When I was a kid, Africa was in. He-men loved it for the safari big game hunting, and liberals were sure it was going to be a huge success as soon as it decolonized. Now, everybody in the West just finds it depressing and tries not to think about it. So nobody here knows anything anymore about important topics like African family structures and the fact that women do most of the work in Africa, even though African ways of life obviously keep popping up to a noticeable degree among African Americans. But nobody in America is supposed to notice any connection between African American culture and African culture (the black blank slate theory -- African Americans suddenly emerged tabula rasa in 1619.)
Fortunately, here's a
sober on-the-spot account of daily life for some men in Southern Africa. P.J. Tobia reports from Malawi:
At first blush, this place seems gripped in pandemic suffering. A closer look reveals the true nature of southern Africa: It is a drinker’s paradise. Hundreds of miles of beaches with names like Monkey Bay and Candy Beach line the eastern coast of Mozambique and the enormous Lake Malawi, providing the perfect setting for canoeing, fishing, and drinking the hot days away. Homemade liquors and bottled beers are available at almost every roadside shack, some conveniently attached to rest houses where one can sleep off a particularly frightening bender in a cheap, clean bed. Pocket change will buy a round for the entire bar and, of course, the police have never, and I mean never, heard of a Breathalyzer.
Women do almost all the daily work in southern Africa: cooking, finding food, raising children, and tidying up around the hut, which leaves men free to spend the day pursuing more amiable interests, like drinking until they can barely stand or form sentences.
And because the possibility of finding a job is laughable and property ownership largely hereditary, there is no expectation that the people of this region become clock-punching cubicle drones or slaves to a mortgage. While they lack the amenities we Westerners couldn’t imagine living without—such as hot, clean water, electricity, or a life expectancy greater than 35 years—they do have the luxury of being able to relax with good friends and a few dozen drinks every single day of the year.
And, boy, do they drink. From the rooster’s first call to the hour when night descends—or until they collapse from drinking in the sun, which in that part of the world can burn like a death ray—Africa’s heaviest drinkers have it pretty good in both lifestyle and beverage selection...
No matter what you call it or how you make it, these home-brewed liquors are the respite of Joe Africa, not only allowing escape from the crushing poverty that defines his existence, but adding an opulence unheard of in the so-called modern world—the ability to consume alcohol guilt free, all day, every day.
This is not to say that everybody in the region is a dedicated boozehound. I met a lot of folks who never touch the stuff. Nice girls aren’t found in bars, and there are plenty of Muslims in Africa. But in some of the rural areas there is a multi-faceted culture of drinking that underscores life...
The best part about all of this is that these guys are able to sit around long enough to get drunk on a drink [millet beer] that has almost no alcohol content. For one thing, their wives know exactly where they are, whom they are with, and what they are doing, and don’t have a big problem with it...
In short, the drinkers of Africa have it made. Sure, they have no healthcare, the literacy rate is among the lowest in the world, and December through March is the “famine season,” but they can drink and hang with their friends pretty much all day... What rural African regions lack in material wealth, infrastructure, and modern conveniences, they more than make up for in drunken leisure time. Even in places where basic human rights are a fairly new concept, a culture of drinking prevails, bringing happiness to a long-suffering people...
Throughout southern Africa, people are able to lead the kind of lives that we in the West can only imagine. They drink as much as they like, as often as they like, and no one—save for the odd azungu [white] missionary—will say a word to object. Sure, they need more food and medicine, but we have both those things in abundance, and how happy are we?
Africa is not perfect. But to the drinking man, it comes pretty damn close.
My vague impression is that most parts of black Africa had access to some kind of alcohol going back several thousand years, so most blacks have evolved at least some resistance to the kind of catastrophic alcoholism that afflicts American Indians, Eskimos, Australian Aborigines, and other peoples whose ancestors had no experience with alcohol until the last dozen generations or so. I suspect, most blacks are similar to Northern Europeans in ability to handle liquor -- not as well adapted by natural selection as Mediterranean peoples who have been drinking wine for 10,000 years, but not as ill-suited as most New Worlders and Islanders.