Yesterday morning I asked the readers of my Facebook page a deceptively simple question.
“What if you could sell your passport?”
“Imagine” I wrote “that we that we had passed a law that allowed you to sell your passport on condition that you never, ever, returned to New Zealand under any circumstances at all.(Even if you own a second passport from another country).”
Then added: “Imagine now you are offered $10 million by an overseas person for your passport. If you take the offer your name would be removed from it and your passport number would assigned to the buyer. As a condition of the sale howver you would never, ever, be allowed to purchase another New Zealand passport.
Would you take the money? If so, why? If not why not?”
24 hours later over 300 readers had responded to my question .
Some would take the money in a heartbeat. For others, no amount of money would entice them to give up the right to their turangawaewae,their place to stand in the world, their home.
I say the question was a “deceptively simple” one because you can only reach your own considered answer by posing yourself a series of other questions before you get to the passport one.
In no particular order those questions might include:
Is everything for sale? Or are there some things that are so valuable in life you cannot put a price on them?
This is a thinly disguised Free Market question. Economists talk about “the Free Market” as if it was an absolute principle of capitalist life; but of course even the “Free” market is restricted. You are not allowed to sell children or human body parts for example. Nor can you put a price on having a carin Mum or Dad or the experience of love in your life.
So in this regard a couple of good questions to ask yourself are :
What do I value in life beyond money and possessions? And is being a New Zealander one of those things or not?
To answer that last questiom of course means tackling the issue of your identity and of how important or unimportant it is to you to be able to say you belong to the very tiny group of people in the world entitled to call Aotearoa ‘home
And then hot on the heels of THAT question comes the another, more personal one,
“How important are my family, my whanau, my close friends to me?” Could I really bear leaving them behind?
Then there’s the fact that we take our national identity as a given – something to which we are entitled from the moment of our birth. However there are many stateless people in the world whose lives are miserable as a result.
It is currently estimated , for example, that there are 40 million children in the world today whose births have not been registered. Officially they don’t exist, which in turn means they can be used as slave labour, abused, sexually exploited and unable to escape to somewhere else because – yes, they have no passport
Some of my readers wrote answers to the effect that the right to live in our country is priceless. But apparently our government doesn’t agree.
I didn’t just pluck the $10 million dollar figure out of the air.
If an overseas person has that amount of spare cash then obtaining permanent residency in our country is no problem at all because they can apply for an Investment Visa. (You can read about it here: https://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/investing…/…/investor-visa )
The idea , we are told, is that by encouraging wealthy people to come to our country they will create jobs for New Zealanders.
However, the rules simply state an applicant must promise to keep their $10 million in an acceptable investment in New Zealand for 3 years and so many of these wealthy migrants choose to keep their money in Government Bonds rather than start a business which employs people.
There are other Investor Visas which involve a 3 milliomn dollar amount and conditions such as an intention to run a busines here but for our purposes today the point is that the right to live permanently in our country is, in fact, up for sale.
Do you approve? Not approve?
Me? Would I sell my New Zealand Passport even though I also hold a EU one?
I came to New Zealand as a kid who had been born into the slums of Edinburgh. The government of the day gave me a warm dry house I could call home and a free education up to and including University. It was an enormous hand up in life for me– a giftI have always felt I had to repay by staying here , working hard and paying my taxes.
I suspect many of today’s young people don’t feel that same sense of obligation and belonging because my generation introduced neoliberalism as our economic mantra.
For example, we told our children that higher education was not a public good but a private one and therefore they would have to pay for their own education.
So instead of the message I received from the governments elected by my parent’s generation of “Don’t worry kid you’re a Kiwi and we’ve got your back,” our message to our own children has been “You’re on your own kid. Don’t expect any handouts. Suck it up and take out a loan to complete your education. ”
It’s hardly surprising then that so many of our young people have left their home for foreign shores where they can earn more money and will not return to build our own economy. Why should they help us to get on in life when we were begrudging in our help for them when they needed it most?
So, what price do you put on your identity and your sense of belonging?
Would you sell your passport for $10million ?