02202019Wed
Last updateFri, 15 Feb 2019 10am

Columns

Bursting the bubble of living in paradise

Starry-eyed newcomers at lakeside often think they’ve discovered paradise on earth. Sooner or later they confront some kind of reality check.

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It may be finding out that winter here, such as it is, can be miserable in houses with no central heating, or that cobblestone streets lose their charm with the first stumble and twisted wrist or ankle. Perhaps it’s assimilating that not everyone in a Spanish-speaking country is fluent in one’s native tongue.  Or realizing that real estate prices fluctuate according to supply and demand, not what your budget allows.

The worst kind of disenchantment comes when you, someone close or even a stranger becomes the victim of crime, as happened this week with the tragic murder of a quiet-living Canadian resident (see story page one).

Without downplaying the gravity of such an unfortunate incident, let’s bear in mind that the gentlemen is not the first immigrant to meet a violent end here. He likely won’t be the last.

If you think the community has suddenly succumbed to a public security crisis, look back seven or eight years ago to when the populace was trembling over a succession of burglaries and violent home invasions, the homicides of several foreigners and drug gang warfare in the streets that included the abduction and slaughter of innocent citizens.

That distant reign of terror raised public outcry: demonstrations, peace marches, public meetings with authorities, neighborhood watch initiatives and so on. It spawned the Community Security Initiative (CSI), a grassroots movement to establish a united citizen-government front against crime, wrapping in the launch of an anonymous tip hotline, fund-raising to better equip the municipal police force and an effort to recruit residents for Guardian Angel squads to help patrol the streets. The entire project fizzled with the change of local government a few months later.

Back then, one determined woman set up a website dedicated to disseminating detailed first-hand crime reports from victims. It was a useful tool, brilliantly organized to stick strictly to substantiated facts that were classified by geographic locations so people could easily gauge what was going on in their own neighborhoods. The crime rate dropped significantly, reporting dried up and the webmaster eventually closed shop.

More recently, Facebook and other electronic grapevines have become the go-to channels for promptly getting out word of criminal activity and imminent dangers. Unfortunately, these sources for real-time information have also opened avenues for unchecked blathering, unfounded speculation and occasional crackpot ideas.

Over the past week some posters have suggested we should all arm ourselves to the teeth and engage in vigilante justice. Others predict that we are now prone to the mass exodus of expats and collapse of the area’s economy.

Whoa! How about we all stop and take a deep breath? Putting everything into perspective, remember that bad things can happen to good people almost anywhere on our troubled planet. Fear-mongering never changed demographic or criminal trends here in the past, and probably won’t do so now.

Our best bet is to practice sensible safety measures, let the authorities do their job, show compassion and solidarity with those who grieve and just get on with our lives.