In this VICE documentary, host Thomas Morton travels to Uganda to investigate the culture of drinking particularly with regard to the local drink of choice Waregi or "war gin". I tried not to make any initial judgment calls about the host but something about his trendy plaid shirt, skinny jeans and thick rim glasses that had a certain imperialistic vibe.
Waregi is a very strong yet smooth moonshine make from distilled bananas or (in the case of industrialized zones) "factory-reject sugar cane". It was introduced by the British as something of a 'liquid courage' for the British-Ugandan forces. Eventually, the drink was enjoyed by resistance forces that fought against the British. The drink stuck and has become a common part of society. As the show notes, per capita Uganda is the heaviest drinking country in the world.
This show was only thirty-five minutes long, so I couldn't expect it to delve into the historical significance of Waregi and its societal impact but I would've liked it if Morton focused on one topic. He dabbles at Ugandan politics, village life, city life, how to make waregi and what results is a rather negative generalization of the country.
As I mention, Morton has an imperialistic vibe. I hesitate to call him "elitist", at least, an intentional elitist but there was definitely a sense of superiority that came from his commentary. For example, when leaving the small village, he describes that a normal day consists of "Everybody gets out of work. Everybody lets their worries wash away in a stream of waregi. Somebody kills a goat. Then the day is over and you start anew the next day." The goat part is where I have my beef.
I have never seen a goat slaughtered before my eyes, but I don't think the ideal response is to say, "Is this dinner? I see..." then to look at the camera and add, "Oh lord...kinda isn't a VICE party until something dies." It is this kind of tone that creates a sense of cultural hierarchy. It is just food. I'm sure that goat is treated better than the food Morton eats; it isn't like they are keeping it in a small cage for its life then killing it. If I had a nickel for every travel show which has the host petting the food before patting his/her full stomach, I'd be rich.
The focus moves away from examining this 'phenomena of waregi' to gawking at this drunken crude culture. Never mind the fact that these people use the alcohol to send their kids to school or the effect waregi has on the younger generation (they are drinking too, after all).
A similar sentiment comes when describing the red-light district of the nearby city, Morton says, "It's sort of like Britain's lasting legacy...instead of rum, sodomy and a lash, you have gin, no sodomy and hookers". This is his last line, his summary of his experience with an entire country. What results is a program that initially states the presence and cultural significance of waregi, we are not particularly shown this. What we are shown are images that denigrate Uganda with little help from the host.