Matters monetary mania

The news is dominated, as I write, by the barbaric murder in London. Linked by its perpetrators to British involvement in Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world, condemned by non-insane Muslim leaders, the brutal act gave an excuse to mindless Rightist xenophobes to start rattling their own sabres.

The English Defence League wrapped itself in the flag and grinned inanely all the way to the barricades, though, thankfully, their numbers seemed to be restricted to a few hundred oafs whose fervour to stand up for their country doesn’t seem to extend to showing their faces, in many of their cases.

This notion that paying for stuff is somehow distasteful is one that I can’t grasp

Clearly, the brutish murder is condemnable and contemptible. Carried out in the name of religion, it simply served to continue to blacken the name of that religion, and by effect all other religions, and to swell the ranks of bigotry on all sides, as did the various reactions to the news that had to be pumped out to satisfy the appetite of the beast, rolling 24/7 news.

The main news before the thuggishness in London was different, though, to an extent, not less marked by mindlessness and posturing. Google, whose corporate motto is Do No Evil, and Starbucks, whose watchword seems to be “It’s coffee, Jim, but not as we know it” and whose mission in life is to put itself on every street corner, are among those who, horror of horrors, have failed to pay as much tax as their average customer thinks they should.

The vapid jerking of knees that greeted this news was wondrous to behold. John Q. Citizen and his consort, dutiful taxpayers (except when they are on benefits and not paying tax at all) are having fits of spluttering rage because the big beasts of the business world have identified ways and means to make their operations tax efficient.

The lads and lasses at Revenue have, since time immemorial (or since income tax was invented, pretty much the same thing), sought to lay their sticky fingers on as much loot as possible, devising ever more complex mechanisms to do so, usually accompanied by jail time and hanging, drawing and quartering if you fail to hand over every last cent, on time.

The natural reaction to this is to try to turn Revenue’s sword back onto itself and the Big Beasts have the wherewithal to engage pretty good knights to achieve this little thing.

The reaction from John Q. has not been to nod in agreement that someone is standing up to Big Brother but to take to the streets, masked in that inane elongated face that seems to have become the disguise of choice for every armchair, benefit-grabbing, rent-a-lout who stirs himself every time the G20 (or whatever the Number of the Beast is now) is in town, to protest against globalisation, bad coffee and everything he doesn’t understand but wants to stop.

This, in its turn, spurs governments all over the place, at least the ones that need to worry about reminding John Q. to scribble his “x” in the right box next time around, if he can get himself out from in front of the plasma screen, to get all huffy and puffy about Google’s failure to pay as much tax as it should, for all the world as if those self-same governments hadn’t created the labyrinth within which Google had taken them for a merry ride in the first place.

This instinctive, if bereft of logic, reaction to matters monetary is not confined to people outside Malta. When this esteemed media outlet (if I don’t say that, Ye Ed will get sniffy) decided, horror of monstrous horrors, to charge for its service online, many were those who found themselves getting worked up because news should be free and the ‘Net a haven of liberal and unfettered exchange of ideas and countless other excuses not to pay a few miserable euros.

Now, speaking for myself, I’d love my, and my colleagues’, words of wisdom, pithy and sublime as they are, to see the light of day for free, gratis and for nothing, even, but this notion that paying for stuff is somehow distasteful is one that I can’t grasp, given that, for everything else, everyone seems quite happy to pay.

While on matters distasteful, where are the self-appointed guardians of our aesthetic values and cultural heritage now, pray? You know the ones I mean, the ones who got themselves worked up into all of a tizzy bleating, misleadingly, about roofless theatres, while the ones with roofs, to which said guardians do not go unless rarely and then for free, are empty most of the time.

When, and I won’t be holding my breath waiting, are they going to draw themselves up to their imposing heights and shout loudly at the government for putting the hawkers’ market up against the Piano building? But I forget, they can’t do that quite at the moment, when there are still a few iced buns (and, yes, I know that’s not original) left to hand out and, hey, we have to give them a chance, be positive, didn’t you learn anything from the election result?

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