Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vive La Différence: It's all in the mind

"They come and expect a load of money. They work one day, and then the next, they can't be bothered to get up. They've been out till late, at a club or somewhere. Drinking or, you know, other stuff. Tell me, how many make a success of their businesses? Only a few. It's the mentality. That's the problem."

Fancy taking a guess as to who this is about and who said it?

Give up? Then I'll tell you. It was a Mallorcan who said it, and he was talking about the British and specifically British business owners. The mentality is one, I have to presume, of idleness and a proneness to hedonism before graft.

I did argue the point, but it wasn't really worth it. Once the mind is made up, it is made up. One, two, maybe three examples from the past that fit the argument, and the argument is won. That's how it works. From small examples, whole generalisations are made. Mallorcans do it. The British do it. We all do it. I can turn the argument around, cite examples of exactly what he was complaining of in the British and apply them to Mallorcans. But what would be the point?

It was unfair. Yes, there probably are, in fact I know there are, cases that confirm his argument, but I know an awful lot of cases which don't. Bar owners (and this was really all about bar owners) may not be making massive successes of things at present, but they are doing ok, working long hours, not going to clubs. Who can honestly say they are making massive successes of things just now? Mallorcans included, especially the ones who complain endlessly of the effects of the "crisis" and all-inclusives.

Why did this even come up? It was apropos of very little. Just going off on one. Or maybe it was indicative of something more deep-seated, more inclined not to usually be stated. And if it was, then it raises a question. What do the Mallorcans really think about the British? Not tourists so much as the British who live in Mallorca and especially those who make their livings in Mallorca.

From one example, I could make a case for saying that they don't rate the British very highly. But this would be to fall into the generalisation trap. The answer to my own question is that I have no real idea.

I have been trying to figure it all out, though. Was this outburst somehow representative of a tendency that has been perceptible over the recent past of crisis? One of a closing of Mallorcan ranks, one that has not been entirely surprising as a reaction to difficult times? But even if it were, it still doesn't explain the outburst. If a business owner, British or anyone, decides not to work hard and to not make a success of his or her business, then why should a Mallorcan care? Unless they're expecting the rent to be paid perhaps.

Is it that there is a more fundamental division? While plenty of British people have "crossed over" through marriage or through business partnership, while there are plenty of British people who have been so long on the island that they even speak Mallorquín, are the British a breed apart? If the answer to this is yes (and it almost certainly is), then it raises, and hardly for the first time, the whole issue as to how well or not the British integrate.

Yet, integration is a largely illusory state of being, especially for more recent comers, assuming you can actually define integration adequately, and I defy anyone to do so, given a contemporary society in which communications, media and other factors conspire to maintain and reinforce cultural, linguistic and social differences rather than break them down.

Ghettoisation exists not just in a physical way through proximity. It exists through social contact and, as importantly, in the head. It's for this reason, more than any other, that integration is such a specious concept. Barriers reside through a state of mind. My Mallorcan friend was right in one respect when he referred to mentality.

But of course, the reverse applies. The indigenous population is its own ghetto of supremacy, a state that was alluded to in Guy de Forestier's definitive "Beloved Majorcans", and one that exerts supremacy over mainlanders and the British and which has recaptured its resonance recently, following the years of encroaching cosmopolitanism. Mallorcans, obviously, have no need to go native, because they already are. And like any native population, they assume the birthright of primacy, just as the British do in their own land. And their own mental and social ghettoes are those of looking after their own. 'Twas ever thus, wherever you care to think of.

Own land, foreigners in a foreign land. Is that what this was all about? Maybe. Vive la différence? Is there long life to difference anywhere? Probably not.

Any comments to please.

No comments: