Phyu Nu has volunteered at the office of a community-based social organization for two years immediately after she finished her Masters in Psychology. While she was working there, she got involved in the line of Domestic violence, a scourge with no boundaries whatsoever, that has been plaguing all societies in the world. To her absolute horror, for the first time, she came to learn about the appalling cases of sheer barbaric tortures committed against women, girls and children particularly at home. She felt frustrated about not being able to do anything. Her mind was filled with sympathy and well wishes towards all the victims in those cases. One peculiar thing she noted somewhat surprised her. She found that in almost all the domestic violence cases, the offenders happened to be family members living under the same roof and they were under the influence of alcohol while the cruel horrific acts were committed.
Now that she has joined the teaching staff at a private school in a suburban township, Phyu Nu finds her job quite enjoyable, meeting with the young children who look innocent, ready to bloom into colourful flowers. They would surely become valuable and responsible citizens for the country’s future. She has made herself a strong determination that she would try her best to know as much as possible about the kids and their families in the course of her teaching so as to be able to offer help of any kind as needed by each one. With that objective, she thought she’s been living a meaningful life, positive, optimistic, kind and caring to everyone in her school
In order to get a vague idea about the kids in her class, she asked them to write an essay on “The person I love most in my family.” She also created a weekly ‘sharing time’ with them where everyone, in turn, can talk about whatever he or she wants to share: books, stickers, toys, dolls, plants, pets even; some talked about their family members, close neighbours, anything. The section was a success and the principal, who gave her permission to conduct it, got very pleased and offered her good comments.
Last week Phyu Nu introduced another assignment. This time the students had to write an essay on “the person I hate most in my family” together with “the reason or reasons why I hate him or her”.
The following were the two essays that drew Phyu Nu’s attention and interest:
The first one belonged to a young boy named “Thiha”.
“We have four members in our family– my parents, my younger sister and myself, the person I hate most is my so-called father, a jobless, good-for-nothing guy. I don’t even want to call him “Father”. He does not have any fatherly qualities at all, doing nothing, drinking the whole day, demanding one thing after another, sparing his precious body which seemed glued to the only easy chair in the house. He is extremely selfish with no consideration, not to mention love or caring, for us or for our mother. As far as I can remember, there has been nothing at all–no parental duties–he has ever performed.
He spends the whole morning drinking alcohol at home. When my sister and I leave for school and my mother sets off for her odd jobs at other houses, he would also go out claiming to look for jobs.
Every day, he would come back home in swaying and staggering steps, with his whole body wreaking of alcohol. I’d not say anything if he just drinks and goes to bed without causing any trouble. There’s not one day without him hitting my mother; his filthy mouth non-stop swearing and mumbling unheard of ugly words.
My sister and I have to hide somewhere; otherwise, we’d also fall victims to his aggressive assaults driven by alcohol. I dare not fight him yet but I promise I will, surely, one day. We live in terror of his outbursts. I wish he’d die from an overdose of his addicted liquid”.
The second one was written by Wai Wai, a frail lovely girl with big round black eyes.
“ My family consists of my father and only me until two months ago when my step-mother and her adult son came to live with us. Actually, I felt very lonely before only with my father and I thank God and Dad for bringing them home. I looked forward to enjoying happy family life with both parents and a big brother too. I didn’t have to wait for long to realize what a hopeless hope I had been dreaming. The true nature of my step-mother and her son soon got revealed from beneath its cover of all sweetness, affection and everything. In front of my dad, she’d be all smiles, showering on me her full attention, love, and care. Once behind his back, she’d be demanding of me, non-stop to do this, to do that. She asked me to do all the house chores, never allowing me to sit for just a short moment even in front of the television.
Her adult son is much worse, looking every inch a drinker. From his bloated face and heavy-tongue speech, I can definitely tell he’s been drinking all his life. The greatest fault lies in his quick temper with an intensified rogue behaviour, quarrelsome and abusive. On top of that, he got a foul mouth, uttering rude and filthy words. It seems those words just flow out automatically, which are actually unmentionable in polite society. I hate my stepmother but I hate my step-brother most.
After reading two or three times over the two essays, Phyu Nu’s mind had a lot to think about. She realized that she might need to watch these two kids more carefully. It would seem to be a bit early to report these cases to the principal. In the meantime, she could discretely approach Thiha and Wai Wai separately and try to learn more about their family affairs. That would be an appropriate option to take, Phyu Nu decided.
At home, her thoughts flocked back circling around the drinking issue that appears to be the root cause of violence and assaults to the weaker sex and young children. Some drinkers, although very few in numbers, might not harm other people in that sense. However, consciously or unconsciously, they seem to be destroying themselves, tearing families apart and breaking the hearts of their loved ones close to them.
