Sunday, 12 June 2011

History repeats itself

Word travelled around the village faster than an outbreak of boils. The Sheriff’s tax collection squad was on its way yet again.

Two large blokes wearing rusty chainmail and helmets that needed only the addition of a few holes to make them look like a condiment set marched up the dusty street. They tugged open the door to one of the wretched little shacks, pulling it off its hinges and sending chickens, straw and a fair amount of what chickens leave in straw, flying.

A small, weasely man in fine black clothes that until very recently had had no chicken poo attached to them whatsoever, strode in behind them.
“Nice stinking hovel you have here sir” he said, looking around incredulously at the small, bare room which was home to a skinny, hairy dishevelled man, several hundred creatures inhabiting the man’s beard and a smell that could make your eyes water.

“It’s a dump” mumbled the man “but we like to think of it as home.”

Niceties dispensed with, the Tax Collector got, as they inclined to do, to the point. “We’re here” he said “to collect your Carbon Tax.”
The peasant looked puzzled. “But only last Tuesday we paid you the Sending the King to the Crusades Tax , so what’s a Carbon Tax?” he asked, with growing concern.

“Ahh, I’m pleased that the peasants are taking an interest in current affairs” said the weasely man. “The Carbon Tax is on account of the carbon footprint created by sending an army of 10,000 soldiers, a King, his courtiers, jesters, cooks, food tasters and concubines etc, to countries with Crusades going on. It’s called Foreign Policy.”

“But I haven’t gone crusading” said the peasant “so why do I have to pay this tax? Surely big business like the blacksmith’s shop should pay. They’re the ones using all the fossil fuels.”

The Tax Collector sighed as he summoned up the will to go through an explanation that had clearly been repeated on many previous occasions.
“It’s the benefit of living in a democratic society that values equality and a fair shake of the sauce bottle for everyone” he said, raising his voice over the peasant’s query about what ‘sauce’ was. “We provide public services to give you quality of life. Think of all the burning oil we had to use to stop the invading hordes climbing into the Sheriff’s castle. Admittedly it turned out to be just a few blokes who had eaten a few too many fermented turnips, but nevertheless we had to defend the place. Just think what they could have done to the tapestries with turnip-covered hands.”

The peasant looked less than convinced, so the weasely man carried on. “And of course there is the cost of keeping the village witch-free” he said.”Do you have any idea how many tonnes of C02 were released into the atmosphere at last Wednesday’s witch-burning?” he asked “It’s no longer an environmentally sustainable practice and there’s a recommendation that we start nuking them instead. Apparently it’s perfectly safe.” he added reassuringly."Except for the witches, of couse."

As the peasant was scratching his chin in a bewildered, unconvinced and definitely infested sort of way, the Tax Collector pulled from out of his briefcase a clipboard, stepped back a few feet and addressed the stooped old man.

“This is so we can assess the size of your carbon footprint and work out what you owe” he explained.“Firstly – do you own any cattle?”
“Just Daisy” the peasant said, indicating a scrawny bag of bones standing outside the window.
“Has it had a Methane Emissions Modifier fitted?” asked the Tax Collector. Seeing the peasant’s brow furrow further, he reached again into his briefcase, pulled out a large cork and handed it to the man. “This is the next generation of the government’s generous Insulation Program” he explained. “A couple of guys will arrive in the next few weeks to install this, but, just as a word to the wise sir, keep any naked flames away from the bovine after it’s been fitted. Those things go up like bloody rockets.
Now – do you own any goats, horses or donkeys?” he continued.
“Just a mule” replied the increasingly bewildered peasant. “Hmm- commendable” muttered the other man appreciatively, as he wrote ‘hybrid vehicle’ on the form.

“So – this Carbon Tax thingy” said the peasant.”This being a democracy and all, if I don’t like it, is there anyone I can speak to about it? Maybe that Rudd bloke I voted for last time round?”
“No problem, sunshine.” Said the Tax Collector. “Head down to the city gates and look up. He’s the one with his head on a spike.”

 Wendy Wardell 2011