The blood of the eel

The scene takes place in one of the southern suburbs of Athens, in Greece, at a fish restaurant by the sea. A Greek businessman trying to export his products to China, is hosting a gentleman from this country. He is about to buy him lunch (I guess). Before they start talking business, the Greek tells the Chinese man that he used to have an eel farm. The Chinese reacts with enthusiasm and answers that his fellow countrymen love eating eel and especially the blood of the eel which they consider good for their health.

Although I don’t like to eavesdrop, I can’t help it since they are right behind my back and they speak loudly as well.

Their conversation gives me the idea to write something and express my views on the tasteless era of globalisation which has eradicated the national characteristics of people and have made us all trot the globe like crazy, finding no joy or rest anywhere in the world. Many of my friends and relatives have spent all their lives in an airplane as they are working in companies which suck their blood.

In the beginning all this used to be very good and glamorous. The executives got one promotion after another, they had benefits and money, and got to visit new places which opened their minds as they met other cultures and people. Gradually, one by one started complaining. «There is no time for my family, there is no time for tourism, the hotel rooms are small, lonely and without character, and the flights are countless every month. It is boring to meet every evening some unknown people and go to dinner with them. It is tiring to be obliged to appear polite and friendly». Burnout started manifesting itself, all work and no play led sometimes to break downs and the loss of job. Another thing that accompanied the above were the extramarital affairs as travels helped the creation of relationships between colleagues and the destruction of the family. Big companies had much in common with sects or political parties. In the beginning they would try to lure you in various ways and then you would realize that they just wanted to take advantage of your talents and your hard-working nature.

In the meantime we see our earth becoming tasteless and odourless all over; so many transfers here and there make us all look exactly the same. For example Europe, having received such a big number of emigrants, starts looking like the U.S. Of course I have to state here that I am not a racist and that I love and understand all people from all countries of the world. I have friends in the most faraway places. My objection on the loss of national characteristics through expatriation or marriage has to do with the taste of the diverse. As a child I had taken only very few trips abroad and I was impressed by the smells, the food, the habits of the foreign people.

Today all this is gone. You can find everything everywhere. And everything is tasteless, as if there is a lack of salt. A German friend recounted that once, during a business trip to Japan, he looked forwards to the surprise his Japanese hosts had prepared for him. He was taken to an imitation of a Bavarian pub in Tokyo where the Japanese waiters wore leather shorts and hats with a feather! The surprise was an unpleasant one.

As I was leaving the seaside fish restaurant where the two businessmen were continuing their conversation, I looked at the beautiful Saronic gulf with its rocky islands scattered all over. And I changed my mind. Maybe I am not right after all. Maybe the idea of a globalized world isn’t necessarily negative. Maybe we humans are made in such a way in order to live together. Yes, we are all humans, we are mortals, some of us have been spoilt, some others have suffered a lot.

Yes, we are all humans after all. That is why we drink the blood of the eel, that is why the big corporations drink our blood…

LS, June 2011, originally written in Greek and published here http://peopleandideas.gr/2011/06/21/burnout/

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