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PRIVATISING PASSPORTS

By Anton Baer

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The Montréal Review, July 2012

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A few years ago I flew back to Canada after many years in Europe. At Vancouver customs I noticed that the crowds were almost entirely Asian, and they all held out passports just like mine: dark blue, with elegant gold lettering that spelled out CANADA.

I had felt at home in Europe, with its weather, its geography, its many cultures and their many parochialisms, their pettiness and their poverty, the bridges of Paris and its 'pigeons in dark courtyards' too, to borrow a phrase from the narrator of Camus' novel The Stranger, which is set in Algeria. The hops fields and castle ruins of Czechoslovakia, the mountains of Austria, the chalk cliffs of the English coast, the rainy forests of Verdun, even Bosnia's twisting rivers: they were part of my European heritage. Europe's multiculturalism was real, vibrant, dynamic, both thrilling and threatening, shaped by class and privilege: the human struggle, in short, dating back to the extinction of the Neanderthals and the barbarian inventions of iron and steel. There were Celtic hillforts and Baroque mining towns, Van Gogh's tulips and windmills, monasteries and libraries and an intellectual history going back to ancient Greece and Rome. There was Bach, and Mozart, and the Russian Red Army Choir. There was Enrico Moricone, the Italian who wrote the music for Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns. But, born in Canada to a father whose own family had just got off the boat from Austria before he was born, and to a French-Canadian and American mother, I had no European passport that would give me the right to live there happily ever after. And, like many Europeans, my young wife wanted to live in Canada. She wanted the glow of mountains and rivers and big skies. In Western Europe she would only have been another invading Slav. So I came back. 'Home', my wife thought, clutching her own brand-new Canadian passport with the Landed Immigrant paper folded inside.

At the Customs desk sat a pale young woman, a Viking with tightly brushed blond hair and cold eyes. She was not there to welcome anyone. I opened my passport to the inside page stamped with coat-of-arms scrollwork in French and English that led down to the fine print, and I read to myself: 'This passport is the property of the government of Canada'. In a firm, official voice the young woman asked for it back. Her tone was functional and uninterested. I had seen more human fellowship in the eyes of the Muslims I had hung out with in a small town in Bosnia on the Sava River.

Where had I been? What had I been doing there? I listened to her monotone and heard: nothing. There was nothing in it of a Norwegian fisherman calling out from his boat to the shore. There was nothing in it of a shout across an English pub for another pint. No undertone of a Swiss yodel dying away among green mountains, no expiring sigh that comes with the shrug the French put in every word, no sharp intake of breath to put the basta! into the Italian mamma mia!

I was let through the barrier because I had the passport. Otherwise, like my wife, I was really an alien. We caught a ferry to Victoria, and after moving our bags into to a brother's basement, off we went to see the town.

The city was surrounded on three sides by cold green ocean. Imperial stone architecture by the harbour, wooden Victorian houses back under the towering Douglas firs, cricket grounds in the parks. Tourists came to Victoria for the 'laid-back' vacations in a little corner of old England, maybe a little hiking along the coast or being sped out into the straits in tour boats to spot killer whales. Downtown, beggars sat in the streets. They were junkies between deals, middle-class slummers, Natives lost in the city, or they were mentally ill.

My wife, whose English wasn't very good, got a job as a chambermaid in a hotel by the harbour. One day she came home in shock. An American teenage girl come for the Victoria Day parade had defecated next to the toilet bowl in her room, and my wife had to clean it up. 'Why did you do it?' she asked the girl. 'Because we're teenagers,' the girl explained. My wife's perceptions about the culture of 'freedom' of North America expanded a little.

Canada as a cultural idea, as 'nation', had started for me during Expo '67. In an advertisement on our new colour television, hilltop grass whipped about the legs of hundreds of children of every colour, holding hands and singing 'Oh Canada, we love YOU!' It was an ad for Coca Cola.

