It’s wonderful to see just how far out on a limb the marketers here in Asia are willing to go when it comes to exploiting SARS for a fast buck. Walking through one of the countless Singapore malls today I noticed a huge sign across the front window of Osim, a Japanese firm that makes massage chairs that rock you and pound you and knead you, all at prices utterly dreadful to contemplate.
The city-block-sized sign boasts something along the lines that research shows massage chairs are good for your immune system and, as we all know, having a strong immune system will keep you free of Asia’s latest plague. Of course, many of SARS’ victims have been young and strong, and in all probability their immune systems were just fine. They simply had the back luck to come into intimate contact with the virus. To instill such blatantly false hopes into customers — buy our massage chair and avoid SARS — is hubris at its most ugly.
Ads like these abound here, and frankly I am rather amazed, considering Singapore’s reputation as the world’s most no-nonsense place. Well, I have only been here about 48 hours, and it looks as though I still have a lot to learn.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.