HIGHTOWER: Apologies for $2.50 a Piece

As an old saying puts it, you can buy a dog, but you can't buy the wag of its tail. Indeed, sincere emotion is about the only thing left in our crass commercial world that has not been reduced to a commodity and put up for sale. Until now, that is.

The New York Times reports that the Chinese have taken a Great Leap Forward in consumerism by starting to market the powerful human emotion of remorse. They don't sell it as a product, of course, but as a service, for it seems that the Chinese culture allows little room for people simply to apologize to each other. Unlike in our culture -- where "I'm sorry" is a standard phrase of social interaction -- apologizing there reportedly involves a grave loss of face and is a very formal expression that they find difficult to make. The result is that a lot of folks go to their graves feeling unrelieved remorse for disputes they had long ago with lovers, family members, business colleagues, and others.

Enter The Tianjin Apology and Gift Center, whose marketing slogan is "We Say Sorry For You." It was established by a lawyer and amateur psychologist who saw an entrepreneurial opportunity to relieve people of their prolonged remorse. It's one of several apology companies popping up in China to serve as middlemen to resolve these old hurts. For $2.50 per apology, the Tianjin Apology Center will assign one of its 20 professional apologist to your case -- they write letters, deliver gifts, and make explanations to anyone from whom you want to receive forgiveness.

Not everyone is charmed by this enterprise: "In our increasingly commercialized society," a sociology professor at People's University said to the Times, "people have the idea that you can pay money to others to do your work for you. But if you are sincere, you should go and apologize by yourself."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... What reactionary thinking. Sorry fella, you can't let sincerity get in the way of a commercial transaction.

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