Monday, July 01, 2013

See No Evil, Hear No Evil: Problems in paradise

The other day I was driving past Hidropark. Two local police officers were involved with a woman. I suspect I know why. In the past I have seen local police officers involved with other women. Around the Mile for example. The flower-lady pickpockets. They exist in many parts of Mallorca. They have existed for years in Alcúdia, but Alcúdia doesn't have the same scale of problems that other resorts do. It is neither Magalluf nor Playa de Palma. It isn't even Cala Rajada.

Last year there were any number of complaints in Cala Rajada about the drunkenness and antics of young German tourists. Cala Rajada doesn't usually rank highly in the "dark summer" league table, principally because it has fewer tourists than the Big Two, which vie with each other for dark summer champion dominance, and because it doesn't have the same history of summer darkness. But it is in the league nevertheless, as is Alcúdia.

And so even is nice, quiet, genteel Puerto Pollensa. It has its massage girls and its lookies. It has the local police and the Guardia meeting with the government delegate to the Balearics to discuss operations this summer to combat, among other things, the "venta ambulante" on the beaches. Another resort that is comparatively lowly placed in the summer darkness league table is Playa de Muro, heading ever more to the promised land of five stars and Russian tourism but, as was reported last year, plagued by similar problems to those on the beaches of Puerto Pollensa. 

I am not intimately familiar with every resort of any great size in Mallorca, but I would guess that every resort has similar issues to contend with. It is easy to single out the Big Two and brand them league leaders, but it is an ease that comes partly because of a longer history of problems, partly because of sheer numbers, partly because of a particular type of tourism.

Yet, as the complaints in Cala Rajada revealed last year, Playa de Palma is not the only resort where younger Germans congregate; those with lower net worth but with an abundance of Red Bull-fuelled energy to be spent on getting blind drunk.

"Bild" really has done everyone a favour. There are of course the deniers, but finally the message may just be getting through. It is revealing that, while the immediate aftermath of the "Bild" dark summer splash brought about the inevitable placing of fingers in the ears - "la la la, I can't hear you" - the ears, along with the heads, have now risen out of the sand and blinked through the formerly rose-tinted sunglasses of a looky-looky man and seen that paradise has been lost. 

For too long, the denial has been predicated on a paradisical blindness and deafness to see no evil and hear no evil. This blunting of senses, invaded only periodically and temporarily by the sight of blood and vomit on the streets and the wails of police and ambulance sirens, has induced a quasi-utopian world view, one stripped of a cognitive appreciation that a certain dystopia may exist. It has further induced the disbelief that the voracious Hannibal Lecters of a pap-sensation-seeking media can firstly exist and secondly lead lambs to the slaughter in the way they did in Magalluf.

A prescription for troubles in Playa de Palma is that the tourist profile needs to change. Get rid of the low-cost, low-net-worth, low-20s lumpendrunkenproletariat and all the problems will disappear. Like prostitutes. Really? Replace it with high-cost, high-net-worth, high-40s or 50s and the mugging whores may disappear, but in their place might well come the high-class hookers, hanging around the bars of the newly five-starred Playa de Palma. They would have no need to nick a mobile. Need a new iPhone? Your place or mine?

Tourism attracts crime. This is an unfortunate fact of life. Tourism attracts different types of tourist. This is a fact of tourism life. How does a resort remove its less desirable tourist elements? It doesn't, unless the tour operators remove them and unless local businesses refuse to pander to them.

Problems in the resorts can be both overstated and understated, but they cannot be dismissed. And nor can they be treated by indulging in blame games. There are those who should be exempt from blame. Local police forces, the Guardia, the emergency services; they are the heroes not the villains. They work according to their resources, according to constraints and according to political inertia, business priorities and an historical blindness and deafness - see no evil, hear no evil.

Any comments to please.

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