Chicken Shit for the Sole

Let me introduce you to an island named Eropagnis.

200km north from the equator is a sunny island called Eropagnis. It is inhabited by a group of hubristic people known as the Snaeropagnis.

The religion of Eropagnis is Kia-suism. It can be briefly translated as “the afraid-to-lose syndrome”.

Yup, Snaeropagnis cannot afford to lose; they must win, at all costs.

As a result, Eropagnis has the highest man-made waterfall in the world (in its Bird Park).

It also boasts the tallest ferris wheel in the world.

Its airport has been named by Business Traveler (UK) magazine for being the longest “Best Airport in the World” title holder – for the past 20 consecutive years.

Its airline has earned many industry and travel awards, including Conde Nast Traveler’s “Best International Airline” award in 19 out of the last 20 years.

Its port is the busiest port in the world – handling about 19 million TEU’s (Twenty Footer Equivalents) per annum.

Its housing policy is the best in the world – about 95% of Snaeropagnis own the houses they live in.

Eropagnis became a first-world country from a third-world country in one single generation.

It believes this is partly due to a corrupt-free government, and one way of preventing corruption is to ensure that government ministers are among the highest paid in the world. In fact, the prime minister of Eropagnis, according to The International Herald Tribune, is paid five times more than the president of the United States of America.

The public transport system of Eropagnis can also be considered one of the best in the world. The taxi situation is a joke (more on this later) but jampacked buses and trains are almost always 100% on time and are very frequent in service.

However to own private cars, citizens must bid for such “entitlement” – yet another first.

Private car owners must pay to use certain roads; Eropagnis calls this electronic toll collection the Electronic Road Pricing System and currently there are 80 ERP gantries. Cars are fitted with stored-value cash cards and ERP entry fees are automatically deducted the moment they pass under these gantries. Citizens say ERP stands for “Every Road Pay.”

Snaeropagnis own some of the most expensive cars in the world but they drive like retards.

The justice system of Eropagnis is also one of the best in the world – on average; it takes only about 6 weeks to decide a case.

The Punjab police chief in Pakistan copied Eropagnis’ experience in managing road traffic, India’s Minister for Women looked at Eropagnis’ practice of controlling the migration of domestic helpers, Mauritius applied Eropagnis’ regulations on foreign law firms, and Japan copied the Eropagnis Exchange model by creating a comprehensive bourse able to handle a variety of securities and derivatives.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s President Lee Myung Bak has asked his civil servants to study Eropagnis’ experience in rooting out corruption, and Abu Dhabi has launched a civil service college on the Eropagnis model.

During a recent visit to Eropagnis, Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells praised the country for its innovative measures in dealing with youth radicalization.

But there is another side to Eropagnis:

While most Snaeropagnis seem to have prospered with the times, an average of about 1,000 Snaeropagnis gave up their citizenship each year in the last three years – at the risk of been labeled “quitters”.

In this recession, the population of Eropagnis is expected to shrink by four percent – foreigner-friendly Eropagnis may see at least 200,000 opportunistic non citizens leaving for greener pastures.

External commentators like John Kampfner of The Guardian think that the ordinary Snaeropagnis allegedly gave up their personal freedoms in return for prosperity.

But prosperity is slowly being eroded by inflation.

Inflation is at its highest in three decades. Government ministers who make big bucks advise Snaeropagnis to switch to frozen food.

Locally-produced TV programs are trashy and substandard. Local newsreaders are a laughable lot with their phony, if inconsistent accents. Radio deejays wouldn’t stand a chance in another country. If you wish to induce vomiting, Snaeropagnis swtich on their TV and watch the judges talk rot on Eropagnis Idol.

Snaeropagnis are among some of the world’s most competitive people but sport has never been an area in which they have excelled.

The government launched a multimillion dollar scheme to make Eropagnis one of the top 10 sporting nations in Asia. It also set up a Sports Ministry.

Central to it is a scheme to identify young foreign athletes and grant them citizenship so they can help to win some trinkets for Eropagnis. Talk about delusions of grandeur…

The local arts scene is dominated by the same few rather obnoxious and middle-of-the-road media darlings who should soak their heads in ice water to reduce the swelling. These poseurs are not the only media whores around – Snaeropagnis are tired of seeing the same fruitcake plastic surgeons and the same old meat heads on the idiot box.

