Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Insecurities Of Mallorca

What do expatriates worry about? Do they share similar concerns to the natives? Were you to present an expat with a diagram that shows him or her at its centre surrounded by crises of basic rights, politics, socioeconomics and lack of social cohesion, would any of it be of any obvious concern? Or would any of the further issues within these "crises" be of concern - the provision of services (education and health, for instance), poverty, the devaluation of democracy and corruption?

I am referring to a diagram produced by the Mallorcan research organisation, Gadeso, which forms the basis for a survey it has conducted into uncertainties and insecurities felt by people in the Balearics (when it says insecurities, it is referring to a feeling of insecurity, e.g. through employment worries, but more to feeling unsafe). Of its 900 respondents, one would have to presume that few if any are expatriates. Why would Gadeso ask expats? Would they show any interest or concern?

It is easy to brand the expat class as being indifferent, but this is a generalisation, albeit one with some justification. Expats (and I'm primarily referring to British ones) fall into different categories, of which one is undoubtedly the indifferent one, but to apply this branding across the board would be wrong. By the simple expedients of talking to people and the gathering of intelligence from social media, one is aware of uncertainties and insecurities that are not far removed from those identified in the survey once one gets to its nitty-gritty.

What are the situations which generate insecurity? They include offences against people and property, petty crime and street prostitution. What are the principal causes of insecurity? Lack of police presence and vigilance, unemployment and unstable work, laws and the judicial system. What are the main solutions to this insecurity? Modification of laws, increase in policing numbers and effectiveness, reduction in social inequality, measures to provide youth employment, changes to the educational system.

All of these are listed in the survey and all of them have increased in terms of the percentage of respondents identifying them. Over the past five years, the sense of insecurity has, according to the survey, risen alarmingly. Some of it might be attributable to economic crisis, but it would be wrong to conclude that it can all be.

Expatriate responses, were he or she to be asked the same questions, would, I would suggest, reflect their own package of circumstances - financial, social, work, location and so on. For the expat down Magalluf way, as an example, there is plenty in this survey which matches what has been said over the past months about the resort - lack of policing, petty crime, prostitution, need to modify laws - and judging by the amount of coverage these get, one would conclude that they have increased as expat concerns as markedly as they have for the survey respondents.

But one makes this conclusion through a process of extrapolation and some assumption and not on a more scientific basis. The fact is that we know very little about what expats think, about their insecurities, uncertainties and concerns. We know of some which are a long way distant from those of the survey but which are, in truth, inconsequential. Getting into a lather over a residence card is hardly in the same category as corruption, lack of effective policing or prostitution. But even were there to be a more scientific approach to unearthing these worries, the results would probably be very uneven. For some, there are few worries, save for the reporting of assets. There is the expat real world and there is the expat unreal world. Two or more worlds divided as greatly as Mallorcan society is divided and has grown in its lack of social cohesion.

Expatriate generalisation, driven to no small extent by an often wilfully prejudiced British media, is full of fallacies, but certain generalisations, even if they have been twisted somewhat, can cut to the bone because they expose some truths. Yes, I remember that "Daily Mail" article well. The Portalsisation of Mallorcan expat life, one might have called it. But it is world away from the other expat worlds, ones in which issues contained in the survey might be just as applicable - unstable work, poverty, drug addiction. Other worlds that do not revolve around the beautiful people and the need-to-be-seen and which are essentially humdrum in the sun and are concerned principally with pensions or the effects of all-inclusives on their bars: the everyday expats.

Whatever concerns the expat may or may not have, will he or she take notice of the concerns expressed in the Gadeso survey? Some will, some won't, but the increase in insecurity that the people of Mallorca has identified, combined with low levels of satisfaction as to its handling (be it through laws, by the police or other agencies) is something with which everyone should be concerned.

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