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drinker, abstinence, abstain, vices, alcohol, rhythm, melody, spoken, word, expression, cannabis, oly, 'erb, Haile, Selassie, chastity, honourable, hair, palms, indulgence, self-fulfilment, lifestyle, judgment, African, misconception, cuss, nubian, queen, loins, honour

I’ve never been a drinker. Strange, in a world where the true test of manhood has been somewhat reduced to chapped lips and a liquid liver. Granted, I’m not being fair to the average drinker who only drinks alcohol in social occasions in very controlled surroundings. And very ironic considering that a large percentage of my daily life is spent studying the alcoholic interactions of the average South African man as a market researcher for one of the largest distribution companies in the country.

Okay, so the average drinker does not necessarily have chapped lips or a liquidised liver. But then again, in the same breath, neither is he the epitome of true manhood. So why does my own manhood come into question every time I politely decline an offer of the popular beverage of the evening? I suppose it could have something to do with the effortlessness of it all.

In my teens I used to hang out with my boys, and watch them down toxic dumpie after toxic dumpie while I sipped on a glass of Coke. There’s only so much Coke one can consume in one sitting, I don’t care if you are Shrek the ogre. However, with alcohol, there seems to be no ceiling until one passes out! I’m guessing that those sessions taught me a level of resilience and resistance not necessarily always associated with being a teenager. For some strange inexplicable reason, at the end of the session, when everybody went buck-wild, as it always turned out on such occasions - starting with bunking school and ditching the uniform halfway to the pub – I would always somehow end up acting the craziest of all my friends. And of course the next morning, I would be the only one left dealing with the guilt, as everybody else would claim total convenient amnesia.

Alcohol was not the only substance I shunned growing up. In the past couple of years, I managed to raise quite a couple of eyebrows, turning down offers for natural growing plants that just happen to have some effects when set on fire. I think at this point, it would make understanding the gravity of my refusal more accessible if I maybe attempt to put my associations in perspective. I am an artist. Pen and paper... Rhythm and melody… Spoken word and expression… Those are second nature to me. In the circles I find myself in, cannabis is but one step down from the throne of the Almighty. Regarded as the “’oly ‘erb” by people who do not even pledge allegiance to the red, green and yellow flag, and have not the slightest clue who Haile Selassie is. Their lack of knowledge is usually further testified by their dedication to eating meat mercilessly. Simply put, my abstinence is viewed as sacrilegious.

Recently, I took the proverbial “vow of chastity”. Granted, it’s only a temporary situation until I make an honourable woman out of the beautiful Nubian queen I have been blessed with. Although I don’t make a habit of announcing this to ever Tom, Dick and Harry, somehow conversations around me tend to tilt that way too often and usually end up in me trying to convince some poor sod that you can actually go through life without submitting yourself to the dictates of your carnal desires. What with the blood rushing to your head and hairs growing out the palms of your hands!

In a world where indulgence is preached from every pulpit of self-fulfilment, I suppose it is a bit unsettling to come across someone who makes a lifestyle of the contrary. I know I used to be intimidated every time I came across a nun or a man of the cloth who held on to seemingly extremist views of life. However, I’ve recently come to an appreciation of what it means for me personally to abstain. It is not an elevated platform from which I can look down judgmentally on the rest of the world. It is a personal choice… Scratch that…. A personal set of choices that I know work for me and have freed me to be the type of man I have always admired.

Granted the implications set me apart from most people I encounter daily, but as much as I’m not in a position to judge the multitude, could I please be respected for or in spite of my choices? How else are we to encourage a moral regeneration in our society if we ridicule anybody that embarks on a different route from the one frequently taken? How do we teach a more emergent generation that it’s OK to be different, while bashing everyone else who is different about the head with the rod of conformity?

I am an African by birth, a man by merit and an individual by choice. I refuse to live according to contemporary dictates. I refuse to be reduced to another stereotype. I refuse to contaminate and pollute my body and mind. I refuse to garnish my verse with a cuss just because it aligns me with a misconception of “coolness”. I refuse to be a living testament of black mediocrity perpetuated by both media and society, because I believe my people bear a burden of revolution such as the world has never seen before. I refuse to disrespect and bring disgrace to my queen simply because she carries generations, my descendants, asleep in her loins, waiting to be awoken at an appointed time that will not bring her or me into disrepute.

Yes, I’ve got my own vices that weigh me down because I am not perfect. I’m learning to deal with those too. They make me “me” for now. But they do not hold me captive. I am in the process of transforming into a vessel of honour. I am going somewhere with my life. I may not be exactly where I want to be, but I give thanks to the Almighty daily that I’m not where I used to be.
Published: 2008-06-18
Author: Tebogo Rameetse

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