OPINION Am I My Brothers Keeper?
For some moving to an island paradise they thought would be heaven all too often turns into their own privation version of hell. While the last temptation often proves a fleeting novelty for most, for others it becomes a one-way ticket to hard times and despair.
In the dark film classic Leaving Las Vegas the two lead characters have a telling exchange on the torrid journey to nowhere uttering "Is drinking a way of killing yourself? Or is killing myself a way of drinking? "
While sunny summer days are back and whether you are a fulltime or part time resident of Phuket it's hard not to take a left turn in conversation to talk the talk about some mutual friend, acquaintance or even looking at a passerby who's hit the skids. Of course you never make eye contact , but the image burns long and hard some nights, even to in the dark.
Taking a trip down the rabbit hole to the distant 19th century English Victorian society came to terms with their drunks and disorderlies. They became black sheep or remittance men paid to stay away on a permanent basis as the flying Dutchmen of their day.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about just such a man "he passed in retreat among the islands." These second sons took flight to America, Australia and in time to Asia. Somerset Maugham based his novel "The Moon and Sixpence" which was a loose interpretation of artist Paul Gauguin's intrepid self-destruction in Tahiti.
To cut a long story short history has more then it's share of both the triumphs and death rattles of those who move to foreign lands to create new beginnings or equally desperate ends. Perhaps we've gone a bit too far down the hole and need to come up for air.
Living in Thailand where the art of sabai and sanook go hand in hand, like some twisted lovers embrace the fact remains cheap booze at any time day or night, pills, and all manner of magic dust and powder is easily found and affordable.
It would be almost unimaginable to get into a casual chat with anyone here who hasn't seen, one, two, ten or more walking disasters. It doesn't happen over night, day, weeks, even years pass as you see someone unwind like a Cheshire cat slowing backing away from a roll of yarn gripped in its spiky claws. Soft and deadly as it were.
Taking a turn on the iPod with Neil' Young 'Tonight's the Night" where a desperate songsmith wails in angst over the true-life heroin overdose of Danny Whitten and another friend. Its best wrapped up tight as a package in "The Needle and The Damage Done" which express Young's own grief, sorrow and even more importantly guilt over being a bystander to the event.
The question I find myself these days is when you see someone who you know is headed in the wrong direction at what point do you step in, say something or take action? Is it intrusion, invasion of privacy, too personal or have I somehow become just a little bit apathetic to thing to think I could make a difference?
I grew up in wild times, booze, drugs and seeing more dawns then most people who work the nightshift. Looking back it's hard to imagine how I even made it through my teens and twenties.
It may seem odd but perhaps one of my divine saving graces is that ATM machines where not common then. Access to fast cash in the midst of a binge can only bring a bad kind of craziness and there are more of those cash dispensing monsters here then I even care to think about.
There's a saying in the Bible back of the rivalry between Cain and Able, the former answered when asked if he murdered his brother "I know not, am I my brothers keeper?" In a nutshell its come to symbolize a growing unwillingness to take responsibility for their fellow citizens of the planet or brothers as we all are.
It's a callous vindication or view, and when I take a long hard look in the mirror I've come to the conclusion speaking words that need to be spoken, being brave, acting with courage is what counts. Silence has no friends. So next time you come to the crossroad, and think should I say, do, or help; take the step as it may make all the difference in the world.
There remains little doubt that all of us are headed to that Day of Judgment, rebirth or nothingness, (depending on your particular beliefs) at the nearest available Wat. Death and taxes awaits all. And while David Lee Roth's finest moment can be summed up in that simmering Van Halen riff driven 'Runin' with the Devil," I'm going to try to run as long and hard as I can. I hope I can be my brother's keeper and that someone would do the same for me.
If you or someone you know needs help Phuket has local groups and people who can help. Alcoholics Anonymous T: 081-891-2895 E: [email protected] and Narcotics Anonymous T: 081-737-2246 E: [email protected]