Monday, 12 October 2015

Korptopia Doesn't Have Citizenship

Not all my discussions with Old Randall will end up in a book.

My commute to work involves two buses. Once is a quick jaunt, the other a long ride of over an hour. That second bus doesn't come often either. Sometimes I just miss it and end up waiting in the hot sun, or in the penetrating winter wind, or under a cold autumn downpour. Fortunately there's a Starbucks close by. Even better, there's a Tim Horton's a bit further away. Better, because it's cheaper. My wallet is always thin.

It's on that second bus that I first met Old Randall. He lives nearby. He's from the future. Yes, he is. Yes, this is real. Deal with it. You'll have to read the book for more. Be patient.

So it's not really a surprise when I bump into him.

Having just missed my Sunday bus, I had a whole forty minutes to wait for the next. The weather was wonderful, but I was feeling dragged out. Time for coffee.

I walked into Tim's, and there he was sitting alone, back military straight, hands on his knees, the extra-large coffee steaming, untouched. I know this routine. He lets it cool, then gulp, gulp, gulp. I also know this mood. The thousand yard stare set into his old weathered face with his crooked nose and clipped ear. Haunted by all that history-to-be in his head.

So I tried to slip by. When he's moody, ugh.

"Donut," he said. "Maple. Get me one. I need sugar."

A huge hand comes off a leg and precisely picks up the coffee and brings it to his lips. He stops, hesitates, and puts it back down, nodding his head slightly back and forth. Not yet.

I wait on the hectic mix of Christian, Hindu and Muslim women behind the counter and come back with the donut. I have my own black coffee with a sandwich. Too hot or not, I greedily start at the coffee. There's a knot in my neck I know it will undo. Unless Old Randall tightens it. He can do that.

He doesn't offer to pay me. I don't dare ask.

I stare and sip. Old Randall just... sits. I know he wants company, but he's the testy type. So I wait.

His coffee checking routine repeats. Twice. Mine is getting on done. He's efficiently eaten the donut in the meantime.

Finally, I give in. "I have a bus to catch."

"Korptopia. You're calling it that? Spelled with a 'K'?"

"Yes."

"Why the 'K'?"

"The misspelling hints of something being wrong. A 'K' instead of a 'C' suggests the commies of the USSR or the current Russian kleptocracy."

"What's the USSR?"

"An older form of Russia. Communist. Long gone. Never mind."

"I can see why this country fails. I've been watching the election."

"Well, Randall, that'll make anyone cynical."

"The concept of citizenship is antiquated. No human is born with more value than another. Why should it matter where they are born? Doesn't your Charter say people can't be discriminated based on country of origin? Yet, if they aren't born here they aren't entitled as someone like you who was?"

"Well..."

"Because the government runs your lives, it needs this distinction. It's not a natural one."

"It is tribal, I think."

"Oh, please. You aren't one tribe. We may be the only white atheists in here."

"Well, it's the way things are done. And, despite our differences, we have many thing the same."

"You're trapped in a dangerous place. Citizenship is not a right. It's a prison of privilege."

"Huh?"

"This Harper guy. He says citizenship is a privilege to be revoked on the whim of a politician, and it's up to the former citizen to prove he shouldn't have lost it."

"Well, that's only in limited circumstances, when the person is a terrorist or a traitor, and removing their citizenship can't leave them stateless."

"Whatever. Rules change. Today it's only for traitors. Tomorrow, it's murderers. The day after, pedophiles. By next week, it'll be for speaking up."

"Well, it's popular, though probably against the Charter."

"Well, I know enough to know it eventually gets abused. Badly."

He stops talking and performs his coffee checking ceremony. Displeased, he sighs slightly, and places the cup down.

"Korptopia," he says, tasting the word. "It does roll off the tongue better than Free Corporate Dominion of Mantario."

"Yup. Good marketing too."

"In Korptopia there is no such thing as citizenship. As long as you can pay, you can come. As long as you can pay, you can stay. If you blow up a pipeline and kill a hundred people, no one makes you leave. All you have to do is pay, and then you can leave, or still stay."

"Sounds expensive."

"Yes, it is. Truth be, you'd likely be murdered for it. The assassin either paid for by a victim, or crowdsourced, or something. There'd be litigation either way."

"Sounds crazy. Anarchy."

"Not something which'll happen much. The terrorist crap, I mean. It's better to spend the money to own your own pipeline."

"What if the terrorists don't have the money?"

"Then everyone and anyone connected has to work it off."

"Doubt they can. Bankruptcy?"

"If they lack the money, they work until they lack the sweat. There is no bankruptcy in Korptopia. What a ridiculous concept. How can you legally evaporate someone else's property without their permission?"

"Work until they lack sweat?"

"Dead people don't sweat."

"Oh."

I check my cell. My bus is coming soon. "Randall, I've got to..."

"Yeah. Go and toil. And sweat."

I get up. Old Randall checks his coffee. As I leave, he's chugging it. Behind him, the beehive of immigrants continue to serve coffee. I run and just make the bus.



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