Posts Tagged alcohol

Carnaval

100_4048 100_4040 100_4026 100_4058 100_4018 100_4012I attended “Carnaval” this weekend, which is basically a huge party in February, celebrated in the South of the Netherlands. The South of the Netherlands is (of course) historically Catholic. Carnaval is meant to be a big party before the fasting of Lent (like Shrove Tuesday, I suppose). Of course in the Netherlands (almost) no one is religious so it is basically just a big excuse to party.

It is, however, a singular party. People dress up in insane costumes (I was a Viking with a saxophone) and there is a big parade with massive floats. My photos do not do justice to the size of these floats. Some seemed to be three stories high and they all had moving parts and blasted “foutmuziek” so my eardrums nearly burst. I awe at the amount of planning and dedication that had to go into these things.

The towns where I went get new names specially for Carnaval season, for instance Prinsenbeek, a small town near Breda, is known as “Boemeldonck”. The best parade is in Prinsenbeek rather than the larger city of Breda. Carnaval is a festival for country folk.

As with any festival, alcohol is paramount. Many of the floats were beer-themed. (Others were lewd. Some bordered on improper – for instance making fun of the church. They were all quite fun, and I do not think there was any ill intent). Many of course use the festival as an opportunity to drink more than anything else. I missed this part of Carnaval (by choice) and I instead have the memory of a fun time with some crazily dressed Dutchies.

While having fun and walking through town I did notice the remnants of the religion that this festival came out of: A Catholic church and some posters advertising the love of Jesus. Wouldn’t it be awesome if people could celebrate with love of God and with love for each other? The latter I experienced first-hand.  I am most grateful for the residents of Breda and Prinsenbeek who hosted me – they were most gracious and loving. I hope that the love of God will return in time. I also hope that Carnaval retains its risqué yet fun-loving quality. It seems more sincere that way.

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Why I don’t drink

It somehow happened that I effectively became a teetotaller. Except for an occasional sip of wine (usually proffered by someone else), I consume no alcohol. I have no religious reason for such abstinence – Jesus famously turned water into wine, after all. My choice is a (possibly exaggerated) reaction to the countless people who consider getting wasted a sensible way to pass the time.

Reasons I don’t drink

  1. my liver loves me for it (yes, yes, I know a small amount of alcohol is good for you, but see the next point).
  2. I am staging a protest – the one who doesn’t drink gets noticed, possibly ridiculed, or complimented, or perhaps just curiously probed as to his motives. All this is good and makes it known that I support a more sensible way of life.
  3. Drunk people are not funny or interesting. They’re pathetic and disgusting.
  4. Being drunk makes you a danger to yourself and others. (Surely I do not need to elaborate)
  5. Drunk people do stupid things like dance on tables and hooking up with strangers.
  6. I have a bad enough memory as it is; I don’t need to wake up with a hangover wondering what I did the night before.
  7. I can feel honourable, misunderstood and superior, and relish every moment of it.
  8. Drinking in excess is vulgar, uncultured, and childish.
  9. Alcohol is expensive. Copious amounts of alcohol are more expensive.

These reasons are all well and good, but the number one reason that I do not drink is this:

10.   I am absolutely terrified of not being in complete control of my every action.

I do not understand why people seek the release of drugs and alcohol. I do not see why they want to give control of their life, even if temporarily, to the intoxicating influence of these substances. From an economic perspective I cannot judge them, of course – let them do what brings them the most satisfaction.

I have been under the influence of valium (or something similar) once or twice in my life when I had to undergo operations. I hated every second of it. I was aware of my mind numbing, of my will to control myself subsiding, burying itself somewhere, going to sleep and refusing to wake up. It was an artificial calm that came upon me – a calm caused by the inability of my fearful, jittery self to communicate with the rest of me. It was horrible.

I admit that there is nothing inherently immoral about being drunk or stoned (Go lock yourself in a padded room where you can’t do anyone any harm when you want a smoke). But to me it seems that seeking this release from your life, from your responsibilities, is just setting aside, temporarily, things you need to deal with in any case. Go watch a movie – that seems a far more sensible means of temporary distraction.

To always be present, to always be responsible for everything you do, this seems to me a far nobler way to live. I cannot hope to convince anyone else of this – but neither can anyone else convince me otherwise.

Arguments I have heard:

  1.  Aren’t you curious? Yes, I am very curious. I’m also curious as to how dying feels. Not going to try that any time soon.
  2. I only drink until I’m tipsy, just to be more sociable. If you need alcohol to loosen your tongue – perhaps you should go see a psychologist rather than say stupid things to other drunk people.
  3. It’s fun, for everyone. Good for you. Go have “fun”.

For more or less the same reasons as mentioned above, I will not do drugs and I will not allow myself to be hypnotised. I seriously do not understand why hypnotists get any volunteers. What on Earth are they thinking? (The only experience they get out of it is people telling them after the fact how stupid they looked. Who wants that?) As for all those people who sensibly use alcohol, that is to say, in moderation, I have no quarrel with you.

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