Tuesday, January 25, 2005

On Alcoholism...

A Multi-Media Digital Contribution in Five Movements by Onyango Oloo

A Preliminary Observation on Form and Structure...

When I say this is a work in five movements, I am NOT trying to be "pretentious"; rather I am trying invoke a concept from Western classical music.

Those who are familiar with the structure of symphonies know what I am talking about.

I am using the term Movement in that musical sense, but not in that literal classical musical sense, but more in that evocative sense that the way this essay is STRUCTURED is not as slapdash and haphazard as casual browsers often imagine. I am sometimes berated for not having the recognized formal structure of traditional academic essays with abstracts, summaries, footnotes, end notes and what have you.

But then my essays are anything but academic.

No matter how erudite and technical the subject matter, I always try to bring the raconteur's touch to it. For instance, my recent essay on phone cards was deliberately off handed and anecdotal precisely because I wanted to convey some technical ideas in very plain and simple lay person's language.

This essay on alcoholism could have been a long sermon- fortunately I am not a preacher; it could have been a very dry exposition- luckily I do not walk around in a white lab coat; it could have been a socio-biologist treatise- luckily i am not into scientific reductionism or the medicalization of complex social issues...

Enough of the chit chat, let us get on with it.

A: Overture: Pictures Tell Dozens of Stories...

When You Meet a Sober Alcoholic

When you meet a sober alcoholic
You meet a hero.
His mortal enemy slumbers within him;
He can never outrun his disability.
He makes his way through a world of alcohol abuse,
In an environment that does not understand him.
Society, puffed up with shameful ignorance,
Looks on him with contempt,
As if he were a second-class citizen
Because he dares to swim against the stream of alcohol.
But you must know:
No better people are made than this.

-- Friedrich von Bodelschwingh (1831-1910).

The Serenity Prayer:Complete, Unabridged Version

Brilliant in its simplicity, The Serenity Prayer one of the key spiritual tools for alcoholics was penned in 1943 by Reinhold Niebuhr, who may not be the original author, however.

For those who are religious unlike myself, for those who may be curious, and for those who are seeking the full power that lies within,here is the complete and unabridged prayer:

The Serenity Prayer

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

-- Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

B: First Movement: Showcasing the Socially Conscious Musical Talent of Nairobi City Ensemble

Just in case you are getting slightly confused, this multi-media digital intervention from Montreal is in fact, a serious contribution to the agonizing national soul searching on the vexing malaise we all recognize as ulevi wa kupindukia, so please do not let the visuals and audios fool you.

If anything, if you are African and reading this, you KNOW that our people are mostly an oral and musical people; our stories are more likely to be TOLD, yes, narrated by griots, recited by washairi or sung by waimbaji; it is not for nothing that Americans, Canadians and Caribbean folk of African descent are renowned for their musical and story telling abilities- Ella Fitzgerald, Mighty Sparrow, Tracy Chapman, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Curtis Mayfield, Millie Jackson, James Earl Jones, Ruby Dee and Spike Lee just being a sprinkling of names that spring spontaneously to mind…

Most of us grew up listening to the programs on Voice of Kenya. That is if we were not watching the comedy shows on television. From Leonard Mambo Mbotela’s saucy moral finger wagging in Je Huu Ni Ungwana? to Auntie Dolly’s Kipindi Cha Watoto to the various music and variety shows hosted by legends like Khadija Ali, Job Isaac Mwamto, Joseph Kazungu Katana, Elizabeth Obege and my late buddy from Mombasa, Billy Omalla, Kenyans were informed, educated and entertained, frequently simultaneously.

Unlike the content free prime time ad vehicles overpopulated by male and female air heads on North American television, rarely would you find a so called comedy on VOK totally devoid of some uplifting moral or social message. Just rewind, in your mind, past episodes of Cheka na Kipanga, Jamii ya Mzee Pembe, Kivunja Mbavu, Vioja Mahakamani, Vitimbi, Fedheha, Kazi Bure and others. You remember the hilarious situation comedies featuring the talents of

Bernard Wanjau, the Mgikuyu with that impeccable, spot on Dholuo accent and mannerisms; you vividly recall the affectionate send ups of Luhyia stereotypes by the dearly missed Peter Lukoye; you think of the squeaky voice of the husband in Fedheha and you recognize some of your own mother’s attributes in the feisty Mama Kayai; more than you remember the cautionary tales that power those brilliant, often ad libbed dramatic tour de force performances by actors who all too often, like the late Mzee Tamaa, literally waste away in penury.

