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Paroxysm of the escape in the appearance and the superficial of a society which does not make sense any more, the island of Ibiza became in some decades a symbol of party and freedom. This myth of the « Isla Blanca », however, is based on an illusion that ignores everything that makes it possible.
In this way, Ibiza offers itself as an interesting object of study whose lessons can help us to better understand our society in general(1).

After a train journey of more than 12 hours from Brussels, the boat to Ibiza is waiting at the port of Valencia for a crossing that will last almost 6 hours. Reaching Valencia by rail from the Belgian capital, from where the « ecological » rhetoric of the Eurocrats emanates, is in itself an experience that contradicts the words, demonstrating that the airplane is not about to be replaced by the train in the intra-European space. If you miss the sun in winter, you may have the opportunity of this couple from Vaud to find a ticket to Ibiza for 15.45 Swiss francs, and a return for 2.45fr(2)… cheaper than the bus, or a few kilometers with the now inevitable electric scooters. True to form, the political actors — in the literal sense of « those who play » — only take the measure of things in terms of money and do not take note of the seriousness of the situation in which humanity is mired, definitively inscribing « theThe State as an absolute nuisance « . (3) and tool at the service of Progress, therefore of capital.

Not surprisingly, the airport of Eivissa Sant Josep offers the picture of this supremacy of kerosene, with some 7,500,000 passengers and 75,000 aircraft movements per year. The airport’s take-off and landing times are commensurate with the need to transport tourist livestock: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, where people come to relax, they should not waste time on transport(4), the speed of travel paradoxically marking more clearly the break between the places of life where work predominates and those of leisure where people try to forget the former. If you do not want to mix with the « people », the solution of the private jet is proposed to you, with which you will join easily from Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca (35 minutes), Barcelona (45′), Valencia (45′). And if the French capital should tempt you, you will reach it in a few 2h10.

This is what some of the island’s most popular DJs choose to do, including Bob Sinclar, whose real name is Christophe Le Friant, who during the summer and every Saturday  » sets between Ibiza and Mykonos » (5). On the island, the disc jockeys are the gods who make the faithful dance 24/7, with fees that are commensurate with their fame: David Guetta collects between 150,000 and 250,000€ per night (up to 450,000 for private parties), Bob Sinclar says he receives between 15.000 and 50.000€, but this seems a minimum for the one who composed the anthem of the Star Academy and who, during the French national holiday of July 14, 2014 in Valenciennes, cashed 150.000€, the city getting a discount for the 500.000 initially requested by the star. The DJs are not the only multimillionaires to appreciate the Isla Blanca and its splendor: Shakira, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lionel Messi, Johnny Depp, Christina Aguilera, Justin Bieber, Paul McCartney…

However, those whose lifestyles require high oil production more than others prefer extraction to take place away from their villas. While in 2010 the company Cairn Energy obtains four oil exploration permits, some of them around the Balearic Islands, an unprecedented popular protest takes shape in Ibiza, leading to a demonstration of more than 10,000 people. Nature conservationists, fishermen, tourists, residents and some politicians are opposed to the project. Shamelessly and with a certain irony, some celebrities join the fight. Paris Hilton, jet-setter with scandals, great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton hotel chain, will tweet  » Ibiza is in danger « , she who spreads her luxurious life of idle heiress on all networks. Others, like Kate Moss or Pete Tong (British DJ), will post a photo on the Internet with a sign  » Ibiza says no  » (6). What may appear to be just another gossip in the celebrity press, however, reveals a form of schizophrenia specific to our societies, symbolized by the « stars » and their hubris, these mercantile and insatiable VIPs wanting to enjoy without hindrance but not seeing what makes their enjoyment possible, enjoying the consequences of the carbon society but forgetting its origin. These are what Jean Baudrillard called the « great wasters « , who are  » all these great dinosaurs that are in the news in magazines and on TV, it is always their life in excess, and the virtuality of monstrous expenses that is exalted in them. Their superhuman quality is their potlatch flavor. Thus they fulfill a very precise social function: that of sumptuary, useless, excessive expenditure. They fulfill this function by proxy, for the whole social body, like kings, heroes, priests or the great parvenus of previous eras  » (7).

