Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Nailing Your Colours to your Nail House

When you live with 1.2billion neighbours it is pretty hard to be your own person. At least in the way we understand that desire. One of the things I love about the Chinese is that even within their tight and densely populated communities you will see individuals striving to be their own little island for a moment or two. It might be the old gent doing his ablutions on the street corner, studiously avoiding the gaze of neighbours. Or the dancer twirling in her own world. Or little knots of elderly women pushing through a market regardless of the human tide. I enjoyed reading today about a Chinese couple who have been making their own statement in China over the last three years, resisting developers and holding out for a couple of million dollars. Development has gone on around them though even that was eventually held up while they held out. Until tonight, when their house came down. There will be a part of them that is driven by pecuniary interests. Of course. But it is also another example of how these people manage to find their own way to stand out from the crowd and be their own person, and I bet this became their raison d'etre in the end.

And the Chinese have worked this sort of resistance into their lexicon. According to the press "Dingzihu" (钉子户) is a Chinese word that means a household or person who refuses to vacate their home to make way for real estate development. Virtual China translates the word as 'nail house' because "they stick out like nails in an otherwise modernized environment". Works for me.

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