Friday, May 29, 2009

The Fishermen

This story took place in a small village on the East coast of Spain called San Pequeno Salvador De Oro Del Muy Frio Mar De Un Hermoso Azul; San P for short. In San P lived 2 fishermen: Pedro Blanco de San P… and Juan Negro de San P… (no relation). They were both fairly successful in their trade and earning an honest living. As is often the case in these circumstances, they had both found their niche: Pedro specialized in catching fish using live bait while Juan was a recognized expert in the use of artificial lures. In the village of San P, it seemed as though half the population preferred Pedro's fish while the other half preferred Juan's. And, though some heated discussions arose once in a while over who's fish was best to make the local speciality, guiso de pescado con mantequilla de maní y jalea, life was quiet and peaceful in San P. But any equilibrium is fragile.

Things changed in San P when Pedro's first child was born. The extra mouth to feed put a lot of pressure on Pedro who saw no other way but to increase his income. He first thought of using more lines or going further out to sea but he didn't think that was the way to go. He then had what he believed to be a stroke of genius: if he added artificial lures to his live bait, he would more than likely catch more fish and also possibly attract some of Juan's clientele. He thought the potential negative impact on some of his long time clients who preferred fish caught with bait would be minimised by the fact that he was still using bait, only adding to it. So Pedro went ahead with his new approach and, in only a short time, his catch and sales increased significantly. Suffice to say that Juan was really frustrated. Loosing clients to his competitor wasn't what he needed. He was building a brand new casa high up on the hill overlooking San P and he needed all of his revenues to cover the costs. So, Juan decided to go ahead and add live bait to his artificial lures. The effect were almost immediate: some of his old clients came back and he gained new ones who where dissatisfied with what they perceived as unorthodoxy on the part of Pedro. Equilibrium was reached once more, but to no one's satisfaction.

Juan's house was costing much more than initially planned: his wife's vision of having pink marble inside the kitchen cabinets now seemed like overkill but it was too late, Juan needed more revenue. So, in an effort to catch more fish, he decided to put down some lines in Pedro's fishing hole, over and above those he used in his own. This required him to work longer days and get up much earlier in the morning but, at least, the house could be paid for and his wife would be happy. The news made its way around the village like a wildfire, since Juan was coming into port much earlier than Pedro, he took away a number of Pedro's clients who were happy to get the same fish they usually got from Pedro, but earlier. Pedro was extremely unhappy, the fragile balance was no longer. Pedro decided that the best thing he could do was to fish longer hours, even if it meant coming in really late at night (he hated getting up early but was a night owl), and put some lines in Juan's fishing hole. The results were quick to materialize. A number of Juan's clients were really happy to get their fish late at night because it allowed them to prepare their meals ahead of time. Again, an equilibrium was reached but both fishermen were miserable; the long hours were taken their toll and they were not bringing in any more money than before.

In order to try and get the upper hand, Juan decided to start doing all of his fishing in Pedro's spot. Since he was there early in the morning, he could complete his fishing before Pedro ever showed up. Some village folks were not that happy with the change but at least they were getting their fish early so continued to buy Juan's fish. Seeing this, Pedro decided to now fish exclusively in Juan's spot. Because he was out late at night, Pedro could fish there without ever running into Juan. Yet another unsatisfying equilibrium was reached.

But Pedro, wanting to differentiate his catch, decided to now fish in Juan's fishing hole using exclusively artificial lures and, as a response, Juan decide to now fish in Pedro's fishing hole using exclusively live bait. The end result of this last change was that the fifty percent of the population that once preferred Pedro's fish now preferred Juan's and vice versa. White was black and black was white.

This story may seem to have come full circle but it highlights, I believe, an important point: although imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, it will get the imitator no further once he can no longer be distinguished from the imitated.

In the end, one should always stay true to one's self or run the risk of becoming someone else.

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