Monday, 31 December 2012
Sut gallwn ni ddweud ffarwel wrth un flwyddyn a chroesawu un arall sydd eto i ddechrau? I nifer, mae’r ateb yn syml, gyda hwyl sy’n ymylu ar hedoniaeth. Mae’r wythnos fwy neu lai rhwng Nadolig a’r Flwyddyn Newydd yn aml yn troi yn un parti hir. Ar gyfer y rhai sy’n gallu delio â chyfnod hir o yfed a dal i weithio ym mis Ionawr, gallwn ddymuno lwc dda i chi; mae cyflawni camp fel yna’n dasg anghyffredin iawn yn wir, oherwydd mae nifer eraill fydd yn cael eu gorchfygu gan dymor yr ŵyl a’r yfed y mae’n ei gynnig. Mae’r addewid arwynebol aml o amser da, ewyllys da a hapusrwydd yn aml yn syrthio o dan bwysau tymor y partïon i wirioneddau llai cyfforddus. Gall siom, unigrwydd a dicter hir-dymor hefyd atalnodi ‘amser hapusaf y flwyddyn’ ac mae digonedd o alcohol wrth law i leddfu’r poenau hyn ac, mewn llawer achos, eu gwaethygu. Felly, beth yw’r dull gorau o ymchwilio i’ch teimladau am y tymor a’r Flwyddyn Newydd? Mae’n bosibl mai drwy edrych yn ôl dros yr amseroedd lle’r ydyn ni’n byw, tra bod eraill yn ceisio negyddu pwy a beth ydyn nhw mewn alcohol, dim ond i ddiweddu’n cael eu goresgyn a’u niweidio ganddo, y gallwn ni weld yr ‘amseroedd da’ fel yr hyn ydyn nhw. Bob yn hyn a hyn, mae gwirionedd yn dod i’r amlwg sy’n chwalu’r propaganda sy’n ein hamgylchynu fel bwled a daeth un i’r amlwg ychydig cyn y Nadolig gan Sefydliad Iechyd y Byd. Ym mis Rhagfyr, cytunodd 193 aelod-wladwriaethau’r WHO yn unfrydol fod: "Defnydd niweidiol o alcohol yn bwysau iechyd difrifol a’i fod yn effeithio ar bron i bob unigolyn yn rhyngwladol.” Cyhoeddwyd hwn tra hefyd yn datgelu bod y cyffur yn lladd rhyw 2.5 miliwn o bobl dros y byd i gyd bob blwyddyn gyda 300,000 o’r rhain yn blant a phobl ifanc. Darllenwch hwn eto: 2.5 miliwn. Mae’n holocost cudd, anweladwy, trosedd yn erbyn dynoliaeth sy’n cael ei normaleiddio a’i drin fel busnes fel arfer; fel ffrwydradau tir. Mae’n siŵr bod pwynt wedi’i gyrraedd dros y byd i gyd gyda pherthynas dyn gyda’r ddiod feddwol na all gynnal ei hun pan fydd mwyafrif llywodraethau’r byd yn sôn am beryglon alcohol, mae’n rhaid ei bod yn amser i’r cyfoethocaf o’r llywodraethau hyn ddechrau wynebu’r anghenfil y maen nhw wedi’i greu? Tra bod lleiafswm y polisïau prisiau gwannaf wedi’u cyflwyno’n dawel gan ein llywodraeth, ni all unrhyw un fod â llawer o ffydd go iawn y byddan nhw’n cymryd camau difrifol i adfer rhywfaint o ddoethineb i ddeddfau trwyddedu Prydain. Nid yw’r ffaith bod ein meistri etholedig yn gwasanaethu’r rhai sy’n cyfrannu fwyaf at gronfeydd partïon gwleidyddol, prin yn syniad dadleuol, mae’n hysbys a phrin yn gyfrinach. Mae hyn yn golygu bod yn rhaid cael newid ystyrlon, fel mae wedi bod erioed, a hynny oddi wrth y cyhoedd. Mae’r fasnach ddiod wedi denu mwyafrif Prydain yn gyfrwys neu’n ddibynnol neu wedi cyfaddawdu, ond mae un ddemograffeg lle mae’n rhaid i ni osod ein gobaith, pobl ifanc. Mae’r defnydd o alcohol yn gostwng ymhlith pobl ifanc. Yn ddiweddar, roedd Alcohol Concern yn cyhoeddi ystadegau’n dangos bod y defnydd o alcohol ymhlith pobl ifanc 16-24 oed yn gostwng a bod llwyr ymataliad ar gynnydd, tuedd nad sy’n berthnasol i’r amseroedd anodd economaidd presennol ond un a ddechreuodd bron i ddegawd yn ôl. Er y gall alcoholiaeth achosi llawer o dristwch dros gyfnod y gwyliau, a gall achosi gofleidio’r byd yn waedlyd, mae’n glir bod rhywbeth wedi newid yn dawel, yn raddol ac yn anesboniadwy. I ble bydd hyn yn arwain y flwyddyn nesaf neu’r ddegawd nesaf? Beth all hyn wneud o’n cymdeithas? Pwy all ddod i’r blaen i ddangos i ni eu mawredd? Pwy fel arall fyddai wedi’i golli i ddibyniaeth? Bydd yn rhaid i ni aros i weld. Mae llawer i feddwl amdano'r Nadolig a’r Flwyddyn Newydd hon a llawer i obeithio amdano yn y misoedd i ddod. Rhaid i ni gofio am alcohol a dioddefwyr dibyniaeth a gwneud cyfraniadau bychan, graddol, ond bob amser hanfodol i fyd dynol mwy caredig a diogel yn 2013.
