Saturday, September 14, 2013

Some random thoughts on alcohol and violence

Yesterday in a meeting of one of the zones of Dulce Nombre parish I mentioned the problem of violence.

One person opined that we have to deal with alcohol and drugs, since they are causes of violence. One of his concerns is the sale of alcohol in his village. Many villages pass no-alcohol ordinances, mostly to prevent the sale of moonshine.

Alcohol is a problem and abuse is not uncommon, often in binge drinking.

But I suggested that violence and drugs may be contributing factors but there are other factors and causes.

I have been reading a bit about violence. Robert Brenneman’s Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America  is a very thought-provoking study of gangs, especially from the perspective of those who have left the gangs, mostly for membership in evangelical churches. I have to return to it and I will try to write a review of it and another book which is helping me think about violence and my ministry here: James Gilligan’s Preventing Violence.  

From these books I’m beginning to see that there are critical starting points of working to prevent violence. We need to deal with the sense of “shame” and inferiority of many, partly due to the classist society that looks down on the poor and the people who live in the countryside. That means dealing with the unjust social structures here in Honduras. But it also means providing places where people experience their dignity and their capabilities, not always looking for outside groups (e.g., politicians and non-governmental groups) to come in and rescue them.

Thus I am not convinced that more police and a militarization of police, as planned by the Honduran government will really solve the problem. Nor am I convinced that US support of “training” for police is really all that good. Until the serious inequities are dealt with we are going to continue to suffer violence.

And so I am not all that convinced that laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol will make serious inroads on the type of violence experienced in many villages – violence often engendered by vengeance, anger, land disputes, etc.

Nor are invectives against alcohol consumption all that helpful. Many here don’t recognize that alcoholism is a disease. It is often seen merely in terms of personal sinfulness.

Something must be done about violence and also about alcohol.

I think part of the response to alcohol abuse is becoming welcoming communities that move people to seek the help they need to break from the alcoholism, accompanying them in their struggle.

Today, returning from another zone meeting I saw a very large number of cars parked on both sides of the road at the entrance to one village. First of all, not many people in the villages have cars and so this was quite surprising.

At first I thought it was a political rally or one of the candidates giving out cement or tin roofing. But I saw not political slogans on the cars or anyone giving out anything.

I asked the person from that village whom I had given a ride. He told me that is was the celebration of the anniversary of the Alcoholics Anonymous group in the village.

I was impressed. There are AA groups in another nearby village and in two major towns. This is something we should probably promote throughout the parish.

But see that people were celebrating the presence of AA in their village got me thinking. For this I need the help of people who know more about AA than I.

Is there something that AA is doing in regard to alcoholism that might help us deal with and prevent violence.?

Maybe the sense of companionship and of being responsible to others as well as the act of confession are central to dealing not only with alcoholism but also with violence.

Maybe that’s why we need to strengthen the base communities in the parish so that they become places of real community, of mutual care, of co-responsibility.

No comments: