Central & South Asia

The Allegory of the Canceled Christmas


December 22, 2013 00:12 EDT

The diplomatic spat between the US and India has unintended global consequences.

Christmas seems unlikely to come for millions of children around the world this year, as an increasingly bitter dispute between Utopia and the Federal Democratic Republic of Lapland grows over the recent arrest and detention of Santa Claus.

“We arrested Santa Claus for visa fraud and customs violations,” the chief persecutor of Utopia said at a press conference in the capital yesterday evening. “It’s an open and shut case,” he continued, “we caught the guy red-handed.”

"The Guy's a Foreigner"

According to Utopian officials, Santa Claus had been taken into custody following irregularities in his annual visa application, lying about what he pays his assistants and failing to declare the value of goods that he’s importing.

“One minute the guy says he’s Santa Claus, the next, he’s Saint Nick,” the chief persecutor said. “You look at his visa application and it’s just riddled with inconsistencies over his identity,” he continued, pointing to other references, including "Father Christmas," on the form.

“We’ve also booked him on customs fraud,” he continued, referring to the planned dropping of merchandise from the air, which could be worth tens of billions of dollars. “Look at what he’s put on his visa form about the value of imported items,” said the chief persecutor at the press conference, pointing to the word "zero" clearly written on the form that he held up for all to see.

“With import duties at 25%, it’s a potentially enormous liability,” a senior partner at the tax firm Billings Higher & Higher LLP told our correspondent.

Asked whether Santa’s diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention had been violated, the chief persecutor responded: “We don’t care about all that stuff, the guy’s a foreigner in our eyes. We don’t care who he is.” 

“Anyway, dropping presents from the air is a commercial act, and not one that directly relates to official capacity,” he argued.

“The only things that we drop from the air are explosives, agent orange and other carcinogenic substances, so this is clearly unusual activity for any state representative to carry out,” he continued, in response to a further question about Santa’s possible immunity from prosecution.

Glossing over allegations that the Utopians had turned a blind eye to the annual event for centuries, the chief persecutor’s office responded with a technicality.

“If you look at his visa form, under the ‘Purpose of Visit’ section, the guy hasn’t said anything about dropping off presents. Ticking the ‘Other’ category, just doesn’t cover it,” a leading Utopian immigration lawyer explained to our correspondent.

The Elf Wage?

But things could get a whole lot worse for the elderly present distributor. The chief persecutor’s office is also looking at visa applications made on behalf of his assistants.

“We’ve interviewed his elves and several ‘little helpers’ and they’ve spilled the beans on their pay and conditions,” a spokesman for the chief persecutor’s office said.

“We’re also pressing charges against Santa on violations of employment law and fraud,” he continued.

“These poor guys were getting just $5 a day, and doing a 120 hour week. It’s clearly inhuman and a violation of their human rights,” said a lawyer at Fictional Characters Watch, an organization dedicated to upholding the rights of elves, goblins and other fairytale characters, wherever they may be.

Rumors suggest that Saint Nick pays his elves just $5 a day, while claiming back the Utopian minimum wage ($200 a day for an eight hour shift) from the Lapland Foreign Ministry as a subsidy.

“The allegation is that he pockets the extra cash, after taking care of kick-backs to the Foreign Ministry,” a source close to the investigation told us on condition of anonymity.

“Everyone’s taking care of. There are a lot of people in on it,” he continued, “it could blow the woolly socks off Lapland’s diplomats.”

“We mustn’t forget that the Federal Democratic Republic of Lapland (not to be confused with the region of Scandinavia, which has a similar name) has a very different constitutional set up,” explained a professor at the Schadenfreude School of International Relations. “It’s what we like to call a ‘Constitutional Devocracy,” he continued.

Devocracies, according to social scientists, are democracies that are essentially governed by a ruling narrow elite who, in practice, are above the rule of law.

“Devocracies are all about devotion,” the professor continued. “While they often speak in the name of the masses, they are essentially oligarchies that never miss an opportunity for a bit of nationalistic and patriotic chest thumping.”

“Opportunities in devocracies are so limited, and there is such an enormous labor market that the masses have no other alternative than to devote themselves to their ruling elites,” he added.

“But Santa’s arrest and detention is perfect timing for the current government,” the professor continued. “With elections due shortly in Lapland, they’ve essentially distracted attention from the real issues, with a call to rally around the flag.”

Elves and little helpers are an underclass and have little legal protection in Lapland. They essentially have no rights and work long hours for little pay in an environment that is completely unregulated.

“It should be an embarrassment for the government,” the professor continued. “Although civil society has worked tirelessly to bring these elves and little helpers legal protection, their efforts have been stalled in parliament.”

Many political commentators suggest that the stalling of the ‘Elves and Little Helpers Fair Treatment and Compensation Bill’ brought before the legislative assembly 30 years ago, is simply evidence that the ruling elites are denying them from being able to enforce their constitutional rights.

“It’s shameless,” said a representative from the Foundation for Fair Treatment for Elves and Little Helpers. “We have no rights under the law, not even the miniscule minimum wage. Yet when it comes to election time, we hear all their false promises of change.”

“It’s so hypocritical of our government,” the representative added. “On the one hand, Lapland likes to portray itself abroad as a generous and humane society, and Santa Claus brings us all this kudos,” he said, “but the reality for elves and little helpers in Lapland is very, very different.”

From Red to Orange

But in his first public statement after the arrest, Santa Claus has alleged that he’s been grossly and disproportionately mistreated, and that it is he himself who is the victim.

“They ripped apart my sack of toys, in violation of rules preventing diplomatic bags from search,” he revealed. “Law enforcement officials even shaved my beard off,” he further stated, alleging violations of international norms applicable to detention. “I was stripped of my traditional red clothing and made to wear an orange jumpsuit.” 

“These are dangerous times. It could easily blow out of proportion and escalate into a new Cold War,” a leading academic at the Schadenfreude School for International Relations said. “It has the potential to freeze relations between the two global giants.”

But things aren’t looking good for Santa. Under international labor laws, all distributors of gifts are obliged to pay the minimum wage mandated by law in a particular territory. Utopia has strict hourly rates for casual immigrant workers and it’s difficult to see how Santa is going to be able to defend his position.

The economic impact could be devastating. “Santa spends a lot of time in Utopia on deliveries, and increased costs could cripple him,” a leading economist at the Federal Lapland Reserve said. “It’s not going to be good for his balance sheet and we might have to bail him out with taxpayer’s money,” he continued, hinting at a broader economic crisis and the possible escalation of an ongoing quantitative easing policy.

“But it could actually be really good news,” a member of parliament from Lapland’s Procrastination Party thinks. “Look at if from our perspective: We can subsidize his bailout and give it some nonsensical policy name like the National Santa Employment Guarantee Policy,” he said on anonymity. “Where there are subsidies, there are opportunities,” he cryptically hinted.

But Lapland’s Foreign Ministry, in charge of the annual operation that delivers millions of presents globally, has been looking into other methods of delivery in an attempt to cut costs and streamline, following an extensive and expensive audit carried out by a leading global management consultancy.

“The traditional ‘down the chimney’ approach is becoming more and more difficult due to his portly size,” said a senior consultant from the firm. “We’re looking at subcontracting to guys like Amazon and Fed Ex, but there are more cost savings to be made,” he continued.

“We’ve even been looking at delivery by drone for next year, but the feedback from market surveys, particularly from customers in Pakistan, has been frosty,” he admitted.  

But others are more worried about the damage this incident could have to the idea of Santa and Christmas in general.

“The arrest and subsequent spat is not good news for the brand,” said a leading public relations guru to our reporter, after we handed over a cheque for $1 million. “But he’ll survive this scandal, there are just too many people invested in him. He’s literally too big to fail, they’ll work out a solution,” he continued.

Many are quick to point out what a tough time the ageing delivery-man has recently had and wonder how long he can carry on. “So far, his board and shareholders haven’t demanded his head, but the mood could swing,” a commentator at global wealth manager Securitized Junk LLP said.

Others focus on the trauma in his personal life during the current fiscal year.

“It’s been a difficult year for Saint Nick, he’s put on a lot of weight and personally, I blame the mince pies,” said the editor of a leading women’s glossy magazine on condition of anonymity. “The ongoing court case with his wife, a leading celebrity chef, hasn’t helped either,” she continued.

Earlier this year, the couple escalated a very public spat when Saint Nick alleged that his wife had let their helpers use their joint credit card, racking up millions of dollars of debt, in return for their silence on her alleged habitual use of the substance, "snow dust."

So far, Lapland’s Foreign Ministry has reacted with characteristic restrained maturity over the incident.

“They’re holding one of ours, so we’re going to lock them all up,” a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said at a press conference in the capital.

“There have been a few isolated snowball attacks on Utopian diplomats,” he continued, “but that’s to be expected, along with other measures,” threatening to escalate the diplomatic crisis.

Kids: He's Not Coming to Town

Ultimately though, the impasse is just not good news for the global economy. Analysts at leading investment bank Holding Stacks LLP are worried that the crisis could have a lasting impact on global growth.

“It could wipe a few percent off global growth next year,” said an analyst. The WTO are just going to have to sort out this cross-border tax issue on Christmas gifts. It’s just too damaging.”

The bank’s analysts are particularly worried about the knock on effect in related industries, such as Christmas tree sales, decorations, red hats and the music industry in particular, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars during the festive season.

“The writing really could be on the wall,” a leading culture writer with one of Lapland’s leading celebrity magazines said. “George Michael probably never realized how prophetic ‘Last Christmas’ actually was,” he continued despondently.

Well, for this year at least, it seems, Santa Claus may not be coming to town. 

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy. 

Image: Copyright ©    Shutterstock. All Rights Reserved


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