It’s that time again for the collective social pulse when the great alcohol debate rages on, fueled this time by the Government’s hastily-concocted policy to restrict beer retail sales. As happens often in Indonesia’s vibrant society, the public debate has carelessly flip-flopped between health (can alcohol be healthy?), commercial (should alcohol be sold in grocery stores?), or morality (is alcohol forbidden?).
Let’s check out the health issue first. Beyond temporarily impaired judgment alcohol consumption does possess actual health risks, as various medical journals or the internal organs of lifelong alcohol drinkers can show. Claiming alcohol consumption isn’t risky to one’s health is being in denial. Adamantly boasting that regular alcohol consumption absolutely has no risks, as many occasional beer drinkers are doing on social media now, is inviting hysterical laughs from anyone who’s started sipping saguer at fourteen, guzzling down tequila at seventeen, and getting hospitalized for liver problems before the ripe age of twenty.
Now, does that mean it is okay to drink at seventeen? Heck, no. Indonesia legal drinking age is twenty-one, a few years after a citizen gets National ID, driver’s license, voting right and marital consent. That alone indicates how the State has meant for an individual to first prove capable of shouldering obligations or consequences coming from those other privileges before being trusted to consume alcohol responsibly. The responsibilities which include but not limited to retaining enough self-awareness of one’s intoxication level to avoid drunk driving, random drunken rage, getting robbed blind or, maybe, joining the latest misguided cult. The consequences that stretch far beyond the horizon of one still in his or her teens.
If you want to wage a holy war on alcoholic drinks, then wage it against selling alcohol to minors. The law is in place but isn’t upheld so pressure the authorities for much stricter enforcement, all the while taking more responsibility in educating and guarding the minors around you. Those two are much more effective than hairsplitting on which commercial outlets should be allowed to sell beers (minimarkets no, novelty shops okay!), a debate that, should you wish to engage in, must be based on Supply Chain By Category For Fast-Moving Consumer Goods 101 instead of personal values over alcohol consumption.
Honestly, this is what it ends up boiling down to, doesn’t it? Morality. The issue so mighty it has way too many different sides and scales that when absent-mindedly swung around poses more immediate danger in alienating parts of the society than granting justice for the entire society. Some see all alcohol verboten, some think all alcohol are fine, while some feel beers or wines are harmless and hard liquor are not– where you draw the righteous line? This is where the law enters to provide the ruler every citizen with different moral compasses can equally refer to.
I didn’t say it was wrong to live by moral codes that forbid consumption of alcohol. You’re even entitled to live by moral codes that forbid non-organic carbohydrates or lacy underwear, for all I care. You reserve every right not to consume alcohol, serve it on your property, being served it, or marry someone who consumes it. What you don’t have is the right to get your knickers knotted on other adults’ right to drink alcohol, let alone blocking their easy access to it.
Alcoholism impedes work? Then don’t hire 24/7 drunks, and fire anyone dares to turn up drunk on the job. If you need a few chosen words to tell off a drunkard how lousy their job performance has become due to drinking, call me. What you don’t have is the right to force employees or colleagues not to drink or have access to alcohol outside work.
Drunken people harass you? Slap their potty mouth, kick them in the groin, call the cops— I sure as hell have done all three. You have the right to defend yourself. But don’t steal other adults’ rights to drink themselves silly at the privacy of their life. You want easy access to buy your favorite spicy chili, the kind that can create digestive ulcers? So why take away other people’s right to obtain drinks that may do the same? You love your nasty chili, they want their strong whiskey.
Detest alcohol, refrain from alcohol, but don’t take away other adults’ rights to consume alcohol. I’m no beer drinker myself, for I dislike the taste and gassy gut that comes from it, but you and I have no divine rights to stop the next willing guy to develop his beer belly.
Last but not least, to the new Government. This slapdash policy, met with steadily rising demand for alcoholic beverages in recent years, will only open black market. An illegal market where not only bootleggers reap profits while pay Government zero taxes, the products won’t need to go through BPOM inspection to ensure drinkability. Instead of professionally manufactured beers lower-class consumers may return to anything-goes, kerosene-based-for-all-we-know oplosan of lesser civilizations. Stomach ulcers will be the least of your health problems arriving at Puskesmas, dear Government, expected to be subsidized by smaller purse lacking contribution from alcohol sale taxes. Brilliant move, indeed. Preserving local culture, shunning foreign influence? Perhaps if you read more of foreign history, you can avoid committing America’s Prohibition mistake.
A more discerning Government? Seems I must wait longer to drink to that.