More than television, radio had a pervasive influence in the lives of most Kenyans whether they want to admit it or not. How many millions of Kenyan primary school children redoubled their swotting as a result the incantations of the unseen singer on the radio imploring them to “Someni Vijana/Mwisho wa Kusoma/Mtapata Kazi Nzuri Sana”? Who out there, among the Kenyans over thirty reading this(if they did not grow up in Kileleshwa, Loresho, Westlands, Nyali, Muthaiga that is) was not on tenterhooks, every week anxiously waiting for Leonard Mambo Mbotela’s Sunday afternoon bombshell about what was NOT ungwana(cultured or civilized)?

I remember as a child of four or five, singing along with my Luhyia grandmother to Daudi Kabaka’s (or was it David Amunga?) “Fanyeni Mpango/Tununue Ndege” and swaying in mid air as my Luo grandfather danced with me while singing “Ya- Ya Uhuru! /Ya-ya Kenyatta!” or drinking in Miriam Makeba’s plaintive lament of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s colonial incarceration travails. The fact that this audio memory blocks are still available in my cerebral hard drive for instant download forty years after the fact underscores my contention that music, perhaps is a better mnemonic enabler than pictures; that perhaps we remember what we hear more than what we see. Is that so? Like Mao, said, let a hundred schools contend on that minor point, I was just expressing an opinion.

Believe it or not this essay is STILL about alcoholism.

There IS something to be said for beating around the bush instead of walking straight along the path. Often, when you beat around the bush you shock the naked jajuok who is planning to roga you around the corner and you can scare off the hyena that was planning to take a chomp off your ankles before dashing off into the pitch black night like the coward we all know it is.

Who says that story lines have to be linear?

Three cheers for curvature in plot construction and development.

The ironic thing about this essay is that to the writer, there is a very rational rationale behind the apparently haphazard huko na kule all over the map slovenly structural appearance to this digital effort. Everything is related to everything else. The pictures in the overture introduced these meandering reveries which at last deposit the digital contributionto that place where impatient readers of Onyango Oloo’s essay often refer to as the so called “POINT” as, in "what is the point of all this?"

Hey, hey hey!

Relax already.

It is not as if I have disappointed you in the past OK?

Long before Montreal based Kenyan ramblers started assaulting the eyes and ears of internet based strangers with 30,000 word-essays littered with audio and video links, Kenyan musicians were doing their thing educating the Kenyan public about a whole host of things.

Take the subject under discussion, ALCOHOLISM.

I bet each and every one of us has their favourite Kenyan song in this or that Kenyan language and this or that musical genre exhorting Kenyans to curb this chronic social menace.

Onyango Oloo has many of such favourites. On this late Monday evening in January 2005, I opt to latch on to a jazzy, R&B flavoured song executed with finesse in exquisite Dholuo by a Nairobi based diva who first made her mark as an acclaimed actor and producer in the bohemian theatrical demi-monde of the Kenyan capital.

What is the song and who is the chanteuse?

Both the song and the singer are part of the ever so talented Nairobi City Ensemble assembled by veteran Kenyan music maestro Tabu Osusa.

The song is called Jakong'o and the singer is Iddi Achieng Majuek, not to be confused with the equally gifted

Achieng Abura. Iddi Achieng Majuek is well known as an actor and mainstay at the Kenyan National Theatre. In February 2004 she directed a cast that included Fanuel "Fanya" Odera, Steve Benz Ogana, Onyango Owino, Daniel Orek, Taphine Otieno and Stacy Wanjiru in an adaptation of Ken Saro-Wiwa's Transistor Radio at the KNT.

The comedy explored the life of two house-mates trying to survive in a harsh environment where jobs are hard to come by, moral decadence is imminent and together, they formulate tricks to survive another day.

The play was adapted in Dholuo as Maro Okwako Or! (mother-in-law embraces son-in-law) .

In the composition, a song called Jakong'o(The Drunkard) that you can listen to via this link, the singer decries the Kenyan habit afflicting many Kenyans workers who take off at the end of the month with their entire paycheques to embark on a drinking spree in the bars and night clubs, leaving their families starving. Soon we are told, the electricity and water has been cut off and the kids are starving, while the man is buying round after round for strangers at the bars; coming home in the morning only for a change of clothes he dashes off in skirt chasing expedition after skirt chasing expedition lusting and leching after young women who are his daughter’s age mates or young enough to be his daughter in law. The singer implores this wayward drunk to please remember his family and curb his drinking.

