“We drink beer to quench our thirst, but why so we still pour it into our mouth even when we’re no longer thirsty?”
Photo: Tuoi Tre
It shocked me to know the level of beer consumption in Vietnam could reach billions of liters a year and that, as a frequent drinker among millions of others, I have contributed to making it happen.
I hate it when people clink their glasses and shout “Dzo, dzo” (Cheers). This does not suit the spirit of the Vietnamese culture at all. But whether I shout or not, I still down glass after glass of beer in the company of my friends. And so do they.
Many times when I was in the middle of a drinking binge, one particular thought struck me: “We drink beer to quench our thirst, but why so we still pour it into our mouth even when we’re no longer thirsty?”
It is like an instinct, this thirst for alcohol. Every time we drink beer, we want to temporarily satisfy the instinct. Of course, the next time we are in a beer restaurant, it will only raise its head again and demand to be gratified.
Actually, there is no such instinct. It is a habit we have willingly contracted ourselves. There is a scene in the movieBi, don’t be afraid!, in which director Phan Dang Di portrays a young husband who frequents a beer place after work and immerses himself in a sea of men -- tired, weary, slovenly-looking men, sitting in front of glasses of beer.
These men drink as if they have never drunk before. They drink as if to cast off all the responsibilities of being a husband and a father. They drink as if to run away from an invisible fear. They drink as if to waste their life away.
The beer drinking scenes in the movie send a chill down the viewers’ spine, forcing them to worry about the value of Vietnamese men being melted away or liquefied into beer. No wonder these places in big cities, overflowing with men who often gather every afternoon after work, are referred to as “the beer wastelands.”
It was a wake-up call for me and reminded me of an argument I once had with a friend who called me an “alcoholic” and “a beer addict.” No, I told him, an addict is someone who is totally dependent on an addictive substance and cannot live without it. I am still fine whether I drink beer or not. No withdrawal syndrome that afflicts me mentally and physically whatsoever.
This, however, has more of a ring of self-deception than of truth to it. It is hard for me to quit drinking. The only thing I can do is to learn to drink in moderation.
Beer is not to blame. The beer industry is not to blame because it caters for an essential need of human beings. The guilty party, or even criminal one here, is the consumers themselves who waste their money and their time on drinking beer, ruining their health, hurting the economy and debasing the nation’s culture.
I was shocked and embarrassed to see Vietnam lagging behind other countries in positive accomplishments while outdistancing them in shameful habits.
Drinking massive amounts of beer is just one thing, acting awkwardly after drinking is another thing. When going abroad, I too behaved badly and tried to show off my “drinking talents” to local people. It is really shameful to think about when you are sober.