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Opinion

China’s ‘Singles’ Day’ a unique holiday that shows how strange the world can be

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November 18, 2015

It has been a week with so much loss — senseless, violent, and unwarranted loss. The flow of information, video, pictures, eye — witness accounts, posts, tweets has been overwhelming and dare I say even inescapable.

I have a strong attachment to Paris. The city along the Seine was the first destination on my first trip out of the United States and the way I feel about the city has not been tarnished or changed by what has happened. And not to speak for Parisians, but I can’t imagine that they feel too differently about their city either. Paris is a city that has endured and thrived for what seems like forever, and if anyone can maintain and protect their way of life, Parisians can do it best and with the most style.

In a very different kind of society far from France, is China. And if you don’t watch John Oliver, you will have never heard of a huge, Chinese-sized national holiday called Singles’ Day before. I know I hadn’t. This bizarre day, which sounds as arbitrary as our National Pizza Day here in the United States, sounds cute but of no real consequence. Wrong. When this holiday began in 1993 on November 11, apparently because 11/11 looks like four single people, as an official day to “treat yo self” as a single person. So how big can a holiday like this even get though, how many single people are there in China anyway? Remember China’s one child policy? In 2011, CNN published an article that by 2020 “30 million more men than women will reach adulthood and enter China’s mating market.” You do the math on how big a holiday this can become. Taking cues from Western culture, China, but more like the company Alibaba capitalized on this national holiday and created the Black Friday to end all Black Fridays. Alibaba, which is a Chinese commerce site that is a “leading platform for global wholesale trade” according to their website, basically all you need to know is that it ‘s Amazon-but Chinese sized. Except that I don’t think that Amazon has ever made billions of dollars in one day like Alibaba has. According to BusinessInsider.com last week this online retailer made $5 billion in the first hour and a half of the Singles’ Day Sales, and ended the day with $14.3 billion in sales.

When I stopped trying to picture exactly how many zeroes are in a billion dollars, I finished watching John Oliver’s segment and thought about how strange our world is. About how much money people spent in one day for so many things they probably didn’t need but that they bought in a haze of sale prices, and about how so much extremism and hate has destroyed the way we look at people. This past week the world has seen and lived through extreme, gluttonous excess and extreme, horrific acts. What do these recent events say about humanity and the direction the people on this planet are going?

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.