Worried about having him at home all day, tied to the screens and under the canopy of air conditioning, we convinced our son to sign up for an urban camp with his friends. The plan seemed unbeatable to us: a whole day between games and soaking in the pool in the company of his friends. It was only a week, to entertain the wait before going to the beach, but not even that lasted. Inadvertently paraphrasing a friend of mine on his way back from one of his childhood camps, he said: “I loved it, I never want to go back.”
What went wrong?, his parents asked us, while we drew lots who would have to turn off the video game console and suggest another analog activity with which to entertain themselves. What could have upset you? It wasn’t the pool or the company, certainly. They had to be, by force, the schedules and the programming. The camp marked a time to play and another to soak. As Ecclesiastes says, everything has its time under heaven. Fun within an order: you will not take a bath when you feel like it, but when the program establishes it (even if you prefer something else then). The essence of the camp is the control of the clock. From nine in the morning to five in the afternoon, the monitors schedule every minute, so that the expression “free time” becomes a paradox. What kind of free time is that subject to the dictatorship of a spreadsheet? There were no vacations there, but an extension of school by other means.
“On the beach and with honors / we buried the watches, / funeral for the alarm clock”, sings Vetusta Morla in Tower of Francea very fine and elegant evocation of the eternal summers of childhood of those of us who now wear forty-odd shoes. There are no holidays with clocks. The urban camp to which we enrolled the son not only forced him to get up early at the same time as school, but also prevented him from reaching that altered state of consciousness in which one is unable to figure out if it is Thursday afternoon or remember if it is already has eaten.
If you want to support the development of quality journalism, subscribe.
My son’s experience and the verses of Juanma Latorre, lyricist of Tower of Francethey enlarge the consciousness of what we have lost. Since I am self-employed, I do not have vacations as such (paid and with the peace of mind of knowing that they save your chair in the office). I only stop working—and billing—for a few weeks. I’m really lucky, I’m passionate about what I do (the alibi of enthusiasm, the philosopher Remedios Zafra would reproach me) and I don’t cheat at solitaire. I could live another life, but I chose this one and scratch his mange with pleasure. I could not forgive myself, however, that my son’s vacations were dwindling. Entire libraries have been written about how leisure time has turned into business and there are many jobs that require uninterrupted connection, but very few thinkers have addressed the effect this has on children, forced to keep up with their parents. who stumble from checking office email on their cell phones while going to the beach.
My son was able to excuse himself and stay home, escaping from the tyranny of camp time and appealing to complacent parents who consent to everything, but many of his classmates cannot because their parents have signed them up there so they can work. They don’t have grandparents or a town where they can spoil themselves, and when school ends they find themselves alone in a torrid city, with no other alternative than to extend the school routine without subjects. They are well cared for and are privileged to enjoy a camp that costs money that few can afford. There are other poorer kids who are disgusted in more uncomfortable ways, but children are not versed in social inequality: they only feel that the clock keeps running their lives, exactly like a Tuesday in February, and that that celebrated thing called vacation is a fiction.
We live in a world adultcentric (sorry for the word), where everything is measured by the effects that social phenomena have on adults. This includes debates on motherhood, centered on the figure of the mother and rarely on that of the son. An extreme example is in the way of narrating gender violence, where the vicarious category is spoken of when a father kills his children to emphasize that the ultimate object of this violence is the adult mother and not the dead children. Without going that far, it is enough to remember the merciless cruelty with which children were treated during confinement and how schools were the last redoubt of masks, when no one wore them anymore. Children are the caboose of a society that has expelled them from the streets and squares, where they no longer play ball or get lost exploring the city, and that is why what happens to them expresses much better what we all suffer. Social changes are manifested in them in a more eloquent way.
Pressured by overwhelmed parents, school courses end later and later and start earlier, leaving those three months of summer in just two. School review notebooks, which were once a punishment for clumsy students, have become widespread in the form of tasks, files and readings that each teacher leaves their students on the school’s digital platform, so that they do not disconnect from learning, and leisure of many vacation sites is now active, that is, measured, evaluated and controlled, and even the games must be educational and profitable or not. Wasting time, letting the clocks melt in the sun as in Dalí’s painting, and becoming dazed by the swaying of indolence are age-old sins of an age that has infected children with its hyperactive hysteria.
Today that eternal summer is impossible in which the buzzing of the flies mixed with the announcement of the stage of the Tour on a television set with the volume low, to allow a nap in the dark in the town house, in the camping or in the beach apartment. The family, social and work structure has changed so much compared to the eighties and nineties of the 20th century (and it is not necessary to resort to the thesis of Fairby Ana Iris Simón, to prove it) that sometimes we remember those vacations not so much as a whiplash of nostalgia, but as pinches of disbelief. The extended family (grandparents and cousins in the villages), mothers not working outside the home, and a strong sense of community that allowed for a carefree street child life were the leaven of an almost extinct summer mythology: the song of summer, the institution of the rodríguez, the empty cities and a feeling of laziness and relaxation of customs that are no longer enjoyed almost anywhere.
Rosa Belmonte says that Spain was one of the best countries to be poor in, because there were simple pleasures available to many who did not understand class differences. The eternal summers were powerful social equalizers. Millions of childhood memories are confused in that shared memory evoked by Juanma Latorre’s song that, little by little, has been fragmented, like the audience of the Tour, which is now lost on Netflix. The dream of social equality in Spain was shattered the day someone called wine mixed with soda a Tinto de Verano. When this commercial way of legitimizing a soft drink that was drunk without complexes or signs of identity became popular, vacations lost their character as a national experience and began to decline. With wine and soda, summer was a social communion, even social democratic. With Tinto de Verano it is an individual experience, a neoliberal save anyone.
Closing all of them at the same time for vacations, leaving only the basic services, the waiters, the musicians who play from town to town and perhaps a couple of interns who give news in the newspapers on duty, would be a beautiful way to recover a sense of time lived in common. Imagining something like this is impossible at a time when algorithms invent a fictional world à la carte for each person, citizens have been reduced to the category of clients and collective purposes have been replaced by short-term survival instinct. Perhaps if we take a look at those children with watches, worried about being on time for the surf and English classes that we have signed them up for on the beach so that they do not spend the day lounging around, we will understand that we are denying them nostalgia. of your future. None of those children without vacations will write verses like those of Vetusta Morla or sing them in a stadium feeling part of a common homeland. Perhaps they will never forgive us.
sign up here to the weekly newsletter of Ideas.
Subscribe to continue reading
read without limits