Phyu Nu’s parents are staunch Buddhists and they had dutifully ingrained the basic Buddhist teachings in her head early in her life. She knows that the majority of Buddhists in Myanmar are quite familiar with the five precepts as moral guidance to observe and live by. Just last month, she remembered one of their revered Monks mentioned in his preaching that of all the five precepts, abstaining from intoxicants would be considered the most critical and important one for today’s youths in the face of extremely easy access and wide availability of alcoholic liquors as well as a wide range of narcotic drugs. The monk further preached that the intoxicants, once taken, lead the consumer to become like a playful energetic calf, in no time, ready to harm other precepts and break them down, too.
Some alcohol addiction cases that recently happened in their circle flashed back in her memory vividly now. Even last year her bachelor uncle, a middle-aged gentleman with his off-and-on drinking problems died of liver failure, leaving his old mother who was living with him just to care for him, totally heartbroken. One of her father’s distant relatives was rather lucky. With an adult son and a Mastermariner husband, she got herself drowning in gambling addiction somehow. To avoid her battle with gambling, she turned to alcohol after several traumatic experiences. Phyu Nu got those relative words still fresh in her memory. “My obsession was alcohol. It turned off my brain and my emotions but it stopped me from seeing the effect it has been causing to my family. I found myself in so many stupid situations: unable to wake up with a gross hangover, despising myself and vowing never to drink again. But my resolve never lasted for more than two days. Suddenly thanks to Lord Buddha, I realized the sacrifices my son and my husband were making just for me and that’s when I stopped. Sincerely she declared “it was not that easy but it really was the best thing I ever did”.
Despite all those religious teachings, printed and all forms of media plus reminders from the medical practitioners, discouraging not to pick up this ruinous habit of drinking, many people are still choosing the wrong path indulging themselves in using intoxicants, ignoring the looming danger and the great risk involved therein. Those intoxicants tend to guarantee a short life for almost all users so they are commonly referred to as ‘non-ageing medicine’ or a youth fountain that definitely denies every consumer the chance to get old.
Phyu Nu could not understand why some people with a bright future and a life everybody would envy wants to take up drinking which would push them down the drain. People say it all starts with social drinking from which anyone losing their self-control and discipline would easily become, in no time, a heavy drinker, then a binge drinker and finally an alcoholic.
Some doctors accept the fact that many drinkers get seduced by the feel-good effect of alcohol. Once the liquid flows down the throat, it transforms the user into an entirely different personality, giving him the courage to do things or say things which he would never be able to do or say under normal circumstances. Under the influence of the intoxicant, he feels more confident of himself, with easy conversation and without any trace of guilt, shame or worry at all.
Phyu Nu has heard a lot about drinkers’ excuses for drinking. They drink to celebrate some occasions or to get through miseries and sufferings. Some drink at social gatherings, some do so from peer pressure and for showing comradery-spirit, so on and so forth.
Adverse effects of drinking are manifold. In the Post Bag section of the Bangkok Post from September 28, 2019, Phyu Nu chanced to read that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention U.S. statistics, over 2000 people, mainly middle-aged men die annually from alcohol overdose in the U.S.
She knows moderate users also run a risk of a wide range of health problems from brain damage to the liver and other organ damage. It is said that not many users realize alcohol is a harmfully toxic drug. Actually, it is in fact the worst when it comes to the extent of harm caused to society as a whole.
A friend of her brother who works at a bar told them that most customers in bars, once under the influence of alcohol, forget themselves and get easily engaged in aggressive, offensive behaviour that harms others. The ugly reality of alcohol rapidly induces in users has not been realized in many cases.
Moreover, alcohol seems to be the culprit in many road accidents costing valuable human lives and properties. Across the globe, everyone knows that alcohol stands as a powerful cause of fights in bars, pubs, and other venues. It is also not uncommon to witness alcohol implicated in horrendous cases like rapes, assaults and murders and still a leading driver of abuses and domestic violence. The offenders usually committed cruel and horrific crimes while intoxicated.
Suddenly her mother called her from outside.
“Phyu Nu, it’s dinner time now. You wash your hands and come out quick”. Phyu Nu realized her thoughts had wandered around the destructive nature of alcohol. “I wish I could chip in for anything in the combat against this country-wide scourge which has been destroying all strata of our society. These days alcoholic drinks and narcotic drugs become easily accessible at cheap prices. We must all join hands to fight against it as a national concern. The focus needs to be directed both to control the supply side and the demand side, besides the consumers and victims,” she told herself.
Everyone needs to realize the danger of this ruinous habit and for that awareness campaigns are a must to be carried out on a wider scale across the country with priority to target groups and areas. Different types of media assistance, encouragement and support could be asked for, too. Ways and means to enable limiting the supply side–the sale and availability together with strict adherence to legal requirements plus law enforcement both in cities and far away places.
Ok, if I could discuss with my colleagues in school, we could get a detailed report on the possible options and solutions that can be undertaken individually or collectively. After all, we are responsible for the betterment of our country. Who knows, that would stand us in good stead!