When it comes to booze, I have heard all the rhetoric about how “Indians” are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol because they cannot metabolize alcohol as well as “other” people because they have not been exposed to it for as long as “other” races. I have also heard it is a “disease” that they call “alcoholism”. I reject both of these ideas as being false because they portray a standard of normalcy which is not able to be applied to everyone because people are diverse.
On the first point, fermented drinks have been present in these lands for thousands of generations. Some Indigenous societies have ceremonies which include alcoholic drinks as a component and it has been that way for a very long time. The difference being was that at one time it was part of a social structure that did not value consumption as a philosophy of being.
On the second point, it is known and accepted that alcohol affects the mind and the body but what is not widely known is that it affects the spirit. There has been tremendous damage to our spirits as holocaust survivors. Some have used alcohol to medicate themselves in order to survive genocide. They are coping with the continuing genocide and spiritual suffering of dispossession from lands, families, commmunities, and spiritual practices that have not been accessible or supported/supportive due to colonization. If there is a disease present it isn’t alcoholism, it’s colonialism. Drinking alcohol is a coping mechanism, not a disease and it is known even by mainstream counselling that addiction is a symptom of larger issues. Those issues, for Indigenous peoples, can be traced to a common source: genocide through land dispossession, state assaults on families and communities, kidnapping and imprisonment, murder, forced relocation, poisoned food and water sources, forced religious indoctrination, language dispossession, and a laundry list of other assaults.
Addiction to alcohol is a symptom of a much larger problem and addiction presents in many ways. Consumerism is an addiction. Materialism is an addiction. Our people get addicted to work, *ahem* facebook, video games, tv, food, sex, shoes, etc. etc. and at the core addiction is the hole. Any addict or self-aware colonized person knows what I am talking about. This hole is what colonialism is. When they attempted to homogenize/assimilate/include/absorb us, their attacks on our identities and connections to our lands, cultures, families, and deities and replacing them with their own ideas have led to this hole. Sometimes people can manage to live with this hole, coping well without drawing too much attention to themselves. This is not due to them not suffering from colonialism and being healthy, but it is due to being surrounded by the sickness that colonialism is. That is one reason why it can be so hard to see the problem: It is everywhere and we are immersed in it. Step back a little and the picture becomes a little clearer.
Anyway, just some morning thoughts. I hope the gift of today brings us all closer to where we are meant to be.