The ad did what most pop singles do: it borrowed heavily on riffs that were already in the popular culture and combined them to make something new. Just as the Internet is only electricity with a global telephone directory and a computer screen, the Coke ad was equal parts of Expo '67 and The Sound of Music, which had hit the movie theatres two years earlier. Julie Andrews, its star, sang on a meadowy hilltop too, swirling her skirts in grass rippling in the downdraft of helicopter blades. The movie was set in Austria, or rather an idea of Austria taken from the stage-set of a musical, with all the skip-and-dance fantasy that that implies.

What that Coca-Cola ad did, it seemed, was drip a new idea into the still fantasy-tinted ideoplasm of the Canadian children of 1967: that a country could go global. The message of the multicoloured crowd was, like all great messages, a sleeper. And as the kids began to occupy universities and government desks, it seemed that the message began to wake up the dreamers.

Obviously it wasn't just the Coca Cola ad that would change Canada. It was the men in power already, men who looked like department-store owners, men like Lester B. Pearson, the Internationalist Prime Minister in a bow-tie who won a Nobel Peace Prize around the time the Americans were losing the Vietnam War. Even in the dilettantish years of Trudeau's belle affair with himself, Canada as an 'emerging nation' still celebrating its big birthday was looking for a role that would draw the spotlights away from the USA, the older buzzcut Nazi cousin who did everything bigger, faster and better than Canada ever could. Canada still wanted a place in the playground sun - but how, with such a well-muscled, self-confident boy hogging the teeter-totter?

Over in Europe, alliances and wars had helped keep the multicultural continent in balance. Little countries allied themselves with middling powers against bigger powers, to keep the juggernauts in check. It didn't always work, but it was better than barbarism.

Canada, led by department-store owners in bow-ties, decided to find some allies too, to counter American 'influence'. The other northern landmass giant, the USSR, the first post-nationalist state in the communist sphere, was a no-no, because America said so.

But there was another choice, not quite a land mass, and Canada did something almost original here: it decided its national interests lay with the United Nations. Then it went a little further, and resolved to personify the United Nations: liberal Canada chose to debut as the first post-nationalist state among the liberal democracies.

It would be wrong to say Canada was after a starring role in the UN. After all, p rima donnas can get some terrible bloody noses out there on the floorboards, scratching and clawing just trying to make an honest living before they descend into the dregs of a seaside landlady. No, Canada just wanted to be peacekeeper to the world. Liberal Canada wanted to be the kid on the playground who persuades the rough boys not to fight, by sharing his sandwiches with them. Liberal Canada wanted to be the UN's eternal virgin-in-waiting, peering out from behind the curtain and wringing her hands in case a light fixture should fall on an innocent play-goer justifiably armed with an AK-47.

And so Canada opened its borders to the United Nations. A big Welcome mat was flopped out to a 'target goal' of 250,000 immigrants a year from Asia, Africa and Latin America - all those countries that made up such a big and vibrant part of the UN. Europeans too could apply to become Canadians, but there would be no favouritism shown. Canada was going to be the Coca Cola ad.

By 1998, when we arrived in Victoria, the United Nations were everywhere. The kids of the rainbow were no longer singing catchy tunes on a grassy hilltop. There were Thai restaurants, Indian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, but there were no sitars or Mariachis out on the street. There were American and Japanese cars that drove past thumping with the noxious monoculture of gangsta rap. It was, it seemed, a false multiculturalism that Canada had sold these new Canadians. There were no Caribbean seas, no Thai jungles, no Ganges. Culture grows out of the land that creates it, and these arriving cultures would not survive in Canada. The myth that they would was a sales pitch. It was a lie of the department-store kind.

