Monday 2 March 2009

The time has come to stand in the streets together and be counted!

I’ve been trying really hard not to write about the financial crisis blah recession blah economic downturn blah blah, because if you’re anything like me, you’re fed up to the back teeth with it. If you lost your job or can’t find a new one, the only thing you need less than the sight of failed bankers and corrupt politicians talking at you from your tele is yet more printed matter running past your eyes going oooh errr isn’t it awful.
Yeh, you’re probably as bored of all the excreta that has already been dribbled about this banking crisis as I am, and yet there’s one gripe inside me, like a mental tapeworm, niggling my thoughts, growing off my annoyance, biting into my anger, becoming gigantic gorging on my outrage.
The only way I can stop this parasite popping its head out of my mouth and sinking its chomping great fangs into my head is to dump it on you, so here goes.
Did you hear the one about Paddy O’Reilly? A few years ago, at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom, Paddy wanted to start a business, so off he went to his bank and filled out all the forms, after which he was given a whacking great loan.
Trouble was, Paddy’s inflatable pineapple business went down the pan. Exhausted and depressed, Paddy applied for another loan, got it, but instead of using it wisely, he proceeded to blow the money on fast cars and slow women. Unable to make the repayments, Paddy went to see his bank manager, asking for money to pay off the loan.
His bank manager said that the bank would be delighted to give Paddy all the money he needed. The bank would pay off the loan, no strings, and in fact, the bank would add a bit extra, like, do ya know the way, like, to make sure that Paddy could get back on his feet after all his troubles, maybe buy the missis a nice day at the spa.
Paddy was over the moon. He walked away debt free, with a wad of cash in his pocket and a present for the wife.
What was that you said? You didn’t hear that one?
Well no, neither did I, because it never happened.
Coming soon to an Inferiority Complex near you: ‘Robin Hood Through the Looking Glass’, a classic tale of robbing the poor to pay the rich. From the makers of Recession, directed by people who told you that you lost your job in the name of efficiency, comes the sensational idea that to boost the economy, governments need to rob the public and give their money to banks.
You can try to blind me with financial science; twist my brain with explanations of short selling; contort my consciousness with talk of derivatives and send me hoolallly noony trying to justify hedge funds ‘til you’re blue in the face, it’ll make no difference.
We get it. We understand. We know that we, in good faith, gave banks our money, which they gambled greedily and lost. We know that our money doesn’t really sit in a vault at the back of the branch. We know that banks don’t even own the money they loan as mortgages, which begs the question: how are they able to repossess our houses?
What’s more, we now know that there is no real money at all, but instead electronic signals that rise, fall, or sink without trace at the drop of a noodle in Tokyo, or a flash of sunspot activity.
We know that if we lived our lives budgeting in the same way as governments and banks, we’d all be broke, jobless and licking the pavement for something to eat.
So given all that, here’s the niggling thought that has eaten me up for months:
Why do we have to give up our heard-earned wages to save failed banks? When did banks become more important than people? Why do we need to be the medicine? The idea of them doing the same for us, of banks being there for us normal human beings when times get tough, is as ridiculous as Paddy O'Reilly's tale.
We know how it works with banks. When you’re in the money they love you, and send you stuff in the post all the time, encouraging you to become beholden to them by debt as quickly as possible.
When you haven’t got money, or when times are hard, banks don’t want to know.
‘You should have been more prudent when you had that cash!’ they tell you.
‘Come back and see us when you have some collateral or capita!’ they say.
‘Why not start a savings account, and try to build up your financial base?’ they ask.
Basically, get lost poor boy, we don’t want to know.
And now, having behaved worse than a bunch of drunken gambling addicts on speed and Daddy’s yacht, they expect us to give them our money.
Many people seem to think that the welfare of banks is more important than that of we, the people. If you know what I’m missing here, please let me know.
In the meantime, I’m wondering if it’s not time for our worm to turn. Why should you be jobless just because some tosspot in a button-down collar decided to short sell your company’s shares? Why are our wages going to pay for the bankers’ bookies bills? What chance would you have turning up at your local bank branch with a failed betting slip from the 3.45 at Punchestown Races, and insisting they give you the money that you would have won if your horse had possessed a leg at each corner. Yes, you admit, you backed a horse that had three legs, but the odds were astronomical, just too good to resist, so give me the money.
Of course it’s absurd, yet no less absurd than banks expecting the same favours from us.
At what point do the downtrodden masses decide that we are as mad as hell and not willing to take it any more? The French, as usual, were first to scent revolution, marching disgruntled (as only the French can) through the streets of Paris, protesting about the way the people were being made to suffer for the sins of the bankers.
Maybe this is the big one. Maybe it’s time to stand in the streets together, and be counted.

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