Thursday, June 26, 2014

Organised Irresponsibility: Students on holiday

It is quarter past one on a midweek morning. A security guard gets into his car and drives off. He had been hanging around for an hour or more. Long enough to have seen the police car drive past, turn round and go. Now he has also gone. Meanwhile, the noise continues.

On Facebook, Shaggie, he of Shagalluf, posts something under the title of "Calvia council stop fooling yourselves". He is referring to "havoc" being caused by some 2,000 Spanish kids along Magalluf's strip. His post would be something which I would normally notice with only passing interest. But I take much closer interest than normal. He talks about the absence of police and about underaged kids out on the streets at night.

Spanish kids are like kids anywhere. There is a misguided notion, one typically held by a category of expatriate who is not in touch with the realities of the streets or the resorts, that Spanish kids, unlike their British counterparts, are incapable of misbehaving, getting drunk or creating noise or havoc. There are degrees of noise and havoc, granted, but let's nail the canard once and for all. Spanish kids can asbo along with the kids of other nations. And why not? They're kids.

Perhaps mercifully I was never part of a small invasion force of hundreds or thousands of my peers. There weren't organised student holiday tours back in the day. Not of the type there are now. They come from the mainland. They are packaged according to educational type. There is the holiday for kids at secondary schools celebrating the end of the summer term; the holiday for kids at the end of their Baccalaureate; the holiday for university kids (aka adults). There are those who are under age in that they are not eighteen; those who are eighteen or older. Thousands of them. In different resorts. Magalluf, Arenal, Alcúdia.

Quarter past one in the morning. The noise has been going on, as it has over successive nights, from around midnight. It is noise of shouts, screams, chants, claps, firecrackers. The noise of the botellón, the mass drinking party. The noise that could be expected from hundreds of kids. They come in waves, just as the noise comes in waves. It rises, it falls.

This is Bellevue in Alcúdia. Where else. On its outer limits the majority of the students - Baccalaureate ones, the elite ones - are housed in specific blocks of this vast holidaymaking campus. They are not alone. There are other tourists. Nearby there are the residences of the Siestas. 

Alcúdia has local ordinances, just as other towns have ordinances. Since the time that it became an "eco-tourist" resort in the 1990s (a pioneering concept), it has adopted measures for environmental protection, of which noise pollution is one. Alcúdia abhors noise, especially noise after the midnight curfew. In theory.

Yet, there is no curfew in Bellevue. Not a curfew of movement, of association, of gathering. Not a curfew of size of gathering. Not a curfew of noise. Quite the opposite. This is noise organisation. From midnight, there is the sound of the multitudes. It growls like thunder, crashes like thunderclaps, bombarding the steamy night air. The sound of the students gathering for the coaches which come and go in convoy until two in the morning. The sound of the Baccalaureate asbos.

"Convivencia" is a word in Spanish which means co-existence. It is one which is used widely. It is used in legal terms, in moral terms and in terms of responsibility. Convivencia is all but a part of the nation's Constitution. It is a theoretical concept, one often breached in practice. Its application is devolved to institutions of government and to representatives of commerce. Its intention is social harmony. Mutual respect. Living together. Co-existence.

What destroys convivencia is not students enjoying their holidays. The destruction comes from a lack of institutional responsibility, a failure in duty of care, an absence of accountability and of admission. It is not just institutions of local government - Calvia, Alcúdia town halls, for example - it is also commercial organisations, such as one driven to create occupancy of a vast complex that would, in late June, otherwise have to face occupancy of well under 50%, just as it currently has to for mid-July. The commercial need dominates. Business comes from wherever business can come from. Even if the late-night organisation of this business shatters the desired calm of convivencia. The truth is that no one gives a damn, no one could care less at town halls or in business. They, those who decide, who grant permission, who book, who organise, never see or hear. They never hear the noise. They are blind to the consequences. They are the ones who are responsible, but ultimately irresponsible.

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