Friday, February 21, 2014

Public Safety Going Too Far?

Public health and safety in Mallorca can occasionally appear to be an alien concept. It is a lament of old-timers of the island that in the good old days there was no health and safety; there again, where health was concerned, cholera used to be popular. But if it is still possible to set fire to yourself without too much difficulty on numerous occasions and if industrial alcoholic intake is expected at fiesta time, when town halls issue decrees related to health or safety, these decrees can seem somewhat contrary not to say hypocritical.

Pollensa town hall is currently hard at it, beefing up public safety and what is called "co-existence". It spent the whole of yesterday posting snippets of its latest decree to its Facebook page, explaining how co-existence will from now on be even more co-existent than it had been previously. The decree doesn't dwell on matters such as setting fire to yourself but it does deal with alcohol and the extreme dangers to public health that are posed by unauthorised sporting contests.

This outburst of co-existent correctness has not found favour in all quarters. The decree from on low at the Calvari attacks "normal" activities and is prohibitive, say opponents. Indeed, the various clauses that found their way on to the town hall's FB spoke of little other than "prohibido" (in a Catalan stylie of course). But what, pray, are (or maybe were) "normal" activities? One, so opponents of the ordinance would maintain, was for masses of people to gather for the purposes of drinking alcohol together. And, from time to time, masses do gather for this purpose. It is sometimes known as the "botellón", the street drinking party favoured by young people. Not that the decree specifies the botellón; one just has to assume that it is one among various "normal" activities where alcohol is imbibed by the masses.

The guardians of "normal" activities are staging a day of normal activities tomorrow in defence of this co-existent normality which is about to be quashed by the heavy hand of the issuers of the decree at the town hall. In addition to objecting to the outlawing of the gathering of vast groups of drunks, they are also opposing the threat to whole sporting competitions that are staged without authorisation. One poster highlighting this prohibition shows a solitary runner accompanied by a legend which suggests a fine of up to 750 euros. Somehow, one suspects that this is not what the town hall has in mind. In addition to its regular use of the prohibit word it does also make liberal use of the mass word. One bloke out running does not constitute a mass. Or maybe he does.

The problem, though, lies with the m-word. How many people make a mass? Though I'm struggling to think what the town hall is referring to with regard to unauthorised sporting competitions, an interpretation of mass could apply to beach volleyball, beach football or beach rugby. These all involve a mass, admittedly not an enormous mass but a mass nevertheless. And these are "normal" activities. The opponents may have a point.

Then there is the crackdown on unauthorised street music. There is no mass requirement for this to be an offence, as it could be a one-man band. A busker, let's say. Do buskers threaten co-existence or public safety? One fancies that they don't.

Anyway, just to let you know that if you're in Pollensa tomorrow and see gangs of drunks wandering around with bottles in carrier bags or if you are bowled over by whole squads of beach rugby players or even one bloke out running, don't be alarmed. These are "normal" activities. But for how much longer?

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