The message could not be more direct than that could it be now?

This song is one of the tracks in the phenomenal CD offering from 2002 titled

Kaboum Boum!

In my opinion, Nairobi City Ensemble is one of the MOST UNDER RATED bands in Africa, and it is probably, to my mind at least among the TOP THREE Kenyan bands at the moment. Now I am not going to start a cat fight between my buddies

Tabu Osusa and

Suzzana Owiyo, both of whom I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing during my last outing in Nairobi, by ranking one over the other. Yes, you can quote me when I list Nairobi City Ensemble and Suzzana Owiyo as among the top talents along with Uyoga, a host of Mombasa based Chakacha/Taarab outfits and folks from many other parts of the country. But that is hardly the point is it now?

Incidentally, if you go back to the Nairobi City Ensemble for one more second, one finds that their socially conscious messages are NOT CONFINED to just one track. Check out the updated version of Gabriel Omollo’s classic Lunch Time featuring the politically conscious rapping commentary of Kenya's humourous and controversial hip hop enfant terrible Poxi Presha; take a listen to the song Tony, in which a Kenyan mother sadly recounts how she has not from her son Tony since he took off at JKIA for further studies in the United States. It is five years and Tony has not westernunioned his mathe a dime; rumours abound in Nairobi that Tony is now shacking up with a mzungu woman for Green Card purposes. Given Nairobi City Ensemble’s cultural and linguistic base in the Luo community, it is funny and refreshing to see humorous send ups of the ever flossing Jaluo Jeuri (later made into a video featuring the towering Joseph Olita who played Idi Amin in that famous flick). I laughed till I cried, as they say, when I first heard this nyatiti powered skit that serves as the intro to the song that popularized the phrased “but do I say”- Otonglo Time.

Without a hint of shame, I want to urge each and every one of my readers to go out there and buy Nairobi City Ensemble’s latest offering

Kalapapla, which is available online at this site. And yes, nothing actually prevents you from purchasing Kaboom Boom as well or kwani you are going to be stuck with those low quality mp3 versions that I deliberately uploaded to tease you and whet your appetite?

C: Second Movement Climbing Up the Gode (Hills) of Gem to Meet the Ogot Family

On Thursday, December 4, 1996 I jetted into Nairobi in the late evening from Frankfurt alighting from a Lufthansa flight. My brother in law was on hand to pick me up. After spending a restless, jet lagged punctuated night at the Tena estate, I took one of those fast and furious Peugeot 504 shuttles to Kisumu before squeezing onto a sardine packed matatu bound for Busia. Before long we were snaking our way dangerously past the death spots around the rocky hills of Maseno. When we passed the Luanda Siala shopping centre and started making our way towards Yala, my heart grew heavier by the minute as you are about to find out. We zoomed past Nyamninia and Muhanda and I almost missed my Dudi stop which would have meant a long trek from Maliera had that happened.

As fate(for those who believe in this superstition) would have it, one of the very first people who met me as I was struggling with my luggage past the posho mill inching my way to the “Johera” (the People of Love) Church on the laterite road to Luanda Doho K’ Agina was none other than one of my dozens of cousins. She quickly turned around and helped me carry my stuff back home, arriving there about twenty minutes later.

You see I had just arrived from Toronto to bury my father, Richard Achwal Oloo who had died on Wednesday, November 26, 1996 from a heart attack. This was his second stroke, the first one occurring on December 12, 1984 when he found out to his obvious shock that wild rumours swirling around about the alleged presidential amnesty for the six imprisoned university students was a hoax and that instead, Daniel arap Moi had decided to pardon his business partner, the so called “traitor” Charles Njonjo. This second attack was brought on by the fact that his mother, my grandma, Doris Awiti had gone into a coma the previous day. By this time, my father had retired and had moved back to our Kisa location rural homestead after all those decades in Mombasa. He had remarried, and in adhering to some strange Luo traditions, had been forced to demolish the large 6 bed roomed house he had built in the 1960s. He was told that since he had remarried, he could not live with his second wife in the same house he had shared with my mother who had died in December 1980 from cancer. He had waited for twelve years after my mom’s death before he remarried, largely because my younger siblings could not hear of it, despite the enormous pressure he had from his own siblings.