One day as I sat in a parked car outside a Dairy Queen while my wife was shopping in the attached mall, a New Canadian, young and obese, waddled past on thunder thighs licking with serene self-confidence a soft ice-cream cone of forehead-grazing dimensions. The message on her face was unmistakable: 'I deserve this.' Everyone else who walked out of that Dairy Queen, the entire rainbow of Canada, seemed to be enjoying too many calories. None looked unusual, and none looked ashamed. The well-integrated young woman deserving her mountain of ice cream no longer looked Balinese.

Life seemed full of lifestyle choices for Canadians. No one made scenes or shouted. There were no Gypsies bellowing across market squares. Canada was all very indoors. Lazy, apparently, was now a lifestyle choice, and it was called 'laid-back'. High-school Detention Rooms were now 'Opportunity Rooms'. Native Canadians were 'First Nations', although they had, bluntly, never been a 'nation' of any kind. Official Canada, in schools and in ministries, seemed to specialise in mind-massaging that Orwell had written about in his essay 'Politics and the English language.'

On a bus heading to the airport to meet a friend, I sat behind two young women from the local university who could not speak English. Everything was like, I'm so like wow. Their courses were, like, um. Their teachers were, like, um, yeah. So I'm sitting behind them going to myself, like, wow, imbeciles. Then I began to pity them. Who had failed to teach them? Who had given up on them? The state? The schools? Their parents? At birth?

In a hospital where my wife was about to give birth I picked up a Health Ministry pamphlet on cocaine use during pregnancy. After detailing the horror-movie implications for the unborn child, the advice to expectant mumsies was that, if they were taking cocaine, perhaps they could consider cutting back on, or even stopping, their use of the drug during their pregnancy. There in the hospital corridor I lost it.

A male trolley-pushing intern with a large, soft belly in an expanding white t-shirt smiled a superior smile ('Look gals, a wacko') and slopped on. I went into my wife's room and shouted at her. There was a curtain separating her bed from the other bed in the room, and I pushed through it and shouted. The woman and her husband, sitting by the bed, smiled wanly at the brandished pamphlet. She was American, he was a Canadian, and he said Canadian 'spinelessness' was the reason they were moving to the States. There, he said, pregnant women who took cocaine are handled by the police. It was a crime in the States to harm an unborn child, not a lifestyle choice. When my wife gave birth, our baby was put overnight into an observation ward. There was another room there, one of the nurses told me, for junkies' babies. It had no lights. The babies screamed all day and night.

Canadians had it great, said the Liberal government. Every time I opened a newspaper I got the same liberal story. Canada was the greatest place in the world. Canada was tolerant and wonderful and liberal. The yearly United Nations rankings of quality-of-life backed the Liberal government up in that.

I already knew Canada was nice; the liberal government kept saying so, the Health Ministry was really cool about cocaine, and only in Canada did I see advertisements suggesting I buy myself a gift. Clearly a real man no longer had to look with suspicion at the formerly feminine pursuit of shopping. There were even 'man bags' to help me along.

How had this happened?

Shopping, it turned out, in a land without the stamp of culture, was a way of 'branding' oneself, of giving oneself an 'identity'. When one day I spotted yet another 'romance thyself' advertisement on the window-shades of Hudson's Bay - the company that had made its fortune trading guns and whisky - the mystery of where shopping as self-identification had come from was solved. For the sign said: 'Shopping is Good.'

Catholicism burns certain moral ideas into you, and they never quite leave you. None of these morals have anything to do with shopping. 'Good' qualities were moral qualities. Helping the blind cross a street was good. Mozart was good too. There were many kinds of 'good'. And now there was shopping.

So I'm back in Canada, like, blinded by consumerism, sort of like staggered by mass imbecility. So like, a postcard comes from a friendly ex-goalie named Eddie Bauer 'just to let me know' that, with this discount card, 'the more the spend, the more I save!'

Well, as a hockey-playing boy I knew Eddie, and Eddie the net-minder sobered me up pretty fast: I had to start saving, because I had no pension fund.