In the midst of cognitive dissonance, these frenzied consumers of modern oil products want to fill their tanks but know nothing of the destruction that this extraction implies thousands of miles away, where  » The creaking of the machines fills the steppic void. The tower seems to live. One thinks of the backbone of a metallic monster; one has to imagine at 4,000 meters depth the drilling head digging into the substrates, biting the batholiths and piercing the strata. Soon — in two days, in two weeks — it will touch the gas reservoir buried in the bedrock. The pressurized ether will then flow up the column, and a regulator will control the injection rate. A pipe will connect the well to a main gas pipeline; The gas will leave the rest of the folds to a world where men ignoring all of this saga will turn a knob to cook an egg  » (8)… or sit in their leather armchairs to join one of the celebrity parties in Ibiza by private jet. They do not even seem to realize their profound contradiction: at the time, the head of the Balearic government, José Ramon Bauza, will say publicly  » The oil of the Balearic Islands is tourism  » (9). He forgot the rest of the reasoning:  » Tourism is oil « , and one day it will be necessary to drill in Ibiza if the model that he and his cronies advocate does not change. They will then understand at what price their way of life is made.

We are thus in the reign of off-ground enjoyment, of benefits without the damage, like those hundreds of tourists who capture through hundreds of smartphones the sunset near the Café del mar, in a paradoxical atmosphere of joyful end of the world, far from the Foxconn labor camps. Do they even know that one day they will be extinguished, and the sun too?


In these places, there are like psyches that respond to each other: multi-millionaire « big wasters », taking advantage of this ephemeral glory that they are constantly afraid of losing, make hordes of tourists dance, living the glory by proxy, fleeing the inauthenticity of their existence. They are the new Narcissus, of that Narcissus which ratifies class society by its adulation of the one who dominates, and which  » divides society into two groups: on the one hand, the rich, powerful and renowned, on the other, the herd  » (10). The whole thing produces this ideology spread by the spectacle, a great ostentatious moment of excess, need and money, which marks  » the impoverishment, the enslavement and the negation of real life  » (11). Would the faithful take communion in this way in the trendy clubs of Ibiza if the new priests that are the DJs did not represent to their eyes pomp, excess and opulence of which they dream? In the center of Ibiza, near the nightclubs, sitting and watching the revelers pass by in latency, gives rise to a strange feeling that the beings are lost in the images, are physically there but without being present.  » The alienation of the spectator to the profit of the contemplated object (which is the result of its own unconscious activity) is expressed thus: the more it contemplates, the less it lives; the more it accepts to recognize itself in the dominant images of the need, the less it understands its own existence and its own desire  » (12). But have they imagined that from the top of his chair, a DJ can earn in 2 hours of mixing up to 341 times the minimum wage, or 28 years of this minimum income?

Ibiza, in its ostentatious delirium, helps us to read the present, but above all to understand what historical foundations it is the product of. For if the island is invested since the 1960s by the hippie youth of the world which opposes the State, the war, the authority and the consumer society, advocating a free life filled with music, sex, drugs and self-discovery, what the island has become is part of the continuity of a hedonistic laissez-faire precursor of the culture of narcissism that fills the nightclubs today. Pier Paolo Pasolini describes this impression well when he first meets  » hairy people  » in the lobby of a hotel in Prague, making them speak with his words: « We are a perfect mask, not only from a physical point of view — our disordered way of floating makes all faces look alike — but also from a cultural point of view: indeed, one can very easily confuse a right-wing subculture with a left-wing one. » I understood in short that the language of hair no longer expressed left-wing « things », but something equivocal, right-left, which made possible the presence of provocateurs « . Pasolini adds:  » The subculture of power has absorbed the subculture of the opposition and made it its own: with diabolical skill, it has patiently made it into a fashion which, if it cannot be declared fascist in the true sense of the word, is nonetheless purely ‘extreme right-wing ’  » (13). The equivocal aspect of the hippie movement associated with its libertarian culture thus promised a fast recovery by capitalism. The old rebels became the new adapted ones, not that this indicated a denial but rather a « career plan » that would shamelessly lead afters to business. This is the case of Jerry Rubin, an American co-founder of the hippie movement who went from anti-militarism to Reaganism, becoming an entrepreneur and one of Apple’s first investors. As Guy Hocquenghem said of this French elite that has gone  » from the Mao collar to the Rotary « :  » You have become, if I may say so, reactionaries by conformism, as you were leftists by conformism  » (14).