So there he was, my father quite dead in a casket under a tree in the middle of my grandfather’s compound. I could not believe that my own father was gone. We had just exchanged a couple of letters asking me to bring Sankara so that he could see his grandson and I had promised to do so.

Anyways, I am NOT going to segue into uncontrollable sobs.

Instead I am going to tell you the point of telling you all this.

You see, among the Luo, as with practically every Kenyan community that I know of, the death of an individual is NOT the business of that person’s nuclear family alone. It is an entire community affair- Kenyans who followed the SM Otieno saga know this only too well.

As the first born, it was imperative that I be present; in fact the burial ceremony had been held back to give me enough time to come back home.

Even though I was overwhelmed with grief, what surprised me was the practical mindset that immediately seized me. My father had been THE ORGANIZER among his brothers and I think I inherited this trait. I asked what had been done so far. Who was responsible for digging the grave? Had we finalized arrangements with the church people? Which auntie was coordinating the feeding arrangements? I must have looked slightly comical with my ring binder asking all these questions. Somebody told me to talk to “Japuonj” to the “Professor”.

Bethwell Allan Ogot has two homes. There is the modern gated home he erected in the mid sixties, complete with a water tank and electricity, just in front of his father Mzee Paulo Opiche’s homestead, about 50 or 60 metres from the Isaya Oloo home right at the junction of the laterite road that forks into one snaking northwards to Got Regea and Got Kokwiri and on to Yiro in Ugenya and the other one that branches eastwards to Ukura, Eshirotsa, Emanyulia, Ikomero, Khwisero and Butere. Prof Ogot has a second ultra modern mansion near the banks of River Yala where he moved, I believed in the early 1980s when his wife, the well-known story teller and writer Grace Ogot was vying for the Gem seat and was afraid they could be technically barred because their domicile was in Western Province as opposed to Nyanza.

Professor Ogot was the one chairing my father’s burial committee. And he was chosen, not because of his public profile, but because he was born in 1928, one year ahead of my father’s eldest brother Omole (long time Nairobi residents who lived at the Posta flats in South B in the sixties and old Woodley hands from the seventies and eighties may remember the Omoles who used to live on Joseph Kangethe Road).

Why was this significant?

In our very patrilineal, male dominated Luo culture, that qualified the Prof to be the most senior representative of the Agina sub-group of the Kagola clan(even though two of my aunties, Mrs. Margaret Ohanga and “Waya Ma Yiro” saw the sun several years before the Kenyan historian).

Professor Ogot is a grandson of Agina. My late father and his siblings also the grandchildren of Agina. The mother of Paulo Opiche (Ogot’s dad) was called Ayieko. My father’s grandmother on his father side was a Luhyia woman. And yes, before you get confused, my grandfather followed in his father’s footsteps and also marred a Luhyia woman.

That is how come my father and Prof Ogot are first cousins. I have bothered to go into all this excruciating details because some jokers on the net think that I claim the entire Luo community as my direct family, which is simply not true. Coming from a very large extended family on both sides, I have close to one hundred cousins spread across Gem, Ugenya and many parts of Kakamega, Homa Bay, Rachuonyo and other districts in Western Kenya. I am keeping my mouth shut for now about my two Kisii and Kamba half brothers(evidence of my father’s mid sixties friskiness) with the same first name Onyango that I only found out when I was way past sixteen…

The interesting thing about my relatives is that the vast majority of them are urban based. The bulk is to be found all over Nairobi, with a smattering in Nakuru, Kisumu, Mombasa and other major towns.

Those of us who have taken the trouble to find out have been amazed at how many people we are closely related to- one fact that has influenced Onyango Oloo’s dating habits, making me seek my romantic partners outside the Luo community for fear that I may wake up one morning to find that I have been boinking one of my cousins, six times removed…

It is thanks to the Professor that I developed my love for history and research. From when I was this high my dad, my mom, my aunties used to point at his home saying, “See that is where Prof. Ogot lives. He is a professor of history and wrote a book about the Southern Luo.”

And the funny thing is that the VERY FIRST TIME I sat down and a had a conversation with Prof Ogot was when he was chairing the first official meeting of my father’s ad hoc burial committee. The image I had developed in my mind of a distant and austere egghead was replaced by this caring avuncular figure that you can view in the photos below, taken at the time of the funeral which took place on Saturday, December 6, 1996:

D: Third Movement: David Ogot and His 27 Year Journey Back Home

David Ogot is the son of

BA Ogot and

Grace Ogot. He is one of the many cousins I know of but have NEVER MET.

