In our local park the other day a group of teenagers listlessly kicked a ball about until one youth noticed a portly old man shuffling along the path close by. Grinning at his chums he was on the point of aiming the ball in the pensioner’s direction when all of a sudden a furious male observer came running over, shook the boy’s arm and gave him an almighty earful. The elderly man tottered by blissfully unaware of the commotion while the teens hung their heads, mumbled apologies and quickly turned tail.
When I recounted the story to a Majorcan friend she smiled and said that the white knight had acted correctly and that she would have done the same. In fact she herself had apparently just taken a group of teenagers to task on a nearby street for dropping a can of coke on the pavement. She had marched the offenders to the nearest bin and lectured them on the importance of tidiness. Were they familiar to her, I wanted to know. She shook her head, explaining that whenever she observed a child or teenager acting loutishly or offensively, she wouldn’t hesitate to give them a piece of her mind.
I explained that in the UK both she and the gallant man in the park would probably have been arrested by the police and accused of child abuse or violating the youths’ human rights. She laughed her head off, explaining that in Spain the Guardia Civil would more likely applaud such vigilante behaviour. Later, in conversation with a group of local Majorcans, not one felt it morally right to walk away from a situation where young people were causing trouble. One even told me that he had deposited two drunken youngsters in a cab in Palma late at night when he saw that they were worse for wear. He didn’t know either of them and yet paid the driver to take them home.
The only time in London that I remonstrated with some rowdy teenagers for queue jumping, a friend grabbed my sleeve and told me to pipe down. She fretted that they might call the police accusing me of threatening behaviour or worse, that they could be carrying knives.
In truth I imagine many British parents would take issue with complete strangers daring to question the antics of their offspring in public but shouldn’t we be less squeamish about standing up to antisocial behaviour? I’m not suggesting taking the law into one’s own hands- after all there’s a world of difference between remonstrating with an offender and actually laying a hand on them. Surely a balance should be struck, allowing responsible citizens to castigate delinquents without reprisals from the police? If it works in Spain, I really can’t see why it shouldn’t work in the UK too.
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