Fools, or Civilized?

I know people who –

  • have spent all their life savings on trying to get decent medical treatment because the NHS is failing them – through lack of funding – and who still haven’t been treated properly;
  • are working well beyond their retirement age, despite having heart problems, because their savings have effectively been pillaged by the banking sector’s failures;
  • are unemployed despite being qualified and keen to work, who can’t find even a sniff of a job offer wherever they set their sights, because the sector they’ve worked in all their lives has been wrecked by the banking system’s crash;
  • can’t move house, to down-size, although they badly need to so they can keep their financial head above water, because the housing market is stagnant through the financial sector’s greed of the last however many years; who need to down-size in the first place because of this banking-created recession;
  • are working three different part time jobs to try and make ends meet, with all the inevitable consequences for their family;
  • are working ludicrous hours for no extra pay, just to keep their job.

And so on.

Today the headlines are dominated by the manipulation of banking lending rates by Barclays and others. Banks were once, supposedly, pillars of society, models of probity. Barclays has been fined £290m. That money goes to the Financial Services Authority. It will be used to cut the fees that banks and similar pay to the FSA.  That is to say, the fine is totally and utterly meaningless. It will do nothing to redress the harm caused.

Today, I was riding around the area between Reading and Windsor. There are any number of properties to be seen as you ride, owned by the very rich, doubtless many of them working in the financial sector. There were are fair few cars around as driven by people of that ilk too – Bentleys and so on – making their way to the regatta in Henley.

What I can’t decide is whether we, the  more-or-less lumpen mass, are fools for not lynching these people or whether we’re civilized for not doing so.

There have been any number of ‘raps on knuckles’ to financiers, bankers and all that ‘class’ of people and – obviously, as evidenced by this latest scandal – no lessons have been learned.

With some irony, it is always the ‘right wing’, to which the rich inevitably gravitate, who will call for severe punishments for crimes and will talk of ‘setting an example’ with sentencing. Perhaps we need to send a stronger message to these bankers and the like. Perhaps hanging them from lamp posts in public would work. Just ‘making an example’ of a few of them might prompt a return to honesty on the part of the rest.

How, against what criteria, do you judge when being civilized and non-violent might cease to be an appropriate stance? I don’t know. My natural instinct is to never advocate violence in any form. Every conflict always ends with talking, one way or another. I’m all in favour of skipping the conflict and cutting straight to the talking. But perhaps I’m wrong and perhaps the bankers and that type are correct in their instincts. Perhaps it would be more civilized – for the greater good of society – if we did start hanging a few of them, as examples.

Who do you ask what’s the right thing to do? Bankers? Doubtless it’ll be bankers who’ll be called in to look at the mess they’ve made, find it’s the fault of ‘a few rogue’ staff or whatever, rap a few more knuckles and let the truly guilty off the hook, again.

Is that too cynical? The horrible, corrosive truth is that it’s probably not. We should all be worried about what else is being corroded.

Commercial poppies being grown near Henley

Commercially grown poppies, here near Henley