In a civil works move that is nothing but pragmatic, Amsterdam has begun harvesting alcoholic folks to clean streets. According to Nicolas Delaunay at The Huffington Post, this program gets alcoholics out of family friendly public spaces and fulfilling their duty to a cleaner, prettier city. Only problem is, their payment consists of ten euro, rolling tobacco, and beers (that they receive throughout the day, even in the morning). This is definitely not a workable plan in the many places (States included), and even though it seems to function in Amsterdam, the long-term morality of the scheme is in question.

The States is definitely harsh on its alcoholics, treating them like a scourge unto society that must be super cleansed. They are viewed as problematic people and are brought in for AA meetings, rehab sessions, and all sorts of things (intervention!).

Alcoholism in Amsterdam

This of course demonizes the substance (taking other drugs with it, of course) and makes an enemy of any state other than sobriety. Being an alcoholic leaves you one option, and that is to get clean or else. But in this new Dutch system, at least an alcoholic can be given an opportunity for the betterment of an urban environment that would otherwise shun them. The morality, at least in its idealist terms, of the plan checks out, but some of the mechanisms that run this machine are wacky.

Snatching up alcoholics and utilizing their bodies for grunt work is helpful in ideological terms, as it gives them a purpose beyond the drink, but a problematic piece of this puzzle is their payment. Yes, by regulating their intake of booze (the heads of the program assume drinking as a truth in this matter and decide to regulate as opposed to eliminate) they are keeping the addiction under control, but the alcoholic impulse is still there. Bottom line: drinking a lot is unhealthy for the body, and regulating alcoholic consumption only slightly lessens a problem that should be dealt with as opposed to mining its people for work.

I understand the noble idea of giving alcoholics purpose, and changing their image into helpful citizens instead of binging nuisances in public parks and what not. But this may serve to actually dehumanize them more, and act as a shrugging off of the problem.

Some of the newly appointed workers say that the system is well-needed structure, while others say that they still drink the same amount, saying those ten euro go straight to the supermarket liquor departments. Whatever the reaction, the hope would be to slowly help people under the spell of alcohol to see the value of work and the rewards of being sober, not for sobriety’s sake (don’t do it for organizations that preach it to you) but for the utility of uninhibited brain function. I’ve never experienced alcoholism, but I’ve seen people post-trauma and they’re generally ecstatic once they can have a day clear of the burning desire for booze.

So the idea should work in finality, as long as original intentions stay above “well, we need to get rid of these folks” and remain “lets help them out and integrate them so everyone is happy forever.” I’d love to see this done in the states; it’s too bad that we’ve demonized almost every kind of person out there, including the people Amsterdam have found the heart to include in their integral urban activities.

One Comment

  1. I like this idea a lot. Gives people that have serious addiction problems a chance to do something with their lives. Overtime the right agencies can get in touch with them and try to overturn their problems rather than them being outcasts to the world.