Except of course, through his regular People on Sunday column on Alcoholism and Drugs.

Sometimes my essays and riddled with dry statistics and obscure facts.

That is why I am deliberately making this one a very personal journal entry on this web log (yes that is where the word “blog” comes from in case you did not know).

Addiction is NOT an academic subject. It is a reality that millions of people around the world grapple with every single day.

One of my nephews died in the streets of Nairobi last year wasting away as cocaine addicted derelict, a forlorn lumpen who had been in and out of prisons for years, despite the middle class backgrounds of both parents.

One of my father’s brothers has fought a one sided battle with the bottle for over fifty years.

Several of my former fellow inmates from Kamiti still seek solace in the shebeens of Kenya as they fail to slay the demons of Kingongo, Naivasha and elsewhere.

At least two of my closest comrades and friends are doing very commendable work around the addiction front having been spurred on by their own lived first hand experiences.

A few years ago one of my own siblings embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as their own customized antidote to alcohol.

Alcoholism and general addiction is an area that EASILY DOES WITHOUT one more sanctimonious, holier-than-thou finger pointer.

When I penned my recent essay appealing for the repeal of the stupid laws outlawing changaa, I was totally UNSURPRISED to see the knee-jerk sermons from Christians, Muslims and assorted holy joes from other sects and spiritual callings.

Let me repeat:Legalize Changaa in Kenya By Next Week Dammit!

It is NOT the AVAILABILITY of alcohol that makes people alcoholic you know or did you know?

If that was the case, every single person living in the City of Montreal would be on the backlog of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In this hometown of mine, you do not have to wait for the bars to open in order to get drunk.

All you have to do is wait for the dukawallah to open his depanneur, our name for the convenience store that is LITERALLY around the corner of every block.

When I dash in to get one or two items in between my trips to the Jean Talon market and the larger grocery stores with discounted prices I DO NOT SEE people pushing wheelbarrows or pulling donkeys with gunias full of pombe. Sometimes you see someone buying a SINGLE CAN or a six pack of Heineken (or whatever). If they want Tusker or other imported fare, they can stroll two streets away to the SAQ liquor outlet(currently closed because their workers are on strike all over Quebec).

How many of these buyers are addicted to booze? How many buy beer to add to their mchuzi (yes you can use beer to cook, believe it or not)?

Who knows?

What is self-evident is that addiction defies the shallow preachy broadsides from the gaggle of alcohol consuming hypocrites the world over.

Anyways, enough talk.

It is time to introduce you to David Ogot, the second cousin that Oloo has yet to meet for the first time...

Here is his story...

I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol while in Form One at Lenana High School, Nairobi in 1974 to show that I was a "tough guy" and thus to impress girls.
This was the impression many of us had from all the movie heroes, ranging from
the late. John "The Duke" Wayne to craggy faced Clint Eastwood. Tough-talking, hard drinking macho types who always got the bad guy, then the I girl before riding or driving off into the sunset.

From that first puff and sip began a harrowing 27-year journey of horror, despair, confusion and anger. 27 years of lost opportunities and missed chances. It led me initially to stealing from my parents to buy alcohol and later to stealing things from my own house which I sold for peanuts to maintain my drinking.

Constant nights in police cells for various reasons ranging from drinking at hotels with no money to pay bills, being found walking all over town at odd hours without identification papers to being caught up in swoops at night clubs or chang'aa dens by the police as they sought to rid the towns or cities of "undesirables".

Finally on October 1, 2000, I landed at Asumbi Treatment Centre, in Homa Bay and there for the first time, I learnt the true meaning of what it meant to be an alcoholic.

What enormous relief to suddenly realise that I was not mad, or bad but just sick. Feelings of depression which had even led me to attempt suicide in India, an attempt which left me in a coma for several days and forced my mother to fly out having been told to come and collect my corpse, feelings which sprung from the anger and guilt and helplessness I felt at the pain I kept causing my family all disappeared.

After being taken to all kinds of centres including to witch-doctors in South Nyanza here at last was the truth. I was alcoholic. I was, sick. I had a chronic, progressive illness which although could not be cured, could be managed.