Friday, 28 December 2012
How do we say farewell to one year and welcome another yet to start? To many the answer is simple, with a merriment bordering on hedonism, the week or so between Christmas and New Year often turns into one long party. For those who can handle such a prolonged bout of boozing and still function in January, we wish you good luck; to pull off such a feat is rare indeed, for there are many others who will be defeated by the festive season and the drinking it offers. The often superficial promise of good times, intimacy, good will and joy give way under the pressure of the party season to less comfortable truths. Disappointment, loneliness and long simmering resentments can also punctuate the 'happiest time of the year' and alcohol is on hand in vast quantities to medicate these hurts and in many cases to exacerbate them. So what is the best way to explore how we feel about the season and the New Year? Possibly with a sense of reflection on the times in which we live, while others are trying to negate who and what they are in alcohol, only to wind up being defeated and harmed by it, we can see the 'good times' for what they really are. Once every so often a truth comes to light that punctures the propaganda that surrounds us like a bullet, and one was supplied just before Christmas by the World Health Organisation. In December the WHO's 193 member states agreed unanimously that: "The harmful use of alcohol is a serious health burden, and it affects virtually all individuals on an international scale." They announced this whilst also revealing that the drug kills some 2.5 million people worldwide every year, of which 300,000 are children and young people. Read that again: 2.5 Million. It is a hidden, invisible holocaust, a crime against humanity that is normalised and naturalised and treated as business as usual; like land mines. A point surely has been reached globally with mankind's relationship with intoxicants that cannot sustain itself, when most of the world's governments speak out about the dangers of alcohol it must be time for the wealthiest of those governments to start to take on the monster they have created? Whilst the most diluted of minimum pricing policies have been gingerly introduced by our government, one can scarcely have any real faith that they will take serious action to restore some sanity to Britain's licensing laws. That our elected masters serve those who donate the most to their parties’ funds is hardly a controversial idea; it is well known and barely secret. That means that meaningful change, as it always had done, must come from the public. The majority of Britain has been skillfully seduced, addicted or compromised by the drinks trade, but there is one demographic where we must place our hope, young people. Alcohol consumption is falling amongst young people, Alcohol Concern published statistics recently showing that amongst 16-24 year olds consumption of alcohol is going down and abstinence is on the increase, a trend that is not related to the current economic tough times, but one that began nearly a decade ago. Whilst alcoholism might cause much misery over the holiday period, and might cut a bloody swathe across the globe, it is clear that something quietly, gradually and inexplicably appears to have changed. Where will this lead in the next year or the next decade? What might this make of our society? Who may come to the fore to show us their greatness and majesty, who otherwise would have been lost to addiction? We shall have to wait and see. There is much to reflect on this Christmas and New Year, and much to hope for in the months to come, we must remember alcohol and addiction's victims and make our own small, piecemeal, gradual but always essential contributions to a kinder, saner more human world in 2013.
