Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Thoughts on Family Day

Last Saturday, over a million people (I’m quoting the organisers’ possibly over-generous estimate) gathered in Piazza San Giovanni, Rome, to assist the Vatican hierarchy in its dirty war against civil union legislation and, indirectly, the centre-left government. On the same day, in Smirne, Turkey, a million and a half people gathered to protest against the interference of religious bodies in the affairs of the state. Italy is a member of the EU; Turkey would like to be. I’ll let you decide which of the two countries was closer to the spirit of Europe last Saturday.

A woman with seven children, present at Family Day, was asked how she managed. Her answer: God provides. So what was she doing at a demonstration demanding more state support for those with fertile incontinence large families? Trying to have her host and eat it?

Listening to people talk in favour of Family Day it would seem that the only criterion that distinguishes a family from any other form of social aggregation—and that gives it inestimably added value—is breeding capacity. No progs, no parity. It used to be common to hear gay people refer to straights as breeders. Maybe it still is. But I never expected to find this idea taken so firmly on board by ‘Eggs’ Benedict and his merry band. (Although, thinking about it…)

A commentator on Italian state television (TG2, to be precise) said that the Family Day demonstrators were there to stand firm against a Europe that wanted to ban the use of words like Mummy and Daddy.

The buses and trains used to ferry the faithful to the demonstration from all over Italy, at the cost of something like a million Euro, were paid for by the Vatican, using money provided from people’s taxes (otto per mille*) for charitable work and the upkeep of the church. It’s an odd definition of charity. Or maybe large families can’t afford a day out in Rome without a handout. I wonder who paid for the ice cream.

*Otto per mille. Italian tax payers can devolve 0.8% of the tax they pay to a religious body of their choosing. Most of the people who bother devolve it to the Vatican (maybe as a result of the constant TV advertising, paid for by this money). The percentage of tax that isn’t assigned to anyone is divided up in the same proportions as that which is. The Vatican, in other words, gets a substantial slice of revenue from people who don’t want to give it to them. In Italy, this freebie is part of what is known as the separation of church and state. Anyone for Turkey?

1 comment:

David Isaak said...

To my surprise, I learned that something very similar prevails in Germany (of all places). If you are unwise enough to state your religion on any number of government forms, the government automatically "tithes" for you. (In practice, this strikes me as a tax break for atheists and agnostics, but it's weird no matter what its intent or effect.)

Personally, I think the 0.8% is a great idea, but that you ought to be able to designate it to any non-profit organization you like. Indeed, I can;t imagine anything more democratic than letting the taxpayer decide how 1%, or 10%, or maybe 50% of their money is spent.

Doing it Italian style, on the other hand, is pretty sketchy...