All that I had to do was to abstain from taking alcohol. Once I understood and accepted this, my journey of recovery began.

Why had God spared me and not countless of my friends who had died? I do not know. All I do know is that I had a duty to pass this message I had been given so freely to others. To make Kenyans aware of the simple fact that alcoholism is a disease, and not a sin or lack of will or moral power.

For it is only by educating all Kenyans constantly right from primary school on what alcohol is and what its effects are that we will accomplish demand reduction when Kenyans finally begin making an informed choice on whether to drink alcoholic beverages or not.

But most of all it is only by telling our stories that we will overcome the stigma which is currently killing alcoholics.

Together with

my wife
Eileen, we have started a non-profit organization called goinghomedotcom assist families of those living with an alcoholic as well as the alcoholics themselves, by talking to them and getting their loved ones into treatment.

The organisation would also create awareness on the disease and the drug that causes it especially through media's wide reach, as I am a trained journalist and producer.

From this last year(2002) we produced a 40 minutes documentary on alcoholism entitled Nobody Kicks A Dead Dog. This video the first in a series, was launched at the French Cultural and Cooperation Centre on August 21 by then assistant minister for health Abdi Kochalle who stood in ably for the then minister of health, Prof Sam Ongeri. Also present were the then health ministry PS, Prof Julius Meme, and the National Coordinator, National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) Joseph C Kaguthi.The media too was represented including the Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary-General,Ezekiel Mutua at the function that was also organised as a mini workshop by cominghomedotcom.

The video has since done extremely well having been sold to tens of schools
and educational institutions throughout the country. But in keeping with getting this crucial message to the widest audience possible the documentary was also aired on Citizen TV in December 2002 and then due to public demand in January, this year(2003).

But to us perhaps the best thing the organisation has done is to put up its website to help not only families who are suffering but those who want to get a better understanding of the disease of alcoholism.

This website is in fact the first of its kind in the region and a major breakthrough in using the so called 'dotcom' technology to help people "go home".

The site
www.goinghomedotcom.org also has a permanent listing of various places one can go for help or advice and this list is being constantly updated. This site was my answer to the suffering my family and I went through, quacks and charlatans when we quickly discovered that even when I finally accepted that I needed help, nobody seemed to know where to go next.

Right now I am happy to live one sober day at a time as I continue to create awareness by not only giving talks at schools, workshops and seminar all over the country but also through articles in the press and talks on radio and TV.

For it is only through our stories that the stigma will finally be overcome, for that is in line with goinghomedotcom's motto “touching lives through inspiration.

E: Fourth Movement: Is Alcoholism a Disease That Can Be Cured?

David Ogot does have the gift of the gab, doesn’t he?

I mean, the man can write.

I was quite moved by his story.

And I have been thinking about what it must have been to be son of Grace Ogot and Prof.Ogot.

At the very least, the external pressures to meet and surpass the achievements of your famous over-achieving parents must have been enormous. Was he, like some of my other middle and upper middle class Nairobi cousins one of the thousands of Kenya’s suburban latch key kids who grew up knowing the cooks and nannies more than they interacted with their own parents?

Who knows?

In the case of David Ogot, Onyango Oloo does not even know because we have never met.

Perhaps our writings will one day bring us together in the same room in a way that our shared blood lines have been unable to do so far…

I wanted my readers to hear David Ogot in his own words, without any authorial mediation on my part.

Now comes the most difficult part in this essay for me.

I want to problematize a central canon that has been the cornerstone of David’s story of recovery and hope.

And this is the notion that tags alcoholism as a disease.

Is it actually a disease?

And if so, how so?

Are the Indigenous People of Canada and the Aborigines of Australia “genetically predisposed” to alcoholism?

Let us get on with it.

F: Fifth Movement Harm Reduction and a Progressive Onslaught on Addiction in Kenya

I have been educating myself about alcoholism and other addictions and I am actually in standard three in terms of my education in this very complex field. When David Ogot says that alcoholism is a "disease" I hear him and I believe him because I have seen how this ailment has played havoc with individuals and families very,very close to me.

At the same time, I balk when I hear people talking of an "alcoholic gene" in the same way that I cringe when I hear people talk of a "criminal gene". Over here in Canada the conventional wisdom is that the Indigenous people of this country are genetically predisposed to alcoholism. But I somehow cannot find myself purchasing that pile of garbage.

