries, given the widespread consumption of alcohol. Everywhere I travel, there seems to be drinking binges all over the country and people drink till they can’t walk properly.
We must limit alcohol consumption. For many decades alcohol consumption was banned on Sundays in the U.S. and most developed countries. It was also the law during the “White man’s” rule (probably still is but not enforced). Wedding house bars that pop up ad hoc must be banned; their liquor must be confiscated and dumped. Government must also ban licensing of bars or rumshops in residential communities, especially in close proximity to schools or religious buildings. In the U.S., bars or liquor stores are not allowed within a few blocks from a school.
An action guide is needed against alcohol abuse. Public health-related ministries and agencies must take the lead to combat alcohol abuse, playing a vital and necessary role in efforts to reduce alcohol consumption. They must team up with NGOs and community-based organisations on educating the public about the dangers of alcohol on the body and society at large, so as to reduce its consumption.