I couldn't find a job, either. The ads in newspapers from 'Human Resources' departments left me cold. I didn't feel like a resource, machine-readable, with a CV like a bar code. I had taught English in Europe; in Victoria no one was interested, because I didn't have any machine-readable certificates. All I had was that Canadian passport, with the pricey gold lettering, and it was the property of the Government of Canada. How could I start saving for my inevitable life on the street?

My savvy younger brother, a combination of veterinarian, stockbrocker and shaven-headed Roman centurion, warned me not to bother saving anything. If I wanted to catch up on all those pension contributions I had missed out on while living in Europe, I had to learn to work the market. Don't waste time learning what Company X produces, he advised. It doesn't matter. What matters is the mathematics behind the swings in share prices. If you can predict the swings, you can make money. Aha, I said.

Every morning at five o'clock when the markets opened in Toronto he padded down to the basement in his bath robe and sheepskin slippers, flicked on his computer and silently set to analysing his 'charts'. Jagged coloured lines drew mountain peaks scanned by some sort of computational radar. The radar, he explained, illuminated the volumes of shares sold the previous day, and it also - here was where it got cunning - pointed to subtle psychological shifts in the buying and selling. Success was all about knowing the mass mind. That was the new mathematical secret that would let you lift the shield of your adversary and stick him in the guts before he stuck you. Aha, I said.

Although the financial radar device had been thought up by the most brilliant people who had ever lived, it turned out that it could only scan the patterns of yesterday's buying and selling. In other words, it could only be pointed out the back of the aircraft lumbering alongside the flanks of the darkened mountain ranges made up of the calculus of millions of shares bought and sold. Although absolute ga-ga geniuses had thought up the mathematics - people who in earlier centuries would have painted the Mona Lisa, conceived of the prototype of the helicopter and figured out the Theory of Relativity - the beams of this financial flashlight could not scan even one inch into the wheeler-dealer landscapes of today. That was left to the human brain, exercising its competitive nerve and instinct to go for the jugular. Having placed his buy orders and set his 'stops', my brother, apprentice of the quick dagger thrust to the widows and orphans' fund, drove off to his veterinary clinic for the day. After supper he was back at his computer, tanning his lean face and bitten lips in glowing streams of red and blue and bombs-on-Baghdad-green pixels.

My old socialist friend, whom I had gone to meet by bus at Victoria's airport, quietly advised me to forget the stock market. A university professor by now, he had his nest egg in mutual funds and his own property. Gaping holes in the safety net had forced him to learn something about capitalism. His university had played the markets and had lost such a whack out of its endowment fund that some 28 professors out of 32 in his department had been let go. The government, he explained, was forcing people to fend for their own retirement, since the government could no longer cope with the complexity of handling a pension fund - one of the greatest inducements to patriotism there ever was.

And again my thoughts turned to that inside page of my passport stamped with coat-of-arms scrollwork in French and English that leads down to the fine print: This passport is the property of the government of Canada.

One July I attended a Citizenship swearing-in ceremony at the Governor-General's residence in Victoria. Mexican friends were stopping by to pick up their Canadian passports. Looking down from the balcony onto the green-baize of the podium decked out with the provincial and national flags and a churchy little pulpit, I was struck by the happy brown faces. The new citizen who stood the straightest was a tall, elderly Sikh in a white turban and a dark blue suit. He looked poor, but his face was burning with pride. I thought: he's actually proud of being a Canadian. At the end of the ceremony 'O Canada' was sung. I didn't quite catch the new words, because they had changed since my childhood. Apparently the government revamps them every few years to make them non-exclusive of the new Canadians.

On Remembrance Day that year I walked downtown in the rain to the cenotaph to pay my respects to the dead of the two World Wars. One of my Austrian uncles had fought for Canada, and so had my three uncles on the French-Canadian-American side. It was like a mist-and-fog film from 1950s Britain: almost everyone under the umbrellas was white, or of European heritage. It occurred to me that in twenty years the children of these Canadians would not be learning about the World Wars. Those old documentaries showing the white faces in the watery trenches of Ypres won't speak to the new Canadians, for they will not be sufficiently inclusive. The history and the sacrifices of will have been sacrificed for some greater, United Nations-inspired good.

