East-West shopping

Retailers in Europe figured out a way to push merchandise in this time of austerity: shop in your underwear, leave fully clothed.

Meanwhile, a reporter from the BBC went to Hanoi to learn about another way of shopping: buying paper clothing for the dead (old Hanoi, pho “hang ma”).


That’s how different East and West is. The only way to deal with trade imbalance is for Western countries to export designer “paper clothes” to China and Vietnam, so people can trade up in matters of ancestral worship.

(given that most textile imports to EU and US have been from these countries). When it comes time for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I miss my deceased parents, and the opportunity to buy them a Fathers Day, Mothers Day card.

If in Vietnam, I would be given another shopping opportunity for them: gold leaves and US dollars, all in paper, to be burned at their graves.

At the very least, I can burn an incense .

Filial duty. One of the highest virtues.

Another one is to gift your teachers on New Year.

Now with online education and home schooling, there is less human interaction . Some virtual math tutors are connected from India, the same way we reach call centers  for tech support.

It’s the best of times (to be learners) and the worst of times (to be teachers).

Characters and learning (now defined as information soaking) are decoupled.

Hence, the Confucian way of modeling characters (Tien hoc Le, Hau hoc Van i.e. first learn characters, then literature) to mold and make mandarins is phasing out.

A bunch of us know full well that those coffee servers (who wear skimpy outfits) in Vietnamese enclaves earn multiple times their customers’ income.

When in Rome, dress like a Roman.

Maybe this Black Friday, Wal-Mart can avert its earning decline by posting a sign that says “come as you were born, and leave fully clothed”. Its puritanical root in Benton, AK probably prohibits this. But those European stores already did , with much fanfare and press coverage. All these campaigns put VIrgin‘s Branson (whose airline launch was the talk of the town) in the back seat. Each generation must come up with a creative-destruction. Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake the proverbial survival tree (societies who hunt in pack figured out different ways to eliminate the unfits).

Hang in there ole friends. Live young and together in the West, die old and alone in the East (where Father’s Day and Mother’s Day extend well beyond the grave). That’s the only way to end the story. Alone again (naturally).


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