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美国经济已经复苏:希望还是失望?

2006-05-12 10:17

  When will the US economy rebound from the collapse of the tech bubble in 2001? For the many Americans anxious about their jobs or their future prospects, the fact that the economy is already recovering from recession is cold comfort①. Productivity has soared, but the number of new jobs has not, at least not yet, and politicians fret about the consequences of a 'jobless recovery'. The good news is that hiring is up; the bad news is that it's restaurants, providers of ill-paid service sector jobs, not Silicon Valley tech firms, that are doing the hiring.

  Clay Bennett's cartoon for the ChristianScienceMonitor shows us a middle-class American family seated for a big meal. In the foreground is a cornucopia (a symbol of abundance that is a common decorative motif at Thanksgiving) labeled 'economy'. The US economy is indeed producing abundantly, but who is benefiting? The main course, in Bennett's view, should be jobs, not dividends, but when the father lifts the cover of the serving dish②, it is a tin of Spam that the baffled family behold.

  Spam (the name is a registered trademark) is a commercial meat product that entered the market in 1937, late in the Great Depression. Ready-to-eat chopped SPiced hAM ('SPAM') was pressed into a firm loaf and canned. The product was cheap and, at a time when cash was tight, popular. Soldiers ate a lot of it in World War II. After the war, Americans shipped tons of it to impoverished Europeans as relief supplies.

  Today Spam is still manufactured, but its fans are mostly children. Among adults it is widely associated with poverty, though harried mothers appreciate its convenience as emergency lunch fare for kids.

  Interestingly, the word 'spam' (no cap③) is also used nowadays to mean unsolicited commercial e-mail. The Monty Python Show, a TV comedy series with tens of millions of viewers during the 1970s and 1980s, frequently featured a group of Vikings who at social gatherings would sing 'Spam!' in answer to every question. Eventually all other conversation ceased; hence the use of 'spam' for unwanted e-mail that buries e-mail of significance. Why 'Spam'? Monty Python comedians were geniuses of the absurd who took a lot of material from the world of British schools after World War II; Spam would have been tediously familiar to British viewers of a certain age.

  什么时候美国经济才能从2001年高科技泡沫的破灭中反弹回来?对于很多为工作或是为前途忧虑的美国人来说,经济已经从萧条中复苏这一事实也难以令人感到宽慰。生产力已经飙升,但新的就业岗位的数量并没有飙升,至少是现在还没有,政界人士担心出现“没有就业岗位的复苏”这样的结果。最近的好消息是雇工数量有所增加,坏消息是增加雇工的地方是餐厅———只能提供低工资的服务行业,而不是硅谷高科技公司。

  克雷·拜内特为《基督教科学箴言报》所画的这幅漫画为我们展示了美国一中产阶级家庭正坐在餐桌旁等待丰盛的饭菜。在靠前的地方有一个羊角状器皿(羊角是丰饶的象征,是感恩节时很普遍的装饰图案),上写着“经济”二字,美国经济的确在大幅增长,但是谁受益呢?在拜内特看来,“主菜”应该是提供就业机会,而不是提高股东的红利分配。但是,当父亲打开主菜的盖子时,困惑的一家人所看到的是只是一听Spam牌的罐头肉。

  Spam(一注册商标的名字)是1937年美国经济大萧条后期进入市场的肉制品,这种可即食的切好的香料火腿肉(Spam是各取“加了香料的”与“火腿”两个英文单词的一部分合并而成)被压成很实的肉块然后罐装,其价格在当时很便宜,在人们没钱的时代很受欢迎。在二次大战期间士兵们吃了大量的Spam,二战之后,美国人成吨成吨地把它们运往欧洲作为穷人的救济品。

  今天,Spam肉罐头还在生产,但喜欢吃它的人主要是孩子,尽管烦事缠身的母亲们很欣赏它的方便,在来不及准备时可作为孩子们的午餐,但成人消费者多为穷人。

  有意思的是,spam(s小写)一词在当今时代还用来指那些不请自来的广告性电子邮件。在七十和八十年代拥有数千万热心观众的英国幽默电视连续剧Monty Python Show常常以一拨儿北欧海盗为主角,在公共集会中,他们对每一个问题都用吟唱“Spam”来做回答以压制别人,最后,所有的谈话都停止了,因此人们就用spam来指那些把有用信息淹没的垃圾邮件。但为什么要唱Spam呢?Monty Python的喜剧演员们是一群搞笑天才,他们从二战后英国校园生活中汲取了大量素材,对于一定年龄的英国观众来说,Spam肯定是熟悉得不能再熟悉了。

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