The wild side

The events that have given Malia and Hersonissos on Crete, Faliraki on Rhodes and Cavos on Corfu a reputation for outrageous revelry are the result of a collision between youth’s eternal need to break free from society’s constraints and the ruthlessness of today’s tourism industrial complex. Young people from all over the world, but principally Britain, come to these places precisely because they want to let their hair down, to have fun without considering the consequences. Their hosts are more than willing to comply by creating a climate in which anything goes, including epic bar crawls, fellatio festivals and choruses of outrage when things get out of hand. There is nothing novel about these bacchanals, as Greece is the mother of the idea of orgiastic rejuvenation through submission to the fruit of the vine, ever since Dionysus came prancing out of the east with his demand that men and women occasionally let their wild side run free. In antiquity, travel – with its myriad dangers – was alleviated somewhat (or complicated further) by the fact that inns and taverns usually doubled as brothels. But few cities gained the reputation that Corinth, at the crossroads of East and West, did for entertainment of all kinds, especially sexual. It became a destination in itself, rather than a stopping-off point – the Las Vegas of its era. What is different today is not the exploitation of the reveler – that has always been the aim of the «hospitality industry» at its most primitive – but the sheer scale of the operation and the speed at which young tourists are deposited at the sites of their desired debauches, propelled along the conveyor belt of fun and consumption, and dispatched homeward without any experience of the country they visited. That is when things go according to plan and they do not get arrested for all manner of excess. In some cases things are worse: They may be injured or killed through substance abuse, accidents, brawls or crime. When things go awry, the fog of expedience clears and we all see the terrible dangers inherent in this kind of tourism. That is when we learn the names, the ages and the hometowns of the youngsters who came to our shores to celebrate life. Suddenly they are individuals and not just part of the anonymous mass that feeds itself into the grinder of budget package tours. There are not many such cases, if one considers that of the 3 million Britons who visit Greece annually, British consular officials have to deal with about 2,000 cases of their nationals getting into some form of trouble. But it is still unacceptable that so many young people should need assistance. Obviously, too many people involved in bringing the tourists here and providing the drinks, food and entertainment for them are not placing enough emphasis on their well-being – from the travel agents who promise hedonistic extravaganzas to the barkeepers who pump poison into their drinks, to those who do not warn the tourists of the dangers entailed by abandoning all restraint, not least of which is the loss of their insurance coverage at the moment they need it most. It is encouraging that today an effort is being made to make visitors aware of the need to stay within certain bounds of behavior. But, as we all know, revelry leads to a loss of restraint even in the most sober minds. The only way to ensure that all that’s left to deal with the next morning is a hangover is if those who are responsible for taking care of the visitors are policed to the extent that they fully honor their obligation to provide hospitality.