Monday, May 27, 2013

Lines In The Sand

The Mallorcans will protest about anything. Many a bed sheet has been sacrificed in the name of marker pens and "No" to this or "Sí" to that. Photographic coverage of these protests follows a very familiar formula. The man or woman with the conch (the loudspeaker) holds his bellowing pose while to either side of him are (usually) small numbers of other protesters, enough though to hold a bed sheet or two.

One is tempted to think that Mallorcan protests, go great are their number, are the product of pent-up protest prohibition in the good old days when protests were frowned upon. It's a long time now, though, since the bubbles of bottled-up protest suddenly popped out of cavas of circumscription. You would have thought they would have got it out of their system by now.

Minor, futile even, does many a Mallorcan protest appear to be. But then perhaps, it isn't so futile. Perhaps it is the only way that voices can be made to be heard, that discontent be displayed in a land where the accountability of officialdom meets the layers of public administration responsibility or irresponsibility in generating frustration. Or perhaps people just like protesting.

Everything is subject to protest. Take beaches and their environs, for example, and three cases in point. One was the protest by the Muro townspeople who have holiday homes in what are the old church cottages in the enclave of Ses Casetes des Capellans. It was one of the more poignant of the protests. The bed sheets carried messages about Capellans being "for the children", a place for them to play, a place that was threatened (still is in theory) by the zealots of the Costas Authority who wanted to demolish cottages that had been built by the church years before the Costas had ever been dreamt of.

Whereas this protest was a popular one in that it was a people's protest, a second protest, also in Playa de Muro, that organised by land and property owners. It was also against the demarcation gestapo of the Costas who, twenty years or so after the old coastal law had been drawn up, discovered that some property in the resort crossed the demarcation lines. This was a protest of a different order as it wasn't a popular one. It wasn't a people's protest but a protest by business against the government. When land and property owners comprise names such as Iberostar, Grupotel, Viva and others, then the protest is likely to gain a great deal more attention than that by humble townspeople in Capellans. And it did. The Costas didn't retreat with its tail completely between its legs but its destructive desire to reverse the destruction of three decades or more in the past has been watered down to the point where the demarcation line is little distance from the water's edge.

So the message is that protest is more likely to get somewhere if business can tell its staff to all get themselves out on to the streets and make a grand show that might put government to shame. Which is pretty much what happened with the hoteliers protest in Playa de Muro. The little people, like those of Capellans, can also get somewhere because they are ordinary people and because they have right firmly on their side. As well as the town hall, which backed them to the hilt, as it had backed the hoteliers as well.

But then there is the protest which doesn't get the town hall onside, when the town hall is the object of the protest, and when the protesters' motives have to be questionable. Which brings me to the third beach-based protest, one over the weekend in Puerto Alcúdia. It could count on all of fifty or sixty people. It garnered support from opposition politicians (both leftist and Mallorcan nationalist) but it was arranged by the youth group Arran. This is the organisation that has changed its name from the Maulets, the Catalanist, independentist radicals. Its protest was levelled at the blue asphalt that has been plastered over the beach path, and the message was all to do with the destruction of Mallorca, blah, blah, blah.

I don't disagree with the sentiment of the message as I think the path looks awful, but it looks awful mainly because of its colour. Yes it's a shame that the path cannot still be eroded old stones, but few people, even those who don't like the path, argue that the path didn't need making properly usable. Arran's protest presumably had nothing to do with the fact that the town hall is dominated by the Partido Popular and that it represented the opportunity (and was therefore opportunistic) to hijack a a local controversy and use it for political aims. Were there a genuinely "popular" protest against the path, then the town hall might be shamed, and so it should be for having allowed such a hideous colour to be used, but it was not. Arran should take note of the ordinary people of Capellans; they know how to protest and to gain popular sympathy.

Any comments to please.

No comments: