Friday, June 8, 2007

Family, Happiness, Wealth

Not politics, exactly, and not quite French, either, but the journalist James Fallows is in China, and it seems that he was looking for a Carrefour, because the French hypermarché happens to be the biggest retailer in China:

And if you’re looking for Carrefour in Shanghai, it turns out that what you want is 家乐福. The characters mean family, happiness, wealth, so that is nicely auspicious. But they’re pronounced jia le fu – which I couldn’t guess as “Carrefour” until I saw them, and which the guard didn’t guess from what I said. (To be fair, this was mainly his fault. I can’t have been the first foreigner to be looking for the store that was five feet away from his duty station. This is one of many indications that Chinese education is not necessarily the all-conquering genius-creating marvel often described in the West.)
Family, wealth, happiness: interesting that carrefour, crossroads, or the marketplace as a symbol of coming together and mutual interdependence, is transmuted by global capitalism into "family, wealth, happiness," a concentration of well-being into the familial monad and the private sphere. Tocqueville would diagnose a severe case of individualisme. Well, at least it isn't travail, famille, patrie.

You can read Fallows' whole story here. His dispatches from China offer interesting insight into daily life there.

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