How much am I bid for, well, me?

In recent weeks, the Pond was invited by the august machinemen at zdnet.com to write in as lyrical way as is humanly possible about the world of tech.

Being a pond-dweller out of water is never easy. But when the ‘out of water’ has all the makings of a desert one’s faculties are tested to their fintips.

One post I contributed concerned a survey by Zogby International that suggested 34% of people between the ages of 18-24 would happily sell their name for $100,000.

I was surprised. Only to be inundated by emails from men (as the only women working in the world of tech have blond hair, a scowl and an appointment for a sex change) telling me that of course they would sell their name for $100,000 as they could retire on that sort of money.

I did not realize that these folks had Suze Orman’s dead grandmother providing them with financial advice.

But when they pummelled me with so many different reasons for my being stupid, I began to realize that the world was changing faster than Paris Hilton three seconds after her bottom hits the concrete of a slammer cell floor.

Humanity has become, to use the polite phrase from a business manual, so results-oriented that everything has a price. And it’s now a very reasonable one.

Even Gene Simmons didn’t pay a whole lot for his new face. In fact, being a man who loves a deal, it seems Gene drove an even better bargain that had at first been suspected. Yesterday’s gossip sites ran a picture in which it did, indeed, appear as if his neck was supporting several rather floppy Genes, each one desperate to talk in a different direction.

Yet there is always that difficult line that divides those who sell willingly and those who are genuinely paying a price by selling.

This concept used to be called ‘selling out.”

I prefer to think of it as “selling up.”

Take the children of Africa.

I am determined not to refer to Angelina Jolie and Madonna when I speak of some of the more extraordinary humaneBay going on in the continent that many people secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) wish would just go away (Oh, save for a few tigers, a few elephants and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.).

You’ll never guess who’s been buying the children of Africa lately.

It’s the folks at Aspire Africa.

Perhaps you have not heard of this rampantly progressive organization.

Well, they’re offering many African children education at their academies. A very good education.

There are just a couple of insignificant conditions.

One, the children have to be quite good at soccer.

And two, well, they have to like travel.

Aspire Africa’s education camps are in Qatar.

You see, Qatar is like the rich kid at school whose daddy had a Rolls-Royce, but who was bleesed with as much sporting talent as Robert Redford in The Natural.

Qataris, it appears, are not very good at the world’s most popular game. Their rulers, on the other hand, want to use sport to boost tourism and their own tumescence.

And what better way for an oil-rich nation to spur itself on a sporting gold rush than by buying a national soccer team?

The Qataris are not the first. But, as the prostitutes of Bayswater, London will tell you, subtlety is not their strongest suit.

So they have 6,000 staff in 7 countries- Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and Algeria. These 6,000 employees are kicking the tires on 500,000 boys. And every one of those boys was born in 1994.

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It is very difficult to persuade FIFA, soccer’s grayer-than-gray governing body, that anything could possibly be corrupt.

But the head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, said recently: “their establishment of recruitment networks in these seven African countries reveals just what Aspire is all about. Aspire offers a good example of… exploitation’.

(13-year-olds buying Britney’s new album being a bad example of exploitation.)

This isn’t the first time the Qataris have bought themselves some people who happen to be quite good at sport.

In 1999, they, um, imported seven Bulgarian weightlifters to give them something of an Olympic, not to say Olympian, presence.

Then, in 2003, they asked very nicely if Kenyan runner Stephen Cherono might want to come over and train in Qatar’s 120-degree summers. Strangely, he took a $1000 a month salary, Qatari citizenship and the new name Saif Shaaeed Shaheen.

Rumor has it that in exchange for more Kenyan runners, they promised to give Kenya a new stadium.

Shockingly, the stadium was never built. Perhaps the Qataris couldn’t find enough Somali builders going cheap.

Aspire have actually come up with a splendid excuse for their scouting of the 500,000 African 13-year-olds. They believe they need to bring them over to help Qatari children fulfill their true potential.

Just as the hiring of the seven Bulgarians was really intended to help Qatari men take the correct dosage of human growth hormone.

I now clearly understand why my correspondents from zdnet.com were prepared to sell their names for $100,000.

And I hope that they have children who are good at soccer. Not only could they make themselves some real money, they could guarantee their families sunshine the whole year round.

Isn’t that what the American dream is all about?

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