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Do we celebrate? Not yet.... This week, in curious synchrony, the government wavered on the regulation of two out of control industries in Britain, the newspaper industry and the drinks industry. The former of the two, whilst rotten to the core, has yet to prevent itself as a major public health hazard, the latter, statistics show, certainly is. Part of the art of politics is giving the appearance of action, and in relation to the alcohol trade, David Cameron has excelled. He has imposed a minimum pricing of 45p per unit on alcoholic drinks, evidently having been shown evidence-based research that shows a clear causal link between cut price alcohol and crime. The fact that this is an initiative from the Home Office makes the government's concerns all the clearer, the cost of disorder in our towns and cities is huge, and many people have been denied the right to enjoy public places of an evening, as they have become drunken battlefields, all in the name of brewery profits. When the matter was left in the hands of former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the minister acted less like a man charged with the nation's well-being and more like a front man for corporate interests. He announced that he was not interested in regulation, but in working with the drinks industry to find an answer. In effect, he proposed self-regulation for an out of control industry, sound familiar? Self-regulation, as we all know is a code for 'let them do what they want and when there is a real problem, refer to an obscure industry code', but clearly in the eyes of the PM, determined to cut public spending, something further had to be done. The eye watering sums that the public purse now has to pay to police Britain's alcohol problem, and the crippling effect on the NHS, not to mention the countless cases of personal misery and the estimated 20,000 death toll every year seems to have prompted Cameron to partially act. The word partially is used here because one statistic the Prime Minister and Home Secretary would have been given whilst deliberating on this issue, again drawn from evidence-based research, is the recommended minimum price of 65p per unit, which campaigners and researchers all argue would make a considerable dent in the crime and death rates caused by drinking. This is not to say that the 45p minimum pricing is unwelcome, all moves towards a sensible and more humane way of dealing with alcohol have to start somewhere, but the question of where it goes from here is pertinent. Minimum pricing can either stay at the rather modest 45p while drinks companies find a way to undermine it or challenge it in the courts, and it might be the temptation of ministers eventually to kick the legislation into the long grass and for a future government to quietly dismantle it. If the people whose lives have been ruined by cut price booze, who's communities are unrecognisable, or who are simple just tired of indirectly subsidizing vast multinational enterprises by paying for the clean-up job after the profits of drinking have been privatised and the costs have been socialised, if these people continue to doggedly demand change, we may make it to 65p yet. Here's a final question: Why do drinks manufacturers and retailers object to minimum pricing? Won't this put up profits? Petrol companies and utilities continually rub their hands with glee when the minimum commodity price for fuel inches up every year. Drink is not like any other product, even though this issue is skirted over, it is highly addictive, and whilst this or next year’s profits for brewers and distillers might be unaffected, the steady disincentive over time to drink excessively, will eventually lead to less excessive drinkers, where the lion’s share of alcohol profits come from. The problem drinker is the mark in this particular game and the drinks industry knows it, we have scored a paper thin victory this week towards protecting that drinker, but don't be fooled, this is just the beginning of a long journey, not in any sense a destination.