500 years of genocide with waves after waves of military raids, rape of women, abduction of children, wanton land grabbing, dumping of toxic waste, cultural brainwashing not to speak of the deliberate introduction of intoxicants into native communities are also things that must be factored in. This applies to the Aborigines of Australia as well. Here is a link to what Indigenous people in North America are saying about these often racist stereotypes. Which is NOT to minimize the gravity of alcoholism and substance abuse in those same communities as this sobering report clearly indicates.

Whether or not alcohol is a disease cause by a defective gene is not my task to decipher in this essay. As a Marxist-Leninist, my attitude to disease is profoundly social and macro, rather than medical and micro.

Let me explain.

Take three "diseases" that are killing of Kenyans like flies-malaria, TB and dysentry and the occasional cholera plus half a dozen others that I am sure you are rattling of even now. You can trace these diseases to microbes, viruses, or even defective individual bodies and you could be largely accurate in some respects.

Yet if we just take a look at cholera- we know it is a condition linked to poverty and underdevelpment. We know that if we do something simple like draining the ponds and the mitaros where anopheles moquitoes breed, we can fight against malaria way more effectively than just concocting the latest potent anti-malarial drug. Things like pellagra, beri beri, scurvy are conditions linked to vitamin and other dietary deficiencies. And we know that even most cancers are somehow linked to environmental and recreational factors(like smoking cigarettes and eating a lot junk processed fast foods for instance).

As the David Ogots of Kenya continue to lead the way back to recovery, let us see what our social networks can do.

Fundamentally let us remember the socio-economic circumstances that drive people to drink. If we dealt with these issues could we make a dent?

If we stopped stigmatizing alcoholics, could we be one step ahead?

How come President Mwai Kibaki, who is a well known drunk, has not been more pro-active in spearheading and highlighting NARC government led programs to assist alcoholics trying to rehabilitate themselves?

One of my good friends was pointing out to me the fact that when people talk of alcoholics they tend to focus on the mwananchi lying prostate by the roadside, not the cabinet minister who brushes his teeth with Morgans or Barcardi; obviously the fat cats could slip into a Betty Ford like institution anytime while the junior clerk finally gets fired for his or her chronic, alcoholic linked absenteeism. We must address this class based discrimination against poor people who happen to be alcholics.

I am still going to come back and rework this last section of the essay because there are a number of things that I am reflecting on, but I have been writing since 7:30 pm last night and I am about to take a break.

For now I will leave two sets of resources- one for the traditional AA 12 step programs and the last for the more recent Harm Reduction interventions which I am sure some readers will find slightly controversial.

Here is the mother of all 12 steps links

Here are some of the MUSTS that are expected of people in these traditional recovery programs.

They give 10 points for people to think about...

Here is a US Government question and answer link.

Check this out as well...

How about this one too?

This is from the UK, I believe.

Here are the Principles of Harm Reduction.

And here is report from a Harm Reduction Study.

This Essay Shall Be Revised 67 times at least....



6:05 in the am!

Gotta go sleep...My shift today begins at 1 pm....

Onyango Oloo


john said...

hi o.o.i just read this 04/09/05 and i was stunned.you see Dave Ogot is a good friend of mine .i went to school with Dave,michael and milton(my roommate in NJ many moons ago. Dave and i were arrested in nairobi not once but twice when drinking and in fact my dad (s.m. otieno)defended us both in court.i haven't had a drink in 12 years and i'm glad dave quit too.one day we will meet and i'll tell dave and my exploits!!do you know Michael Ogot is a proffessor at Rutgers'Nj-hes a princeton grad ,smartest guy i know personally.seems we are all related in a way.thanks for a great memory!!

Anonymous said...

David, i visited your site and could get through-is it corrupted oir you left it.i mean the goinghomedotcom.org
am webdesigner, i can do it for free.
I watched the SHE programme in family TBN and was encouraged,thougyh i suffered many years back, my cousins and brothers also nee dhelp
God bless you brother

::Ruatek:: said...

David, watched on KBC TV last nite, it's true alcoholism is a disease..keep the faith bro...

Unknown said...

Having watch the Program: God in Africa, I have been interested in getting contacts of David Ogot to volunteer my services in one way or the other. I work near Adams and due to my work schedule. I will highly appreciate getting his email or even mobile phone numbers. God bless.

meshack Sewe

Ben said...

some jokers on the net think that I claim the entire Luo community as my direct family, which is simply not true yup! i totally agree with that