Thursday, June 28, 2007

Business as usual

There's an everyday expression in French, fond de commerce, whose literal meaning is "business assets". But it's often used in the case of small shopkeepers to designate the particular commercial setting and customers that enable them to earn their living. For example, I recall the prolific and popular French novelist Frédéric Dard [1921-2000] talking about his childhood on a radio program. At one stage, his mother had a small shop that sold merchandise designated in French as farces-attrapes, which means trivial objects used for practical jokes, tricks and party gags. [I'm not sure I ever saw such a shop back in Australia... or anywhere outside of France, for that matter.] Well, Frédéric Dard explained with glee that his mother's commercial operations meant, for example, that she had to stock an assortment of the finest imitation dog turds made out of rubber. In other words, her fond de commerce included these objects and, by the same token, the people who buy such stuff. She therefore had to maintain constant contacts with the wholesalers who produced these objects. So, whenever a manufacturer's representative called in at her shop, she would ask to be brought up to date: "Please show me a few samples of this year's creations in the field of dog shit."

In a totally different domain, I've always felt that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is like a small shopkeeper whose constant business preoccupation is terrorism.

As a consequence of September 11, 2001, Rudy nows knows more about how to deal with terrorists than anyone else in the world... including Bill Clinton, of course, and maybe even George W Bush. Rudy is a specialist in terrorist threats just like the mother of Frédéric Dard was a specialist in imitation dog turds. It's Giuliani's business, and nobody should dare to tell him how to run his business, particularly if they're Democrats. Above all, Rudy doesn't want to listen to anybody talking about bringing the troops home from Iraq.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee made it clear, tersely, that Rudy's establishment is not at all the best little shop in town: "Rudy's arrogance has gotten the best of him. How can a man who failed to prepare New York City for a second attack after the first one, who sent firefighters and emergency workers into Ground Zero without respirators and quit the Iraq Study Group to raise money keep America safe?"

Will those negative remarks slow down Rudy's operations? Not at all. Business as usual.

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