Ibiza offers itself as a model of this historical metamorphosis, marked by this inflection of the new permissive moral doctrine that follows the previous period characterized by repression, towards a hyper-consumerist society of which it carried the seeds. For in order to expand rapidly and turn everyone into a consumer responding to the new needs created, the post-Trente Glorieuses society needed an individual ready to « enjoy without hindrance, » far from the temperance and sense of limits that still characterized the post-war individual. On the island,hubris is the measure of all things: plethoric nightclubs that allow dancing 24 hours a day, extravagant style of dress, naked bodies, remade, tattooed. Here, one feigns a freedom without limit, a form of authentic expression of the being being able to do what he wants, « finally », whereas the whole year he would repress his nature. But it is on the contrary on a mimetic mode that the individual acts here, escaping from the routine of life in exhibitions which, rather than contradicting it, are the purest expression of this alienation.

This sounds false, as did the revolts of the petty bourgeoisie of May 68, which prepared the ground for the current excesses:  » The so-called liberation of expression weighs on them much more than they admit; the communication bias makes them inauthentic. They cheat. They make every new breakthrough look like déjà vu. Their rehabilitation of the body, for example, is little more than a new laxity, vaguely romantic, vaguely anarchistic. Without doubt, by breaking the shackles of puritanism and hypocrisy, by naming sexuality and pleasure, by pointing out the neurosis that thrives in the shadow of religion, by highlighting, in its least refutable simplicity, the equality of man and woman, it contributes powerfully to a liberation whose urgency only the Pharisees and the resigned can deny. But they do little more than symmetrically oppose the permitted to the forbidden, revolt to oppression; they change the meaning of alienation more than they abolish it. They demand the right to pleasure and seek how social organization could satisfy this demand. They facilitate the task of the consumer society which will answer them cynically by the banalization of the eroticism in view of a bigger docility of the producers. It was not of this mercantile permissiveness, of this dissociated sensuality that the most generous dreamed, but of a world able to learn little by little the language of the body, of a humanity which would grant to it an eminent place in the construction of happiness, which would make of the love meeting one of the essential modes of the life, finally recognized and expressed as such  » (15).


In Ibiza, the bodies do not speak any more, they expose themselves. Objects reified as surfaces of consumption, they display their tattoos as brands are inscribed on advertising boards. These body-commodities evolve in spaces where they judge, gauge and compare themselves, existing only in the gaze of the other who is recognized only by this mirror function that he occupies.  » All of us, actors and spectators alike, live surrounded by mirrors; in them, we seek to reassure ourselves of our power to captivate or impress others, while remaining anxiously on the lookout for imperfections that could harm the appearance we want to give. The advertising industry deliberately encourages this concern for appearances  » (16). The imperfect bodies, according to the canons decreed by the consumer society, are remade, as one would modify an inadequate object: breasts, buttocks, mouths… The fragmented body represented like a machine made up of various parts, tends to the « perfection », each of the parts improved by the technique contributing to this objective.

But beyond an impression of freedom, the bodies on display are nevertheless the sign of an affected behavior that more deeply expresses  » the feeling that the self is an actor constantly watched by friends and strangers alike  » (17). Here denotes more than elsewhere this permanent exhibition of oneself, this narcissistic experimentation of which its own body is the object, consequence of a world where  » advertising encourages both men and women to consider the creation of their self as the highest form of creativity (…) Both men and women need to portray a pleasing image of themselves, and become both actors and knowledgeable about their own performance . (18).

In the middle of the strass and these half-naked bodies, an old Ibizian stands out in the night. He sells tickets for the Lotería de navidad at the end of the year. « I only get 300€ per month of pension « , impossible to live in Ibiza with such an amount, especially if you don’t own your house. Mass tourism has made summer rentals more attractive to foreigners with greater purchasing power than to year-round locals. This form of discrimination, which denies the right to housing, follows the same logic as the Airbnb model, which, taking advantage of the rental of private accommodation for the main purpose of tourist visits, reduces the number of accommodation available for permanent rental in Prague, Lisbon, Barcelona… mechanically contributing to an increase in rents. In a context of dismantling of the social state, this is one more way of destroying the link and postponing a legitimate revolt by leaving the « freedom » to each person not to fall into indigence by renting — or subletting — his or her home.