One day I had to go renew my own passport at Victoria's passport office. While waiting, I had time to study the glossy posters on the walls of wheat fields and white-water rafting. And one that said, in official black and white: 'Canada seeks to derive maximum benefit from the global movement of people.'

Suddenly it was all clear. From the Coca-Cola advertisement to the 'Shopping is Good', to the Human Resources departments in corporations and government alike, it was suddenly clear what was behind Canadian multiculturalism. Humans really are a resource. These Balinese waitresses and Nigerian priests and Colombian chambermaids were new incarnations of the coffee bean, jute, sisal, cotton, bananas.

Here was the explanation for why the government has a Ministry of Immigration at all, the explanation for why the government spends so much money to derive the maximum benefit from the global flow of human resources and get them to choose the Canada product over the America product and the European Union product. Because immigrants increase Canada's added value.

And so to cream off from the Third World their scarce resources of doctors and schoolteachers, engineers and opticians and call it 'enhancing diversity', Canada was touting the quality of life it could offer - which would also let Canada spend less on education at home. The money saved would go into the welfare state, to buy votes for Liberals. There were no posters about junkies on the streets and Native reservations in the bush, out of sight and out of mind. The posters were glossy advertising agency portraits of 'pristine wilderness' traversed by rubber rafts manoeuvred down rapids by a professional crew trundling along open-mouthed urban types. Everyone wears a helmet, like serious risk-takers. Everybody whoops. Nature is entertainment too, like shopping. After all, a man hiking alone in a park spends no money. Get him on a hang-glider or whooping in a raft and you increase the value of the nature product. That's what it was all about. Products.

Becoming Canadian had a fast-track cash price too, it turned out: $250,000. Anyone with this much money and with no criminal record is free to purchase Landed Immigrant papers that will permit him to live within the geographical map coordinates known as Club Canada. As my Centurion brother pointed out with the satisfaction of his smile announcing another six-hundred dollar profit-raking: the Market has Triumphed.

I rolled up my sleeves and tried to start thinking like everybody else. How could I, too, profit from the hordes of all-day shoppers under the New Order? How could I stand up for myself against the flow and ensure a decent retirement, sitting out on a lawn by a barbecue, now and then tottering inside to the bathroom and, in passing, maybe blowing the dust off one or other of my old European classics written by a dead white male, or fussily setting a classical record on my old turntable to try to drown out the Filipino rap from next door? How could I, a mere idler with a family to look after now, contribute to the new social ethos Shopping is Good?

I forced myself to think briskly, like a good and properly functioning human resource.

Surprisingly, I discovered, it is not the Market Rampant that has set the price of a Canadian passport at $250,000. That itself, when you think about it, raises a few questions: if we can have fair-trade coffee, why not fair-trade humans?

Why do some nation-shopper products enjoy two citizenships, while others are stuck with one?

Aren't dual-citizen products really first-class nationals of nations X and Z, able to pick and choose where they want to spend the winter months without the hassle of lining up for visas? In market terms, that's not fair. It confers unfair advantages to the dual-citizen product. It lowers tariff barriers unfairly. When a war breaks out in Lebanon and fifty thousand New Canadians stream down out of hillside villages and ask for paid passage back home to Toronto, isn't that a gross inequality for the other Lebanese who don't have the Canada product?

One thing that was missing here was the shopper's right to choose among passport products and to select the passport product he feels suits his lifestyle and/or optimises his survival options.

What we needed, I realised, thinking brisk, bottom-line, boardroom stuff, was system implementation: a macro-to-micro device to grow our freedom to shop to the freedom to decide where we wish to live. What we needed was a consumer-intervention tool to monetize our value-based choice that will eliminate the costly bureaucratic United Nations quality-of-life rankings. What we needed was a transparent, accountable and efficient market mechanism that would lead fairly and at no cost to those very same rankings.

