Saturday, August 10, 2013

Conspiracy Of Silence: The "Stern" report

"Stern" is a German magazine. It isn't sensationalist but nor is it über-serious or über-important, like "Der Spiegel".  But like other German publications and media, "Stern" takes an interest in Mallorca which goes beyond the mere holiday angle. Mallorca to the Germans is almost a separate state.

In 2002, "Stern" laid into attitudes on the island which had caused a deterioration in the island's image as a tourist destination. Singled out for criticism was the tourism minister at the time, Celesti Alomar, who had uttered the infamous words - "cheap tourists are no longer wanted in Mallorca". The German consul was so put out by this that he reminded Alomar who it had been who had enriched the island; those "cheap" tourists of whom he had been dismissive.

Alomar was an example, as was Maria Antònia Munar, then at the Council of Mallorca, of a Mallorcan politician who, with their insensitive remarks about "cheap" tourists, totally failed to appreciate the link between the mass of tourism in Mallorca and cost.

And Munar is one who gets a dishonourable mention in the latest "Stern" study of Mallorca. She is referred to as having belonged to a "highly corrupt political caste", corruption being just one theme that "Stern" has chosen to feature in its current edition. The cover of the magazine tells you what to expect: "Mallorca, the dark side of the holiday island". Under the heading "the Mallorcan brand", the leader says that "behind the facade" is "a great mass of misery, criminality and despair".

The report itself, across ten pages of the magazine, features desolate urban scenes in Palma. There is a photo of a drug user, taken, it is said, after a visit to a drug supermarket in the shanty town of Son Banya. There is a photo of a queue for a soup kitchen. You can count around forty people in the queue, but you can't see where the queue ends.

A doctor in Calvia is quoted as saying that "this is an island of problems". He wishes to remain anonymous. The misery being as it is, "important people do not want it to be spoken about". This is one of the more striking observations made by the three journalists responsible for the report. A further one is this: "Business and justice on the island are closely intertwined. There are twelve families who exert significant influence. A quip goes thus - 'Mallorca is Sicily without the guns' ".

It would be revealing to know who these twelve families are and who the important people are, as these two observations allude to conspiracies of silence which demand that as little as possible is said that might harm Mallorca's paradise image and the interests of important people and important families.

In truth, there isn't a great deal in the "Stern" report that one doesn't already know. Drugs, violence, prostitution (reference is made to Arenal as opposed to Magalluf), lack of credit, poverty and the enormous and widening gap between rich and poor. They are known about.

I look through this report and it is as if it has collated things about which I have written over the years. It is not a report into the sensationalist goings-on in resorts like Magalluf. It goes much wider, considering education "it is not an investment, it is considered a waste" and innovation, or the lack of, "you become rich through nepotism and cunning not through innovation".

The report starts by painting a picture of this paradise island and of obscene wealth before revealing the darker side. It ends by considering the paradise that is enjoyed by one wealthy German businesswoman, Heidi Warth of the Mallorca Gold estate agency. It says that she still enjoys the good times, selling Mallorca's crown jewels, but that she has moved her assets to Zürich, fearing a Cyprus may occur, and she complains about a Mallorcan unwillingness to really change anything. She says that the quality of life is unlike that anywhere else but that it is only on the surface; "otherwise it is cruel".

This conclusion is perhaps the most astonishing part of the report. Here's a purveyor of the paradise image who has done very nicely out of it but who admits to the island's superficiality. Beautiful island but a suffering island; the beautiful people who are shallow people. I can already hear the sound of ranks being closed, of righteous, self-delusional denial. It is a report that is less revealing than the magazine might believe, but it is a report, nevertheless, that local media would be most wary of compiling. It contains truths, ones which, because of the conspiracy of silence, are too rarely confronted with honesty. 

Any comments to please.

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