Tuesday, July 5

Businessmen

A little over 35 years ago, when I arrived in Spain, I began to write down in a notebook everything that aroused my curiosity in my new country, perhaps with the intention of later writing a variant of the Wonderful problems and secrets of the Indies, that jewel that the Sevillian doctor Juan de Cárdenas wrote in the 16th century about the things that surprised him when he settled in the New World. The very young doctor wondered, for example, why the natives were long-haired and hairless, while the Spaniards were bald and bearded. I remember that, in the midst of the whirlwind of experiences, the hostility that I perceived in the environment towards entrepreneurs caught my attention. There was a kind of caricature of these: exploiters, nickels, greedy, insensitive, without the slightest scruples to leave their workers on the street if they bulged their pockets. There was no distinction between large, medium or small entrepreneurs, much less was there an effort to differentiate between correct and dishonest entrepreneurs. They were all the same: grim beings who thrived on the sweat and alienation of employees. Anger increased the more successful and prosperous the patron was, and it was exacerbated if he flaunted his fortune.

That was the opinion not only of the friends that he was meeting in the frantic nights of Madrid’s postmovement. Also that of the bartender in the bar, that of the clerk in the shoe store or that of the bank clerk: all criticized bitterly, or at best grumbled in low voices, against the businessmen. Not only against the one who hired them, but against everyone. Probably the resentment of some was motivated by their own work experience, and in many cases it would be justified. On the other hand, the businessmen defended tooth and nail their interests in collective bargaining, which, of course, did not convey the best of images. However, I had the impression that I was dealing with attitudes that exceeded the individual level and I thought that perhaps there were deeper reasons for such hostility. I then began to listen to hypotheses of all kinds: sociological, historical, ideological, political, moral, cultural, even religious, some with more solid arguments than others. In the conversations paraded, with different intentions, the names of Marx, Jesus, Franco. Even that of the gladiator Spartacus, that Thracian Kirk Douglas of the 1st century BC. of C. that promoted the famous uprising of slaves against Rome. The funny thing is that, more than three decades later, I observe that this antipathy towards entrepreneurs is still alive in a certain way and has been inherited by a new generation, although probably with different reasons than those of their predecessors, because the scenario is different.

I must confess that Marx managed to instill in me, to this day, a certain apprehension towards the figure of surplus value. I also admit the impact the Three cent opera, by Brecht, especially when Mackie Navaja, condemned to the gallows for his misdeeds, unleashes that brutal and chillingly politically incorrect question before the public: “What is the murder of a man versus a man’s contract?” . However, contradictory as it may seem, and even though it may be, I have never experienced animosity towards entrepreneurs. On the contrary, I have a natural tendency to favor those I call entrepreneurs. really, those who start projects, who create verifiable products, who take risks, who compete in the jungle market of supply and demand, who create jobs and who do not program their businesses with the calculation that the State will rescue them if they are they come badly given. Those businessmen who put a piece of wood in a machine and a swing comes out of the other hole. That first instinctive assessment turns into admiration if the goods they produce or sell are really useful for society, if they pay their taxes fully, if the company is governed by ethical principles (yes: I know that this concept is debatable) or if its workers are considered well paid and treated. Less enthusiasm for entrepreneurs beach bars, which abound in our geography, although it must be recognized that setting up a removable business also requires an effort that not all human beings are willing to make. Then there are the guard them and rascals of different fur, from the high-turmequé thug to the rogue tabernario, to whom I refer without exordination to the Penal Code.

There are plenty of reasons to criticize capitalism, which, ultimately, is nothing more than a vulgar Ponzi-type pyramid system, like any of those that jump from time to time to the news and leave a trail of scammers. The difference is that capitalism has mechanisms of control and correction, which, as in almost all aspects of life itself, tend to fail when they are most needed. In any case, it is the system that exists, and it does not seem that in the near horizon it will be replaced by another, which does not mean that it will not be subjected to great and traumatic transformations, as in fact it is experiencing them today. In this system, not in a vacuum or in utopian territories, do the businessmen with whom we must deal with.

After more than three decades in Spain, my project of narrating the wonderful secrets of Hispania buried in oblivion, I suddenly discover that there are still things that surprise me in my host country. One of them has to do precisely with what caught my attention when I arrived in the country. I look in my drawers for the old notebook, and update: “In addition to the fact that that strange cold soup called gazpacho, which I mention in the first chapter, can already be taken all year, I have seen that a more bellicose minister of the left has fostered an unusual climate of understanding between the unions and the hated businessmen, while the right, an old ally of the bosses, has taken to the mountains against them for certain lawsuits that only those who live in these complicated lands can understand. ”



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