We tend to blame those above rather than helping those below
By John Norgrove
9 July 2012
We happened to watch Question Time on TV last week and were horrified at the ugly display of vitriol from every section of society aimed at ‘bankers’.
Clearly, the industry has not arrived at a happy balance between the pursuit of profit and fulfilment of its social responsibilities. There is work to do.
But the Question Time speakers had adopted a position where ‘bankers’ were responsible for the entire financial meltdown and should all be stripped of their wealth and put on trial. The audience wanted a scapegoat. They had found one and turned self-righteous and ugly.
I feel that the economic problems we experience just now stem from deeper causes that we are unhappy to examine because many have profited by them in the past and, by the look of it, will do so again in the near future.
Borrowing has increased hugely over the past 50 years because, in general, house price inflation has been higher than the cost of borrowing. The system has rewarded the heavily mortgaged risk-taker and it’s a much smaller step then to graduate to other kinds of credit. The man with no mortgage and a savings account was overtaken.
Recently, governments have got in on the act with financial easing. So much credit issued that it can’t feasibly be paid off without massive growth, which isn’t going to happen given competition from developing countries.
Expect defaults and bankruptcy followed by inflation which will reduce the value of loans, and ease the fact that wages here have to drop nearer to those of the poor Johnnie Foreigner who toils daily for us in his steamy factory.
Borrowers are going to be the winners again and I feel sorry for those with money in the bank. The system is going to perpetuate itself.
The success of the borrower is linked with a cultural change in our heroes. The old fashioned steady man, typified I always think by James Stewart playing the cautious, kind hearted, socially responsible family man was replaced in the 1950s by Marlon Brando and James Dean, individualists who took chances and looked out for themselves. Transfer to the economic stage: from people steadily toiling way at a dull business to the dot-com billionaire.
Enough of this – I just feel that we tend to blame others too much and should look within for solutions to our problems. We fail to appreciate our own good fortune. Our successes we tend to take credit for but it’s easier to blame others for our failures. And we tend to blame those above us rather than helping those below who have such urgent needs.
Afghanistan? Oh yes. You want a bit of a jump away from the worry that your pension might be reduced. Through our contacts in Afghanistan, we do hear some harrowing stories. These two testaments were received from women in the southeast of the country.
Sister, my three sons have been martyred: first, my elder son, who worked with police in Kandahar was coming home to see me, and was slaughtered on the way by Taliban on basis that he worked with the government. They asked him who are you to come see your mother? I went to get his corpse home. My two younger boys were on the way with me when they killed one of them, and when we were burying my son, they abducted the little one from the graveyard. They poked his eyes out and killed him. May Allah have mercy not to inflict this on any other Muslim in the world!
Sister, Taliban killed my daughter’s 20 year old [husband], because he brought food to the government in his car, and he shouldn’t have done that. They killed him so mercilessly: poked his eyes out when he was alive; then, broke his arms, broke his legs, and then slit his throat with a dollar bill saying that he wanted dollars. They video taped everything and left it outside our house.
A desperate war where sadists become powerful and cruelty is returned magnified. The question for us is whether we can help these women. Their testimony might be a complete falsehood. Our money might disappear directly into the wrong people’s hands. The women might become the subject of retribution for accepting help. We would be unable to get receipts and monitor afterwards – all things needed to satisfy the authorities.
Well, I feel that if you’d been considering contributing towards helping Jews escape the Gestapo in 1943, you could have asked the same questions. Rest assured that we will try and help them, but probably through a parallel private account rather than the charity, and with considerable caution.