Curbs on alcohol and gaming: Blinkered approach to tackling social concerns

It is time to come out of the shallow mindset and believe that Malaysians are not so dumb after all

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There are those who drink alcohol moderately - MICHAEL GAIDA/PIXABAY

It seems as if quite a trend is being ploughed through, starting with restrictions on alcohol sales in Kuala Lumpur and a ban on gaming outlets in Kedah.

This path is nothing but a blinkered, populist approach for political advancement. Period.

Do they really think curbing alcohol sales (through severe, restrictive laws) and banning gaming outlets (through the non-renewal of licences for such business premises) will cleanse society of social problems?

Will these restrictions turn us all into saintly people, free of hedonistic traits like indulging in wine during celebrations and gambling and lotteries?

Politicians seem to be at the helm of every policymaking decision. Unfortunately and increasingly, they appear to be devoid of clear thinking.

Perhaps they should all read the works of David G Schwartz, an ombudsman at the University of Nevada, before pulling the trigger on gaming. At least, they should do some research on the philosophy and history of the various vices such as alcohol and gambling throughout human civilisation.

To use Islam as the wedge to implement such policies that affect people of faiths other than Islam is unjustified. History tells us that despite the prohibitions, vices like gambling have persisted in Islamic cultures.

All religions either outright prohibit such vices or promote moderation in the consumption of alcohol or participation in gaming.

The progressive approach by religions since the 20th Century has been to prepare their respective adherents to exercise willpower in living by the teachings of their respective holy books.

You may wonder why? It is simply because the various vices such as alcohol and gambling have accompanied humanity since the dawn of civilisation. They have been present in almost every major known civilisation.

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The Mesolithic civilisation gave us the rolling of hucklebones; the Mesopotamian civilisation invented the six-sided dice; and the Chinese civilisation invented playing cards. Did they all go to hell?

True, pathological gambling can cause ruin. True too, acute alcoholism destroys our organs and society as well. But what percentage of the Malaysian population are dying because of alcoholism or destroying themselves through gambling and gaming indulgences?

Sensationalist politicians and holier-than-thou policymakers should know we are not an exception in the world today or in centuries past. They should know that the internet has made betting, gaming and gambling more accessible to many.

Also, anyone can learn the easy art of purifying foods to distil spirits for consumption. Are tapai and tuak (Sabah and Sarawak rice wines) not alcohol and spirits?

Even Islamic nations that tried to ban alcohol and gaming soon found that the battle was doomed, as the black market took over with a vengeance.

It is time to tell our gung-ho politicians and the apparent vanguards of public morals that they would be better off tackling widespread illicit drug addiction among the people. This drug addiction is destroying the lives of many individuals and their families.  

The huge sums of public funds wasted annually in tackling this problem may be better spent easing the plight of the poor and empowering marginalised segments of society.  

The key to governing society is to teach, inspire and guide the people. If we champion the inculcation of moderation and show people how they can make a personal choice to refrain from alcohol and gambling, we would be a better off society.

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Taking the path of punitive penalties and prohibitions, as we witnessed in the Dark Ages, will not work.

What might work is trusting that everyone, if rightly guided by the thoughts, words and deeds of exemplary leaders and religious figures, will keep the tenets of their respective faiths. They could then be a thriving force to be reckoned with.

It is time to come out of the shallow mindset and to believe that Malaysians are not so dumb after all. Let wisdom in leadership and thoughtful policymaking carve our national reputation. Let not acrimony ruin our track record.

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Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
21 Nov 2021 4.38am

It is better to have legalized gambling and drinking laws, than to drive such human activities underground, where you have no control at all.