Alan Duff: Why do some dream big and others just drink?

Looking at these young people, I of course ask why. Photo / Getty Images
Looking at these young people, I of course ask why. Photo / Getty Images

I bike past my town's regular drunks and can never quite adjust my mind to accepting that a person in his or her mid-20s should resign to a life of living for alcohol. Which, in most cases, means asking the public to fund that craving.

But let's not get on a self-righteous rant; if someone knew humankind's genetic secrets, we'd all live to that pre-decided level and no more - when there are means of bypassing or running over or skirting around so-called genetic pre-destinies.

Looking at these young people, I of course ask why. Did nature not only give them a weakness for alcohol but also no self-insight on simple things like pride and satisfaction in working, pride in being self-sufficient, the foresight to look into the future - even if only 10 years ahead - to see life cannot surely be a daily struggle to get free booze money?

Drunks are the same the world over. St. Petersburg; Madrid; Auckland; Rotorua; Bayonne; Budapest. They all talk the same language: belligerent, barely intelligible nonsense. Drunks everywhere have the same certainty, the same conviction, that their opinions are right and everyone else's is wrong.

Many prison inmates are like that too: of absolute certainty they have the world figured and by that they mean financially. How to make an easy buck is the recidivist's mantra, just sung in different ways. But back to drunks: how many street-dweller drunks have ever looked at the can of high-strength beer, or wine bottle in his/her hand at 8 o'clock on a sunny morning and said, "This is madness. It can't go on like this." And thrown the can and that way of life away? One in a hundred thousand perhaps. I think the lack of self-insight bothers me most. And the fact that no amount of love of family takes priority over the booze. Booze claims the top 50 list. There are no other listings.

I read an article about a guy in Christchurch who got shot. On his own admission he was a criminal and had picked a fight with someone who came back with a gun. True to his ignoble "profession" the dude refused to name the man who shot him, saying he'd never "rat" on anyone.

I guess he feels a distinct pride in being true to his lawless code where the only morality is just that: never rat. Narking is the pits. Not burgling someone's home, invading someone else's private space. Nope. Narking is the ultimate moral sin.

So we're over halfway through this one-way conversation and you're wondering, what the hell is my point? To tell truth, I am not really sure. Maybe this columnist feels his job is to stir the questions in his readers. It has certainly always been a conversation, even if I get to talk. So do you - I hope. Pick up the paper and see someone you know got killed in a car crash, or in a bar brawl. More often than not you'll nod your head and say, "Not surprised. He could never be told anything, that one." "He had a violent streak as a kid." "Poor so-and-so, he was always a lost soul." We're talking about ourselves, right? The people we're related to, grew up with. In this more inter-connected world the drunk, alternating between sucking on a fag and a beer, with his hand out, is our lost brother. The idiot in prison was once a school best friend. I write and ask questions about them because they're us.

The billionaire whose fabulous riches we get to vicariously indulge is not really one of us. No explanation needed: he just isn't. And you're talking to an arch supporter of capitalism here, though an equal arch enemy of the corporate killer types.

We - not me. You and me, all of us - are talking about people we know who just fall through the cracks. I have long lost my sympathy - if the more that convincing answers just won't come, instead only harsh judgement - for drunk beggars and people in prison. But I can't stop the thinking they trigger.

Why the galactic difference: A woman scientist on television saying as a child she'd always looked heavenwards with utter fascination and was certain her future profession would be to do with studying the universe? And the kid who sneaked sips from leftover alcohol after a party in his home? Over to you.

- NZ Herald

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Alan Duff

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