Thursday, November 30, 2006

The god of victory and conspicuous consumption

You are a corrupt border guard working in the run-down airport of a small third-world nation. As deplaning passengers file past you, already sweating and flapping uselessly at the heat, they press crumpled 20 dinar notes into your dirty palm.

It’s a living, you know?

Today there is a new guard working a second queue next to yours. His uniform is clean and smartly ironed. He smiles and chats with the passengers. He does not seem to sweat at all.

You can’t help but notice that he receives crisply-folded 50 dinar notes. Later you ask him about this and he shrugs.

‘It’s all about giving the people what they want. I strive to create an atmosphere where passengers are happy to participate in a little show. It’s just important to make sure that everybody’s having fun,’ he says, counting out money into a leather bill-fold.

That night your door is kicked in by the vice squad. They exchange pleasantries with you, beat you up and take you to the station.

‘How much do you spend on prostitutes every week?’ The police inspector demands angrily, leaning in and wetting you with his spittle. You deny ever using prostitutes and they beat you again. And again each time you deny it.

Finally, spitting out teeth, you splutter: ‘1000 dinars! I spend 1000 dinars a week on prostitutes!’ There is general laughter.

‘1000 dinars!’ roars the Inspector, ‘my God I spend twice that every day!’ Suddenly he stops laughing and puts an arm around your shoulder. ‘This is so awkward,’ he says, ‘I just feel awful about what’s happened. 1000 dinars!’ He shakes his head sadly and leads you back into the hallway where you see your new colleague chatting and smoking cigars with the police. He winks at you.

A nice young police cadet gives you a ride home. As you get out of the car, you pray for assistance from Nike, Greek god of victory and conspicuous consumption.

Nike responds: just do it!

Thanks be to Nike, god of victory and conspicuous consumption!

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