Thursday, September 01, 2011

It's Disneyland under martial law

A bonus-rich banker sits down for tea with an MP and a rioter. There are 12 biscuits on the table. The banker takes 11 of them and warns the politician: "Look out for that looter, he's after your biscuit."

Top bankers, all-expenses-paid politicians and looters have one trait in common – naked greed.

It's not surprising rioters are described as greedy.

That's just what they are – greedy for life's little luxuries: flat screen TVs, computer games, new clothes.

The nationwide outrage and righteous indignation at their behaviour is entirely understandable.

But what, really, is the difference between a hoodie skipping out of H&M with armfuls of clothes and a banker demanding bonuses running into millions even after he has brought the entire capitalist system to the brink of collapse?

And how does a lout smashing a shop window in pursuit of stolen goods differ from an MP forcing the taxpayer to foot the bill for trimming his wisteria?

The banker and the MP are both betraying the same basic instinct as the looter.

They both want to exploit their positions for their own financial gain.

They have no thought about the cost to other people, they just think that if they can get away with it, they might as well.

They would rationalise it by arguing that everybody else is lining his own pocket so they would be foolish to deny themselves.

That’s what the rioters thought, too.

They saw Londoners apparently smashing their way into shops and walking off unmolested with their booty so why not try it in Wolverhampton, West Bromwich and Birmingham? Especially as the police often stood back and did nothing to stop them.

They may well have had a sense of entitlement and a feeling of resentment.

We have all been aghast at the way our leaders have behaved in recent years.

Admittedly a few politicians have been jailed and a few more have lost their seats as a result of the Parliamentary expenses scandal.

But most of them got away with what, in other walks of life, would have been treated as fraud.

Our MPs may think the rest of us have forgiven and forgotten their systematic milking of the taxpayer. They would be wrong. Their greed is not to be dismissed lightly.

The bankers are, of course, an even more hideous example of how the law-abiding, tax-paying majority are treated as mugs.

The collective greed of top bankers brought the Western world to the brink of ruin. We will be paying the horrendous price for their folly for decades ahead.

We have had to come to their rescue – and it's not just the banks we now own which have been bailed out. They all needed our money to keep them alive.

Yet these masters of the universe, the untouchables at the very top, continue to trouser vast sums of money the rest of us can only dream about.

How do they manage to get away with it? Why is nobody answerable? How come bankers don't go to jail?

When confronted by so much gross and offensive injustice, it's not surprising the least well-off decide to take what they can when they can.

Isn't that what greedy MPs and bankers have been doing for years?

The differences are obvious. Some greed is entirely legal – the bankers, it seems, have not broken any laws. They are simply offending against what most of us see as fair, reasonable, moral and decent.

Some greed you can get away with simply by filling in a few expenses forms. There's no threat to life or limb. Nobody's hurt.

Young, ill-educated, badly brought-up thugs have no opportunity for subtle forms of greed. Their only option is the smash-and-grab raid.

It's criminal. It's wrong. We must crack down hard on them. But is it really such a shock when they have before them every day the example of their supposed betters?

Back in the 1980s, many people subscribed to the mantra "greed is good" even though the phrase originated in the film “Wall Street” and we were supposed to be shocked by such sentiments.

It seems the idea never really went away but there is a vast difference between hard-earned wealth and the bung-and-bonus culture which created this recession and destroyed our faith in politicians.

People who work hard, build businesses and create jobs are making the rest of us richer. They’re not greedy – they’re saviours of the economy.

But when the courts are handing out jail sentences of up to four years for a couple of kids posting some fatuous message on Facebook, it beggars belief that the people who ran our banks have got away with it.

The looters are being punished for their greed but most MPs got away with theirs while the people who created the greatest global recession in history are still making money hand over fist.

I don’t condone greedy looters but we all know where they took their inspiration from.

Of course, everyone is equal in the eyes of the law but, as Bob Geldof said: “Justice isn’t blind, it just looks the other way.”

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