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China: ‘Are You Happy?’

During a recent national holiday news story feature called “Are You Happy”, broadcast by Chinese state-run television station Central Television (CCTV), reporters were filmed asking ordinary people questions including, among others, whether or not they were happy, and what happiness meant to them. Some the quite literal answers have quickly drawn the attention of netizens noticing the somewhat inadvertent, and often hilarious, satirical nature of some responses.

Stories with dark humour

One particularly popular episode featured a migrant worker offering the brilliantly deadpan rejoinder, “I am a rural migrant worker, don't ask me.” Later in the exchange, responding to the question, “Are you happy?” (translated as “Ni Xing-fu ma?”, which sounds like “is your surname Fu?”) the elderly worker answers blankly, “My surname is Zeng!”

What these absurd exchanges demonstrate, however, is just how irrelevant a question about a completely abstract notion is to a rural worker struggling with the very real travails of day-to-day living. (See 1'08” of the Chinanews360 YouTube video below.)

http://youtu.be/01Jg1k9oiTQ

The following is a brief transcript of the video:

Working woman: I am happy. Happiness is to earn money for kids. Oh I am in your camera.
Salesman: Going to work is good. Making money is quite happy, right? But the stock is falling though…
Retired woman picking vegetable in the pavement: I am quite happy. My salary is low but I am happy. I have put my daughter through university. Now she graduates from a Master's degree, with a good job. I can only tell you this. Everyone has dissatisfaction. Now relatively speaking I am happier. It is better to sit outside. Home is too stuffy. I will clean up.
Rural migrant: I am a rural migrant worker, don't ask me. My surname is Zeng.

One Chinese micro-blog website transcribed [zh] the second episode, featuring an interview with a 73 old man who, tiring of the reporter's insensitive questioning, finally responds with his own, derisive, question (starting from the reporter raising his voice):

【cctv问73岁捡瓶子的老人:“你幸福吗?”】问:您今天收了多少瓶子了?答:73岁。问:您收了多少个瓶子了?答:我现在(靠)吃了政府的低保,650块一个月,政府好。记者:您觉得幸福吗?老人:我耳朵不好。记者大声:您幸福吗?听到吗?老人:听到了,就想折腾下你,我都靠捡瓶子活了,你说我幸福吗

I have bad hearing, the old man said. Screen capture from CCTV.

I have bad hearing, the old man said. Screen capture from CCTV.

[CCTV asked a 73-year-old who lives on picking bottles [from the trash]: “Are you happy”] Reporter: How many bottles have you picked up today? Answer: [I am] 73 years old. [one bottle equals RMB 0.1] Reporter: How many bottles have you picked up? Answer: I depend on social security to live. RMB 650 (about USD 100) per month. Government is good. Reporter: Are you happy? Old man: My ears are bad [I have bad listening]. Reporter yelling: Are you happy? Can you hear me? Old man: I can hear you, just want to give you a hard time. I live on picking up bottles. Answer for me, am I happy?

The micro-blogger subsequently offered his own answer [zh] to the question:

【假如有SB记者问我幸福吗】我会说,全世界有200多个国家地区,看病自己花钱的有20个,网络屏蔽的有4个,有户籍制度的3个,开政治课的有2个。教育产业化的1个,计划生育的1个,由外国人爹妈决定自己命运的国家有1个,以上都存在的国家仅有一个!20%的世界人口养活50%的官员。你说幸福吗

[If some stupid reporter asks if I am happy] I say: there are more than 200 countries in this world, about 20 of them have to pay fully for their own medical expenses, about 4 of them have Internet blocks, about 3 of them have household registration systems, about 2 of them have mandatory political education, 1 of them has their education industrialized, 1 of them has a compulsory one-child policy, 1 of them has their country's destiny decided for some foreigners’ dads and mums. Only 1 country has all the above features! 20% of the world population feeding 50% of the civil servants in this world. Are you happy?

Tiny Zhu described [zh] the third episode:

在郑州某火車票代售处,記者问一正排队买票的18岁大學生:「您最遗憾的是什么?」小伙答:「高考低了十来分。」記者問:「您最想要什么?」小伙答:「女朋友。」記者再問:「那么,這十年您遇到最坏的事呢?」小伙答:「接受你采访,队被人插了。」

Near the Zhenzhou train station ticket office a reporter asks an 18 year old university student: Any thing you feel regretful about? Youth: Just need 10 more marks for my high school examination result. Reporter asks: What do you want most? Youth answers: A girlfriend; What's the worst thing that happened to you in the past ten years? Youth answers: This interview… someone just jumped the queue.

So why are so many netizens seeing a serious side to the CCTV feature? Below are some explanations [zh]:

时事评论员-小魏::当你还在为孩子的学费发愁的时候,你幸福吗?当你生病,高额的医疗费还没有着落的时候,你幸福吗?当你看着威严高大的政府办公楼,你还没有一个家时,你幸福吗?当你知道,偏远地区还有那么多孩子吃不饱饭的时候,你幸福吗?,,,央视,你“幸福吗”?假如你“幸福”,央视你真的很无耻!

News commentator, Xiao Nei: When you are worried about your children's school fees, will you be happy? When you are sick and don't have money for the extremely high medical costs, will you be happy? When you see all these huge government buildings erected in front of you while you don't have your own home, will you be happy? When you know that some kids in remote areas are still living in hunger, will you be happy?…. CCTV, are you happy? If you are “happy”, you are shameless!

卓卓ER: 事实就是,我吃个饭还怕地沟油,喝口奶还怕有三聚氰胺,走个路怕被飚车的富二代撞死大吼一声“我爸是李刚”。不怕你人民代表戴”三个表“,就怕写个微博回个帖子还被“查水表”。一辈子买不起房子就算,就怕拆我大屋建起高楼万丈。已经无奈你的贪污受贿,就怕你问我幸福吗?“幸福你大爷的,幸福你妹”

Zouzou-ER: The fact is when I am eating, I am worried about the ditch oil (recycled oil)and the melamine milk (polluted milk that causes kidney disease). When I am walking, I am worried about being hit by second generation rich who will yell out: My Dad is Li Gang after he ran me over. I don't care about the three represents, but I am obstructed by the restricted number of responses for my post under Weibo's monitoring system. I would accept the fact that I can't afford to buy an apartment in my lifetime, but am afraid that my humble home would be demolished for high-rise buildings. I feel so helpless about your corruption, please don't ask me further if I am happy? Where is our f–king happiness?

海上撞船,高速烧车,滑坡埋人,景区砍人,这个国庆太疯狂…最关键还有她妈一群傻逼到处问人家幸福不幸福!艹!为遇难者默哀。

Firework sister: Boat crashed. High speed rail on fire. Landslide burying lives. Touristic site robbing people. This national day is too crazy… The key is some stupid people still go around and ask people whether they are happy. This is a time for condolence.

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