A Latino business group to whom I am chaplain held their annual meeting at a hotel on the island upon which I find myself. They are honest and hard-working, and they brought their families, as Hispanics are wont to do. I don’t just mean a “significant other”: they brought children, mothers-in-law, cousins, grandchildren, abuelas and abuelos. The top leadership was not ashamed to speak of God’s blessings and our dependence on His providence to the 500 participants. Certainly God-talk can be superficial, but these folks genuinely want to be the friends of God. They openly express their struggle to submit to His will. It was most edifying.
We had an opening dinner poolside. Everyone was there, including the ninos and abuelitos, and even the padre (your scribe). The purpose of the opening social was for folks to reacquaint, to network, to converse about the business and to deepen friendships. So how did the hotel help us do that? They erected large speaker towers and blasted reggae and rock “music” at us the entire time. We had to shout at each other, we had to use hand signals, we had to cover our ears when getting second helpings near the speaker towers. Some left early because any meaningful communication was almost impossible.
So who asked the hotel to inflict this upon us? Maybe the hotel just assumes tourists want this type of thing. But couldn’t someone say to the management that we don’t want this music at this volume? That it defeats the purpose of our gathering? That we want more beautiful and cultured music? That it harms our children and shouts down our conversations with friends?
Volume wasn’t the only issue: what they played was not really music. Music communicates order and beauty, but what they played was a kind of noxious noise. It disrupted, it distracted, it communicated nothing beyond self-gratification. Can we not say, after so many years of bad music, that Pop and Rock and Reggae and Rap is bad, that it denigrates virtue and human relationships, that it is not true art, that it is base? Who has decided that everywhere we go in western culture we have to endure trashy music? We went to a restaurant. It shouted and taunted us from corner speakers. We went diving. It blared from the boat radio. We sat on a beach. It pounded and oozed from people’s boom boxes.
Do you want this kind of noise in your public places? If not, consider asking the management to change the channel and/or lower the volume. Let them know that the services they offer are considerably less appealing if it includes banal music. I have done this at a few restaurants, and actually, almost always they have lowered the volume. Some have even changed the music. After all, as we all know, the customer is always right, and it’s time for some customers to speak up, above the trashy music imposed upon us.