At the foot of the Piscis, one of the large hotels in Sant Antoni de Portmany, empty nitrous oxide cartridges:  » It’s everywhere here, every day. Sometimes young people throw them from their balconies and they damage our cars « We are told by a car rental company next to the hotel that  » young people go from one balcony to another and fall, which is one of the causes of death of tourists here « . Nitrous oxide is this laughing gas compressed in a cartridge, which some African street vendors display at the end of a chain, no doubt signalling to onlookers that they can obtain this new drug which is all the rage, particularly in England(19). In a state of inebriation or under the influence of drugs, some people indulge in what is known as balconying, i.e. jumping from the balcony of one’s room into the pool or to another balcony. At least one Belgian, one German, one Englishman and one Australian have been affected since June: one dead, one in critical condition, two injured… and others will be added until at least the end of September.

We want to close our eyes on this Ibiza, symbol of modern insanity, paroxysm of a society adrift that nothing seems to be able to stop and where youth is lost during a few summer months in a form of escape from reality, island space where tourism is offered as the main economic activity in a place that « closes » between October and April. Mass tourism is here, imposing but « obligatory » for the locals; as one cab driver half-heartedly put it: « I wouldn’t go to live in the center of Sant Antoni for anything in the world, at the end of the day I go home, that’s where I rest ». This is the paradox of this tourism industry that the locals hate because it distorts everything, but which they can’t do without because at the same time it makes them live. In an island which imports the majority of what it consumes, it is however prickly to think that an inevitable return to reality would take place in the event of shortage of oil, whereas the life such as it is made there could not be maintained more than 3 days without the invaluable black gold…

Alexandre Penasse

Notes et références
  1. Ce portrait de l’île se veut volontairement réducteur, s’arrêtant sur ce qui a donné à l’île sa notoriété internationale. Nous n’évoquons pas son histoire lointaine, ses coutumes, son patrimoine historique et culturel, sa faune, sa flore… Si ces éléments contrasterait avec l’Ibiza des boîtes de nuit, il n’en resterait pas moins qu’ils n’enlèvent rien à notre analyse, les deux Ibiza rentrant même, et c’est assez logique, en contradiction.
  2. https://www.tdg.ch/economie/entreprises/derriere-prix-cassesla-face-cachee-low-cost/story/31724743
  3. Encyclopédie des nuisances. Discours préliminaire, Éditions de l’encyclopédie des nuisances, 2009, p.27.
  4. Ce « gain » de temps est toutefois une parfaite illusion, Hartmut Rosa démontrant implacablement la pénurie de temps qui a lieu en dépit des progrès technologiques. Voir Accélération, une critique sociale du temps, La Découverte, 2011.
  5. https://www.parismatch.com/Culture/Musique/Bob-Sinclar-Ma-vie-de-DJ-a-Ibiza-1551257
  6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/26156703/celebrities-back-ibiza-says-no-oil-drilling-campaign
  7. Jean Baudrillard, La société de consommation, Editions Denoël, 1970, p. 53.
  8. Sylvain Tesson, L’or noir des steppes : voyage aux sources de l’énergie, Arthaud, 2007/2012, p. 43.
  9. https://www.rtbf.be/info/societe/detail_ibiza-ses-plages-ses-stars-et-peut-etre-un-jour-son-petrole?id=8234348
  10. Christopher Lasch, La culture du narcissisme, Flammarion, 1979/2006, p.121.
  11. Guy Debord, La société du spectacle, Gallimard, 1967/1992, p. 205.
  12. Ibid., p. 31.
  13. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Écrits corsaires, Champs arts, 1976, pp. 30 et 31.
  14. Guy Hocquenghem, Lettre ouverte à ceux qui sont passés du col Mao au Rotary, Agone, 2003, p. 47.
  15. Jean Sur, 68 Forever, Arléa, 1998, pp. 57–58.
  16. Christopher Lasch, La culture du narcissisme, Ibid., p.129.
  17. Ibid., p.127.
  18. Ibid., p.130.
  19. https://www.lesinrocks.com/2014/10/02/actualite/actualite/gaz-hilarant-drogue-angle-terre/

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