The last couple of Arts Fests were catastrophes but the organizers are still patting themselves on their backs for what they considered a job well done.

The press in Eropagnis is no fourth estate. Journalists from Eropagnis will never win a Pulitzer; the press is compliant, self-censoring and operates within “OB (Out of Bound) markers”. But it’s not so simple –  OB markers may shift depending on the political climate, so a topic that was previously permissible may be banned in the future, and vice versa. With Pulitzers out of reach, local papers pat themselves on the back by bestowing awards on themselves.

Snaeropagnis can be heartless. The government had to enact a law compelling Snaeropagnis to take care of their elderly – definitely another first.

Taxi passengers pay a fuel surcharge – the only country in the world where such a ludicrous phenomenon exists; but ah, another first, and just one of the many reasons why the taxi situation is such a joke.

Eropagnis’ citizens often wonder if they require double PhDs to figure out all those extra charges imposed when commuting by cab:  booking fee, advance booking fee (different from a mere booking fee), public holiday surcharge, peak hour surcharge, mid-night surcharge, location surcharge (for trips originating from the airports, etc), ERP charges, Central Business District surcharge, fuel surcharge, yadda yadda yadda.

Yup, this has caused Snaeropagnis to joke that the acronym for the ruling party stands for “Pay And Pay”. In fact, there are rumors that soon meters will be affixed to people’s noses, so they can be charged for the air they breathe.

Hopefully infants in arms will be exempted.

The smug Eropagnis police boast about the low crime rate but their incompetence enabled a crippled terrorist to escape from a lock-up fenced by barbed wire, under CCTV surveillance and guarded by fierce Gurkhas, just one of the many “foreign talent” groups proliferating Eropagnis.

After the embarrassing escape, security was tightened all round, yet a 61-year old man was inadvertently allowed to travel to Vietnam when he used his 39-year old son’s passport by mistake.

Eropagnis seems successful despite some of jokers running the place. It is said that the IQ of some civil servants are the same as that of their shoe size. One or two prima donnas strut around like little Napoleons, heaping praises on themselves and spouting rubbish while the media laps it all up. The rest can be idiotic at times.

Consider the following: After spending S$400,000/- to come up with a suitable new name for the revamped downtown Marina Bay, Eropagnis has decided to stick to, well, Marina Bay. A contest was held to find a name for the budget terminal; the winning entry? “Budget Terminal.” (The 15-year old genius who came up with the brilliant name was awarded 2,000 bucks and a mobile phone.) The Eropagnis Tourism Board spent S$1.51 million over a period of seven years on feasibility studies, maintenance and reinstatement works to turn a cinema into a performing arts venue, only to conclude that it was not a viable project. The building stood vacant until it was returned to the Land Authority last year. The Eropagnis Auditor-General reckoned the rental revenue foregone to exceed S$280,000/- a year.

Bloggers make headlines. Some are treated like celebrities. Suddenly, self-absorbed, narcissistic air-heads, bimbos and tea-bagging queens who pen poppycock become household names. When they get pissed off, they shoot lawyer letters to each other.

Quite a few young lovers – still schooling – post videos showing themselves performing sex acts online.

When Eropagnis lost a soccer game, they beat up the supporters of the winning team.

The Eropagnis government is friendly with one of the most repressive governments in the world – that of Burma. It is rumored that Suharto’s money is here too and so are some of Marcos’ children.

A pastor performs magic shows with his daughter who is a single mother and another (female) pastor dons hot pants and gyrates suggestively while singing “China Wine”. (She has vehemently denied that she is a pastor.) Check her out on the YouTube. In yet another church, people stand in line every Sunday to listen to someone who should quit his day job and become a stand-up comic.

Aggressive proselytizing and fund-raising by some religious groups are causing concern.

Religious superstars are viewed with suspicion. A star monk was just on trial for mismanagement of funds and some other misdemeanors that will make even the late Michael Jackson blush. Imagine a monk performing vaudeville on TV, playing with race horses, driving BMWs, buying properties all over the world, joining country clubs, visiting tanning salons. Some monk huh? In a nation where one gets fined for eating a sweet in the subway, the Venerable  should be made to feel vulnerable and should be hanged by the scrotum! Now, how’s that for vaudeville?

