Tax evasion has become a major problem for a cash strapped Italian Government though there are people who claim it’s an honorable blood sport tradition that goes back to the Etruscans. A few weeks ago Prime Minister Prodi suggested that rather than issuing Ten Commandments for Driving and involving themselves in the legal debate over common-law/same-sex marriage, Big Ben and the Boys (aka The Church of Rome) would do better to preach a few sermons on not rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. He said that tax evasion is, after all, a form of theft and forbidden in that earlier set of Commandments. For his pains he was branded anti-clerical and told that the State should stay out of the affairs of the Church – though given their activities during the same-sex marriage debate apparently the reverse does not apply. His predecessor, Mr. Berlusconi – that great upholder of all of the Commandments, except it appears that one about Adultery – accused him of attempting to introduce communist ideas into the doctrine of Holy Mother Church. My father always told me it was Christ who did that but….
Tax collection and evasion has led to the creation of an incredibly large bureaucracy including a branch of the military: the Guardia di Finanza. These official looking gentlemen in their tight gray trousers, gray shirts with gold braid and smart caps are involved in customs, duty collection, and tax evasion big and small. And it often seems they go after the small with more dedication than the big. When you make a purchase in any establishment – whither it be a cappuccino or a new Lamborghini – you must be issued a receipt and when requested must present it to a member of the Guardia who may just happen to be lurking outside. If you don’t have a receipt both you and the shop owner are subject to an immediate and sizable fine.
As I was heading to the Embassy to check my e-mails yesterday – need I repeat still no Internet at home – I came across a small scene, the sort that makes life here interesting, between the G di F and a very attractive lady of a certain age. The two officers, like nuns they always come in pairs and they seem to do this stud cop-dud cop thing, are obviously challenging her on a purchase. She, well-tanned, dark-eyed, and of voluptuous figure, is wildly contesting the accusation being leveled at her. Stud Cop is just standing back surveying the scene and scenery while Dud Cop is sourly reading her the riot act. Broad gestures, much drama, rapid dialogue – Stud Guardia nods sympathetically and Dud Cop scowls. At that point I continued on my way, but I have a feeling Stud Cop’s Christian charity and love of God’s creatures would prevail and the miscreant would get of with a warning from Dud Cop. Not sure if that constitutes mixing Church and State?
23 agosto – Santa Rose di Lima