I was amazed on Sunday to find an article in a local Palma newspaper, written by a journalist of long standing reputation on the island, in which he was talking about the general strike and the imminent general crisis. He seemed to be pleased to say that perhaps in that way the natives would be able to recover their rights, also quoting a former Majorcan politician, Tarabini, who said that the local Majorcans are treated in second place to the tourists. I think that they have both forgotten the old phrase, The client is always right and the newer Balearic Government publicity campaign that said A tourist, a friend. What are they thinking about? And I'm not talking about the time when it was visited by Chopin and George Sand or the Archduke Ludwig Salvatore. I'm talking about the sixties and early seventies when most of the summer waiters worked hard as builders' mates in the winter because there was no such thing as el paro (the dole). When my future sisterinlaw (thinking of my probable expensive British habits) told me not to get married to her brother if he wasn't earning at least 6.000 pesetas a month, some 36 pounds at that rate of exchange, and a figure she thought was astronomical. As a provincial secretary in England at the time I was earning 52 pounds and my husbandtobe was employed by a Scot on his yacht for the grand sum of 100 pounds, certainly not an amount paid on a local fishing boat. The tourists in Port Andratx had to pay through the nose, or so thought the locals, for cleaning ladies or at the hairdresser's, since the price range for tourists was double or triple that charged to the natives. Yes, noone minded the tourists coming then, and noone minded charging elevated prices, because for the tourists, those elevated prices were still much, much lower than going rates back home. But funnily enough, the natives treated the tourists with much more charm and friendship than is abundant nowadays. They showed genuine pleasure when familiar faces returned year after year or even several times a year. Visitors who returned brought presents and were good tippers, but this interaction as it is called these days, was a friendly give and take. Now we have cases of readers writing complaining about the cost of meals out. Fortunately we are no longer living in a country where a waiter is happy with only 6'000 pesetas a month. Wages have increased and so have social security payments, and rentals, and building, and the cost of materials, and raw products, and..... Majorca is part of Europe and who can expect to go to any part of Europe and find the cost of living so much cheaper than in another country? And which Majorcan can expect to be treated any different from the tourists? In fact, as a host nation for tourists, the Majorcans should be prepared to do their utmost to make sure that the tourists return, year after year, especially the same ones, but also the new ones.
War of words
While agreeing with just about everything Ray Fleming has written concerning the conflict in the Middle East, I think of myself as being on the side of peace and common sense, rather than as a supporter of Arafat and the Palestinian cause. When I or one of your other readers is blown out of the sky while on a long distance plane trip, our children can blame Mr Lee and all the other supporters of Israel who are urging Sharon to indulge in ever greater acts of savagery against a desperate people. Perhaps Mrs Blair will eventually be able to convince her husband and his friends in Washington and TelAviv that the inevitable result of their current policies will bring the violence closer and closer to those of us who, until now, have only read about it in our newspapers or seen its results on our TV screens.
The on-going battle between Mr Lee and Ray Fleming will hopefully now cease, it being a clear case where they should agree to differ. Mrs Blair's remarks, echoed by Ted Turner (owner of CNN) in a different vein, shows the diverse views on this tragic, continuous conflict. Some weeks past, a CNN reporter in Jerusalem was commenting on the latest events, and pointed out that the hotel he was staying in, the King David had an in-house video outlining its history, and in it proudly pointed out that at the time of Israel's bid for independence, the Israelis blew up the hotel, killing some 93 people, including British, Palestinians, Americans, and even Jews. That Begin was the most wanted terrorist at that time, and later became Prime Minister of Israel, makes one wonder if history is not just repeating itself, i.e. terrorist becomes freedom fighter evolves to statehood/Prime Minister or President. Acts of terrorism such as leaving explosive laden cars to explode when the individual is at a safe distance is all too common, as seen in Spain this week, IRA etc, but to actually blow oneself up is an entirely different story incomprehensible to most of us, but only underlining the sheer desperation of a people feeling totally oppressed, that this last resort is left to people who would rather die on their feet than live on their knees... as said during the Spanish Civil War. Israel, rightly or wrongly, will always be perceived as the bully in this conflict, with the tanks, gun ships, troops and armour against stone throwing youths and now a pitiful group of street fighters, and they have it in their power to make concessions, be less inflexible, to arrive at a peace. The alternative is more suicide bombings, and heaven forbid this escalates to a dirty bomb being used against Israelis. A peace will have to be arrived at, and better sooner than later.