29.3.08

homme riche sans l'argent

Departure (飛)
Didn't manage to take any photo in Paris, so here's one instead of sweet J, man in a cardigan at the new Changi Terminal 3

European cities are often written in a language I do not understand - an architecture from a past that is monumental and seemingly indestructible (those thick stone walls, wrought iron balconies, tall windows, cobbled roads, statues on building facades and the opulence of recycled palaces). This classicism is in turn juxtaposed against an increasingly fluid, diverse population of migrants from North Africa and Asia, as well as all the usual signages for globalisation on shop fronts.

Admittedly, I saw very little of Paris in the last three days. Only their museums (I recommend the excellent museum of decorative arts near the Louvre, and the highly accessible Centre Pompidou built in the 70s) , the hotel and whatever view there was from the car of the arc de triomphe.

But from what little I saw, it would appear that nowhere other than Japan do people take culture more personally and seriously as the French. And no doubt a kind of mutual admiration often takes place between both these peoples. At French museums, no matter what time of the day or what day of the week, queues can be found snaking the ticket counter and stretching outside the building (even when it rains!). Going to the museum is to the French what going to the shopping mall is to the Singaporean. Sad, but true!

I had once asked an old Japanese gentleman I had met at a lunch why was it that Japanese companies(other than for tax breaks) invested so much in setting up their own museums and collections. As a response, he drew me a convex curve against a concave one on the napkin. He explained that one should aim to be a rich man, but after a certain amount of wealth has been acquired, there are 2 options open - to acquire more wealth, or to move on to another new plane altogether and become "a gentleman" (his term), a man of letters and learning, and a man who gives back to society. To many Japanese companies, the aspiration is to considered "a gentleman".



A colleague once quoted something she had read that there were "rich men" and there were "poor men with money". Ah, us idealistic amps were just wondering about the possibility of that other species, "rich men with no money".

1 comment:

Princess Haiku said...

Very thoughtful commentary.

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