When asked what he thought of western civilisation, Ghandi is reported as saying, ‘I think it would be a very good idea’.
It seems to me that William Golding was correct in suggesting that we are only moments away from inhumanity and chaos and there is a thin veneer of conformity and decency holding our society together.
I was one of 20,000 people stranded on Tenerife last week following the unprecedented volcanic ash cloud over UK airspace, and witnessed at first hand the breakdown of conventional decent behaviour by people who I guess would consider themselves normal in any other circumstances.
We were bagged, tagged and deported to a hotel on the day our flight was due to return to uk. On arriving at the hotel we were confronted with an almost tangible atmosphere of tension and menace.
Hundreds of holiday makers crammed in the hotel foyer, some drunk, some angry and some confused. Infants in parents’ arms, children, parents and pensioners struggled to establish personal space and make sense of the mayhem and rumours flying.
A woman who arrived with us went to the toilet and sat terrified as another hammered on the toilet door screaming ‘f*cking hurry up! How long are you going to be in there?’ while outside the lift, a man was challenging anyone to make eye contact with him – most definitely looking for a rumble.
During the week we were stranded I saw a young female holiday rep with a black eye. I saw a mob of parents screaming and jostling another rep. Later in the week I witnessed a pensioner swear at a rep so incessantly that the male rep broke down in tears. Almost daily I heard someone describe in detail the violence that would be unleashed on the holiday reps if only they could be found. There was no acknowledgment that the reps were sons, daughters, sisters and brothers of people like them, working under extreme stress in unprecedented circumstances
Ofcourse these adults were under a great deal of stress too. With limited funds, no sign of when they would return to UK, if they would still have a job, if their children would miss important school work, the prospect of mounting airport parking fees and in our case, a dog abandoned in a local kennel! And yet, unlike victims of hurricanes, floods, tsunamis etc. these people were safe, fed and had a bed each night – with barely a thought for the other families sleeping in the shopping mall, on the beach and even on the streets with their luggage and confused and frightened children.
A mother with her young child told me she was trying to contact her oncologist to establish the implications of having no medication left to treat her cancer. In the neighbouring hotel a young lad, paralysed from the neck down had run out of his bags of special food – and there were no supplies anywhere on the island.
In a moment of dark humour my 15yr old sprogg made the mistake of entering the hotel carrying AQA Biology Revision notes and a pen and was immediately ambushed by a group of people desperately trying to gain information about flights home.
‘It’s an absolute bloody disgrace. No one knows what’s going on’
‘Oh that’s terrible’ says sprogg
‘So, what you going to do about it? Are you Thompson?’
‘No, I’m Thomas Cook’ says sprogg and heads towards the lift.
Clearly it was inconceivable that anyone other than a rep would be carrying paper and a pen in that hotel..
So, I, like many others have now returned to work, enduring flippant comments that we’ve blagged a free week’s holiday with good nature. Holiday? I’ve seen the dark side of humanity – and they walk among us.
‘I should have thought that a pack of British boys… would have been able to put up a better show than that.’
– William Golding, Lord of the Flies, Chapter 12