Snaeropagnis stand in line for hours to buy second-rate donuts.

At food courts, Snaeropagnis “chope” (“reserve’) seats by placing packets of tissues on the seats.

These packets of tissues are usually sold by the destitute. There are no beggars in Eropagnis, only tissue peddlers.

There is no customer service in Eropagnis. Just walk into any store and you’ll know what I mean.

The Eropagnis media reported that billionaire Jim Rogers, former co-founder with George Soros, of Quantum Fund, and his third wife and two kids are becoming Permanent Residents, and are trying to get their daughter into a primary school, where she can learn Mandarin and be educated in the competitive Eropagnis school system. In order to secure a place for their daughter in the school – believe it or not – they are taking the time to volunteer their services to the school, a sacrifice only desperate parents make to get a better chance for school entry.

Tsk, tsk, the things parents do in Eropagnis to get their kids into the right school.

Some even stand in line over night to secure places in the right childcare centers way before their kids are born. The logic is if your child gets to the right childcare center, he or she will get to the right primary school, the right secondary school, the right junior college, then maybe win a scholarship to some Ivy League university in the West, and then come back, be invited by the ruling party to enter politics and become a government minister making big bucks with no need to eat frozen food.

And parents push their children hard, yet when teachers punish their kids, parents threaten teachers with law suits. Cases where students “frame” teachers they dislike with false allegations are not unknown of.

Suicide is now a significant public health risk, responsible for an average of one death every day.

For every suicide, there are seven unsuccessful attempts and suicide is now among the top three causes of death among 15-to-35 year olds.

And if Snaeropagnis wish to commit suicide, they make sure they succeed because suicide is a criminal offence in Eropagnis.

So’s cutting down trees in your own compound. So’s parking without a parking coupon outside your own house.

One in eight households in Eropagnis employs a foreign domestic worker, commonly referred to as “maids”.

The number of maids has increased almost thirty fold since the Foreign Domestic Worker scheme was introduced in 1978.

There are 180,000 foreign domestic workers in Eropagnis. Most are from Indonesia and the Philippines. The rest come from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, India and Bangladesh.

Each day, an average of 10 maids seek help and advice from their embassies because of problems such as physical and/or sexual abuse, non-payment of wages, not being given adequate food, and work-related stress.

In the last four and a half years, 90 maids, mostly Indonesians, have fallen to their deaths from high-rise buildings in Eropagnis.

Eropagnis papers are rife with news about maid abuse – an 18-year-old girl, together with her mother and mum’s friend, was accused of pulling out two front teeth of their Indonesian maid; another maid was forced to swallow boiling water; another employer ordered her dog to bite her maid.

Social workers express shock that “punishment” methods are becoming more deviant.

Animal abusers proliferate in Eropagnis. Perhaps over-stressed Snaeropagnis can only take it out on those who can’t fight back.

In Eropagnis old people have no choice but to work till they drop dead. For many Snaeropagnis there is no dignity in old age.

In other countries the McDonald’s are staffed with teenagers. In Eropagnis, many workers of fast-food outlets are old people making a meager couple of bucks an hour – their hourly wage would not be enough for them to buy a Big Mac and a drink at the very McDonald’s they work in.

In Eropagnis, healthcare costs are so high many say it is cheaper to just die.

The typical Eropagnis citizen is a sloppy dresser. Snaeropagnis dress like tramps yet expect to be treated like royalty. Faded t-shirts, Bermudas and flip-flops are the order of the day especially on weekends.

Yet on the other hand, some dress like walking brand-name boutiques but behave like tramps.

For example, in restaurants you see young couples who can afford to pay beaucoup moola for a meal seating on the same side of the table.

Peasants at heart! No inkling of etiquette or basic table manners. They talk at the top of their voices; guffaw as if they are the only diners in the restaurant and spit all over the place. And they don’t tip.

Snaeropagnis are also the worst drivers in the world.

Today, Eropagnis celebrates 44 years of nationhood – it’s about time for Snaeropagnis to grow up and come of age.

What is this supposedly first-world country with third-world inhabitants?

If you haven’t guess by now, spell Eropagnis and Snaeropagnis backwards.

As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”


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