The essential starting point of this system that I now propose - "Baer's Standard Richer and Poorer Index of Patriotism" - is that it can work only by making the passport-holder the sole stakeholder in his or her passport. Each citizenship must be tradable and its value must be based on tradable value. In other words, governments must stay out of it. Governments must not be permitted to print, say, X million Canadian passports and flog them on the market, thus grossly inflating the supply. One-to-one parity between the human product and the passport product is the only way to avoid passport-inflation and the inevitable wrecking of the whole fair-trade mechanism.

And so I, heritage Canadian, fed up with undersized Canadian hockey rinks and oversized ice-cream cones, would now like to set this Nasdaq of Nationalism in motion by offering my Canadian passport for trade. Having learned something from my brother, I count on there being many more Germans, Brits, Hindus, Aussies or Mexicans eager to share in views from the CN tower than there are Canadians eager to share in the beerhalls and bullfights of Europe, the surf of Australia, the colonial Portuguese architecture of Goa or the beaches of Jalisco. Confidently expecting therefore to profit personally at last from the hundreds of millions of public dollars sunk into creating the allure of the Canadian passport, I expect an offer from any European bidder to come with a packet of euros attached. That is, shares in my Canadian passport should in these early stages of market trading have a value higher than par. Let's theorise, for illustration's sake, that two Tyroleans covet a chance to call themselves 'Canadians' and to go paddling about the gravel pits of outer Toronto. Well, one of them must make me a better offer than merely par for the paddling product. (Here I deploy that whiz-kid tool of the market, hype, formerly known as 'lies': plenty of Austrians, Swedes, Australians and Mexicans might with equal MBA-acumen demand a packet of Canadian dollars attached.)

One of the essential attractions of my idea, whoever comes off better from the futures swap, is that it would allow the working poor to stiff their governments. Long and pensive sojourns in Paris writing winery guides or working for a bank affiliate in Zurich just because your mother was Swiss or a Brazilian diplomat at the UN will no longer be the privilege of the better-off, the better-educated, the winningly corrupt. Mechanics, carpenters, boiler-repairers - all can have the opportunity to share in their culture of choice.

Although in the early stages of trading Canadian passports can be expected to bring a high cash-rider value, the glut of black-market Canadian passports should soon knock the price down. And while economic theory could postulate the swap of shares in an Afghani passport to come with a two-million-dollar rider, the black market will adjust that rider downwards as entrepreneurs discover cheaper supplies, either in consulates abroad or through the refugee claims process.

Naturally there's a proviso here - and more are sure to pop up as keener financial brains than mine zero their radar in on this new bonanza. (I'm like, wow!) Since a sought-after American passport (face it, Canadians, the bullyboy next door still attracts far more immigrants) would be tradable with the Canadian practically at par - after all, ten miles from Vancouver the border becomes a ditch in a field - any black market malfeasance in the Canadian passport supply would tend to drag down the cash-rider in Canadian dollars that would go with share-dealing in American passports. Understandably, Ottawa would then be pressured by Washington into taking such stern actions as locking the back doors of consular offices in Zimbabwe: the price of the cash-rider would then soon rise back up the abscissa of the graph and keep the American price self-respectably high.

Such self-regulating mechanisms would apply to all countries. Following such adjustments, cash-riders will rise or fall depending on demand and on unforeseen obstacles, including non-Canadian cultural barriers to multiculturalism. That is, there may be countries out there that don't really want to be swamped by foreigners. But surely the market will triumph there too, eventually.

