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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Alcoholism in Eastern Europe

I'm sure some readers will take issue with my analysis here, but that's fine by me. This is opinion: just a stab at pinning down the facts.

From my continued conversations with Romanians over alcoholism, it seems apparent that the corrosive forces of materialism and anti-spirituality have devastated Eastern Europe from the Carpathian Mountains to the east end of Siberia.  That's not to say that alcoholism was unheard of before Communism, but Communism succeeded in aggravating the problem and amplifying it to such a degree that it is destroying the people... literally.

First, let's look at the comment posted by one of our Romanian readers:

Well, being from Romania, I can tell you that right after the revolution in 89, which replaced the communist regime with the democratic regime (as it's become very clear nowadays), all that people were being taught to want through tv were tropicana juice, american cigarettes and Dallas episodes. This became a religion very quickly and exponentially expanded to more products and tv shows. It was no wonder that when I went to a summer camp in Canada, the other children were amazed at how well I knew their cartoon culture. A couple years later I actually moved to Canada and it only took about a year of high-school and you almost couldn't tell the difference between me and the local kids. Looking back though I realize how crazy this actually was and how easy it was to manipulate people right after the revolution. I now live back in Romania, and see the results after 20 years of "democracy". Many people left the country for the western locations they saw on tv, the locals have become very disconnected from their own country, the local environment and resources are largely disrespected, a huge percent of the population smoke and drink, and the rich and corrupt have taken full advantage by stealing and selling the entire country (literally). Sorry, for being off topic, but this is a very unhappy example of what our world can and sometimes does become. And now the "government" gets to act like something from an Orwell novel, but that's probably yet another story with deeper and more evil roots. 

Romania and other nations behind the Iron Curtain were indoctrinated in Marxism, which held that man's only drives were materialistic in nature:

"The ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought." —Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. 1. 

For Marxism, the material world is all that exists.  Therefore, all solutions to all problems lie solely with man's relationship with the material.  Want to solve the world's problems?  We are told that all we need to do is 'distribute wealth.'  Once people have 'enough' material necessities and comforts, human problems such as war and oppression will cease.

In his book Envy: a theory of social behavior (, Helmut Schoeck theorized (in the 1960's) that Communism would fail because it refused to take into account human drives such as envy, which take hold of people even in the midst of great wealth.  Now, I am not saying that letting people starve is moral or condone-able, but I am saying that wealth alone does not solve the problem of human happiness.  Nor does it entirely feed the hungers of the human heart.  This is why we in the West, despite our opulence, have so much personal misery as to need drugs and other addictions.

In Romania, Communism was replaced with a type of Capitalism that was still entirely materialist.  Communism relied on materialism as a form of social control: the state regulated what you could or could not have, and so you came to cooperate with the state if you wanted anything (that includes food and freedom).  People under Communism wanted the same things people in the West wanted, and the collapse of Communism only made getting those things easier.

The problem now is that the people have access to more material goods, but like their counterparts in the West, are disappointed with the results.  Communist officials from 20 years ago are still turning the system for their own good as officials of the new regime.  Communist taught people to sneak around the system in order to fulfill their basic desires and now they are doing the same thing.  Corruption and systemic violence are part of the norm in the East.  Romania has made some inroads in curing this, but the biggest problem, alcoholism, is only starting to be addressed.

That's because the Church as of yet has not really begun to attack the premise of materialism.  Mind you, the ROC has never utterly caved to it, but from years of oppression, only now are Church leaders ready to attack the matter straight on.

Materialism and addiction are tied together: both lack any spirituality, and both see benefit only from immediate gains.  Both the materialism and the addict will sacrifice tomorrow for today, whereas the spiritual person sees today as part of eternity.

Wherever you have materialism, you have misery: abortion, dissatisfaction, fear of lack, etc.  Alcoholism has always been an easy 'medicine' for these problems, which is why Communist leaders never made a sustained effort to sober their people up.  Keeping them drunk keeps them from asking for more of anything else.

We in the West are not that much better off.  We are entertaining ourselves to death.  We consume porn, drugs, and food in record amounts.  Now, even our economies can no longer bear the strain.  There needs to be a change.

We all must examine the deeper reaches of the human heart, the hungering of man's spirit for something more profound.  It is this drive that pushes man into addiction, but also draws him out into sobriety.

The thirst for God can only be quenched in the well of the Church.  And so, the Church must proclaim the existence of the Living Water, who is Christ, not just as a religion, but a living experience.

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