San Fermín: Bulls, Drones, Selfies, Horns, Fines, Skewering

There’s an order to the chaos of San Fermín.  Despite the reputation the running of the bulls has as a raucous testosterone-fuelled trial of manhood, it is a folkloric event governed by specific rules of tradition make the event something the people of Pamplona, and all of Spain (and some other folks around the world) look forward to every year.

The official runners train not just every year but for generations.  The release of the bulls onto the streets has a well-established process in place for generations.  There are laws on the books which govern the event.  It is a pitting of the mind and order of man against the freedom and inherent nature of the beast.

Never in that tradition has it said that as you run in front of the bulls, you should take a moment to take a Selfie.  Neither has it ever encouraged anyone to use a drone to film the events.  

But apparently both have happened this year.  The Spanish Newspaper ABC reports that the young man they have pictured above, could pay a fine of up to 1,500 Euros for taking time as he ran in front of excitable bulls to take a Selfie.  (What is that now..a BullShilfie?)

The Spanish paper El País reports that a Scotsman received a 650 Euro fine for filming the run with a UAV without a permit.  A pretty reasonable fine, really, in light of all the different penalties issued recently for unauthorised use of these popular and controversial new toys.

This paper also advises readers that Pamplona frowns on anyone using bicycles or skates to run in front of the bulls.  Because, you know, those are things you have to explain to people.

There is even an official San Fermín song:

Uno de enero, dos de febrero, tres de marzo, cuatro de abril, cinco de mayo, seis de junio siete de julio San Fermín; a Pamplona hemos de ir, con una media con una media, a Pamplona hemos de ir, con una media y un calcetín.

It’s a mnemonic device to remind the people to get to Pamplona in time for the 7th of July, when the festival begins.  The little song specifies that attendees should bring one sock and one stocking.  It’s not clear why one of each, but that’s the fun of Spanish humour.  Basically–come as you are.  Except, there’s nothing in the song about smartphones and drones.  So leave those at home, or at the hotel.

My family also sang the refrain as: toca la gaita toca la gaita, San Fermín tilín tilín toca la gaita y el tamborín.

Basically: play the bagpipe and the small drum.  Well, Gallegos are Celtic, so we get the bagpipes into everything. The change to the song is intended to mark the celebration surrounding the days.  I’m pretty sure it’s against the Pamplona rules to run in front of the bulls playing the bag pipes or the small drones–um–drums too.

In reality, you can’t keep today’s reality from messing with yesterday’s habits, no matter how long yesterday’s habits have been around.

Whether or not you approve of the bull-thing in Spain (even many Spanish people do not) it is what it is.  The same applies to Selfies and drones.

Whether bulls, Selfies or drones or bulls, Selfies AND drones, no amount of fines will stop people from putting their lives at risk.  The real issue is when they endanger the lives of others.  The fines at Pamplona run to 3,000 Euros if the lives of the official, trained, runners are put at risk.  Frankly, that seems low.

People are far more cavalier about their safety than they should be, and that is something that the safety professionals in aviation should also keep in mind.  There’s no getting PEDs out of the cabin and people will take selfies in emergency situations.

Heck, if someone is willing to risk a horn through the lung for a picture, then anyone could take a moment to snap oxygen mask deployments, or film their cabin filling with water.

Drones are proliferating at such a rate that policing illegal use as one man did in Tennessee for the 4th of July, will tax the capabilities of the authorities very soon.  And that is one open question on the strict regulations, introduced by the FAA, which goes unanswered: how will all this be enforced?

Organizations are easiest to keep in check, but even processing those petitions generate a load of work.  I should mention that Amazon has now filed a petition to use drones, in line with their assertions earlier this year that they’d like to use UAVs for deliveries with PrimeAir.  Saying yes or no to large organisations is one thing.  Keeping people from doing what they like with a technology that is reasonably affordable is another matter.

When I last wrote about this issue of containment, Peter Evans of Trust Aviation made a good point:

The useful applications of UAVs are many, and making rules too stringent might be damaging long-term.  But the issues of drones colliding with low-flying aircraft is not imagined.  An NYPD helicopter had a near-miss with a drone just this 7th of July.

The most helpful tool authorities have for enforcement of these rules is Social Media.  It allows them to readily identify the culprit.  People are not only cavalier about their safety, and the safety of others, but some are also totally clueless, evidently, about the down-side of sharing their intrepid adventures online.

O brave new world, that has such people in it!

Since Shakespeare originally wrote this for the Tempest, this new world is hardly new.  And storms, whether vast or teacup-sized, have abounded time immemorial.  (Yes, I know that Shakespeare was referring to an alien world, populated by alien creatures.  But the world always becomes alien to a certain generation.  That’s just how history rolls.)

I do feel obliged to add the cautionary: “safety first” for anyone who will listen.

Back to San Fermín: Since Hemingway many who are not part of the trained groups who actually lead the running of the bulls have joined in–to prove something.  It’s somewhat amusing to Spaniards that those most likely to be injured during the festival in Pamplona come from somewhere else, and decided to join in on a whim or a dare or because they had a little too much to drink.  (The fine for participating while under the influence of whatever is between 750 and 1,500 Euros, if you wondered.)

An interesting fact: The American author of “How To Survive the Bulls of Pamplona” was skewered in the leg by a bull in during this year’s festivities.

But he did survive.

Bully for him!

The iconic Spanish graphic arts firm Kukuxumusu, founded by graphic artist Mikel Urmeneta, which runs the news site, did have its own take on the San Fermín Selfie.

Proof that life does not always imitate art.  “Should we take a selfie?” Evidently not.

Featured Image: Kukuxumusu Bull in Pamplona “Toro Kukuxumusu”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

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