Other hindrances may be introduced by states that notice a steady out-flow of pensioners migrating to warmer climes. Many Canadians, for example, may quite reasonably choose to die Mexican. The risk to the Canadian state here is twofold: retirement funds depart with the citizen product, and their former passports may next be seen in the brown hands of youthful families in Mississauga - clearly, cash has slipped between private palms in Acapulco. And so just to get a justifiable velcro-like grip on this outflow, the humble Uriah Heeps in sunless tax offices everywhere may be tempted to retool their excess bureaucratic capacity and set up departure fees to strip the snowbirds of what should 'traditionally' belong to the State - that modern state that has no room for tradition.

In every David and Goliath shin-dig, I have learned from Canada's example, one still needs allies. And here is where the World Trade Organisation may finally be useful to the little guy. If the WTO can be persuaded to see the rightness of an unencumbered exchange of pension funds and rights to free medical treatment and other welfare disbursements, the ever-so- 'umble bureaucrats may have to restrain their twitching fingers.

Once the details are worked out, Baer's Standard Richer and Poorer Index of Patriotism (BSRPIP) will give citizens an immediate and reliable indicator of the quality of life they are enjoying and that they can trade to prospective customers. Based on the market price of the product that their citizens hold for them in escrow, governments will be forced to adjust tax rates, child care support, the square yardage of ice-rink surfaces, and everything else passport shoppers feel essential to their quality of life and shopping. Like a well-known and prospering chain of box stores, the government itself can institute 'aggressive hospitality' too, insisting on what is known as the 'Three Metre Rule': when any customer-is-king bellies over to within three metres, the sales or stocking associate is to smile, look them in the eye, and greet them with a cheery 'Welcome to (enter your business location here)'. As the competition with other country-products heats up, government instructional videos featuring the shaky Uriah Heeps (ah, the Job is safe) can demonstrate an even more friendly-aggressive insistence on sharing first names, handshakes and Holiday Season cards with every prospective customer.

One of the many beauties of the system is that it won't be necessary to insist upon this corporate cheerfulness at the point of corporate law or corporate 'mission statements': howdy-doody affability will be a natural outcome of the instinct to preserve the share price of the essentially self-employed.

In the case of Canada Inc., self-interest will motivate the citizen-associate to keep the price of his passport high. He can do this by boosting the role of independent cinema in Canada's cultural life, inventing a better local beer in Moosejaw, arguing eloquently for or against welfare and free healthcare for prospective purchasers formerly known as 'tourists', or, if he can't handle the finer points of the does-it-drive-the-price-up-or-does-it-drive-the-price-down debate, by just remaining howdy-doody pleasant. The actual cash value of the passport can be determined at any second of the day by a bar code inside the cover that can be linked electronically to a commodity exchange.

Patriotism, at last, will have a market value - a register of ups and downs that will fascinate day-traders around the globe and lead to a brand new market in a new kind of futures trading, dumping, and profit-taking. There will even be spin-off profits for bar-coding companies and advertising geniuses. Having just about exhausted their few remaining sperm and desperate unvisited eggs, the shock-brained ad-people in government who have been date-raping the English language for the last fifty years of anything-goes liberalism can now vie with each other in seductive packaging: holograms next to the bar code inside the passport cover could sear, directly into the mutant shopper's idiotplasm, tantalising vistas of mountain waterfalls as projected by breweries and rippling fields of Genetically Modified canola 'Brought to you by Monsteranto'. The passport: a dynamic designer showcase advertising gyms, tanning salons and agribusiness combines!

It's no longer a hilltop ridge that the children of the rainbow stand on. It's the top of the escalator in the shopping mall, and we're all here to greet the morning shoppers holding up our passports with a bright-eyed smile and a rousing cry in one hundred and sixty-seven languages:

"Barcode mine too, please, for the sake of (enter your business location here) Inc.!"

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Anton Baer's ( http://about.me/AntonBaer ) work has appeared in Zymergy Literary Review , Prairie Crossing and A Capella Zoo . His short story "Germany, 1946 " was broadcast on CBC Radio. Born in Canada, Anton Baer currently lives in Czech Republic.

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