We have lost the battle against ourselves.
Our most self-destructive instincts have won out.
These are harsh statements, but it is how I feel about the lifting of the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales.
The past few months have been an interesting social experiment to test our capacity to make choices that serve humanity’s highest ideals.
When the ban against alcohol sales was lifted a few weeks ago, our penchant for self-destruction became painfully clear.
In those few days, hospital ICUs were over-run with alcohol-related emergencies, from car accidents to booze-fuelled casualties and assaults.
Our best judgments to stay safe in this pandemic led to such an instant crisis, that the government had to reverse its decision within a few days.
We cry about being treated like children, but when given the opportunity to prove them wrong, we fail miserably.
Don’t get me wrong.
I to can be seen with a comforting entjie in one hand and a cold beer in the other on a hot summer’s night.
And nothing is more satisfying than sipping on a glass of pre-dinner sherry on a chilly winter’s evening.
These are wonderful privileges that we should be able to enjoy without feeling like petty criminals.
But the truth is, we as South Africans have a very unhealthy relationship with liquor and the Covid-19 lockdown was an opportunity for us to evaluate that and make better choices.
Instead, we cast Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the villain for denying us our vices and constantly threatening us with taking away our fixes.
All she really did was hold up a mirror to show us how addicted we have become to our luxuries; and how we will happily choose those luxuries over the lives of our fellow South Africans.
And that’s what I mean when I say that we have lost the battle against our worst instincts.
We knew exactly what would happen if the alcohol ban gets lifted, and yet that’s exactly what we demanded. And got.
I also understand the argument about lost jobs associated with the production, distribution and sale of alcohol and cigarettes.
I’m arguing that this was an opportunity for us to interrogate those relationships closely and come up with alternatives that could help us address the health of our nation.
Economically speaking, those jobs are worth a lot less than the lives that will be lost now that the ban is lifted.
And it’s not only lives that will be lost to the spread of Covid-19 by those who are now moving around and drinking more freely, but also the lives lost to the short-and-long-term effects of smoking and drinking.
In other words, in addition to the inevitable Covid-19 infection surge that is coming, we will now see a return of deaths caused by drunk drivers, while continuing to deal with the cancers caused by smoking.
This is the one time where I truly hope that I am completely wrong.
I hope that those among us who over-indulge, have had some time to consider their actions.
I hope those who were smoking a packet or two a day, have quit, or at least cut down substantially.
The Coronavirus is still going to be with us for a while and we will have to be a lot more cautious than we have been thus far.
In fact, I would call for increased paranoia about your individual exposure and that of your loved ones.
Besides underlying conditions, being an unhealthy smoker also increases your risk of becoming a Covid-19 statistic.
There’s great value to be had from the quote: “When you know better, you do better.”
And we are seeing what is happening in other countries that have opened up their economies too early.
Citizens have continued to get infected and die.
I still maintain that it is too great a price to pay just so you can have a beer and cheap entjie.