Bankers Bankers, where shall you go now?

Since I could think, banks have intrigued me. The global financial crisis of the recent seven years presents a terrific learning experience for us about banks, their nature and what may be best for them and societies in the future. With my childish mind I presumed that money was static and finite, that there was some sort of agreement as to the amount of it that existed and all of this was either printed in wonderful coloured  notes or cast in coins, which in my country had animals instead of the Queens’s head.  It was a world of great childish simplicity. One of my cousins on receiving a christmas gift cheque from my father complained that all he got was bit of paper.

By the time I came to realise that you had to earn money to live on, that business had to take in as much as they paid out and that you were supposed to pay back what you borrowed, I felt very concerned for the banks in my home town. I hoped against hope that the people that borrowed would pay it back and that of the money the bank lend out there would be more interest than they paid out on savings. I figured that unless there was a decent profit on the loan business then there wouldn’t be enough to pay the nice people who worked in the banks. Unless loan interest was a higher rate than deposit interest then there wouldn’t be enough money to pay the bank manager, such my friend’s father, and to keep him and his family in their nice house.  This assumes of course that the bank could only lend what it had on deposit. For me, no other money existed. How wrong was that!

Chastened by history, we now know that it was a lot more involved. The recent crisis has shown that as in time of war, all the force of the state will be applied to protect the money system. I have always thought that the neutrality of Switzerland in wartime was to protect the money so that there would be stable banking when the fighting stopped. So long as the state is the financial authority, then it is fair enough up to a point that it protects the banks and rescues them in time of collapse. Certainly the state interventions ranging from Obama’s quantitative easing, the UK’s supports, Ireland’s bailout, the measures in Portugal, Spain, Iceland and not least Greece were required in some form. The IMF has provided protection both for those who entered their support programmes and those who might have.  By sustaining the essential economic systems the IMF and its partners the ECB and the EU also protected the economies of the countries that trade with those who were bailed out.

Looking into the future, banks will seek to reestablish themselves as not only private concerns again but the highest profit takers in the market. The leaders of business will again seek to control and gain from the honey pot, with a degree of deference to government and state institutions. But this must not be permitted to happen. A wave of change is needed in the banking system at least throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia. The current pattern that threatens and that is already largely in place is similar to that of the Russian oligarchs. The banks newly, recently rescued by the  states in the form of the public money that was given to bail them will again become the instruments of the marketeers unless we call for them to be changed and for the rules governing them to conform more fully with their role as absolute public service.

Ironically, the bail out of the banks is the only situation, other than war, where capitalism has invoked the entire might of the communist method in the past several hundred years. Nobody doubts that a decent and workable form of economic exchange is necessary and vital. We need to work and produce and provide goods and services and exchange with each other, locally and globally. The exchange can take place in the form of money or some variation on the value for exchange theme. There is a level of stability that is in all of our interests for our societies to develop and for the provision for the next generations . However the control of the essential mechanisms for this exchange  must never again be allowed to be concentrated in the hands of non accountable business people. Rather it must be born again as a dedicated public service agency belonging to us all.

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Bloodshed in Egypt must stop now

The carnage in Egypt must stop. This week has seen the attacks by the Egyptian army on the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, killing more than 600 people and injuring many. Most of the dead and injured also appeared to have been unarmed. Many supporters of the Brotherhood have since launched a backlash killing approximately 60 of the Egyptian security services. The situation has come about through a series of events that are not easy to unravel. However the infliction of death, injury and untold suffering is easy to see and there are attainable means to put it to an end. International intervention in the form of an immediate high level delegation from the U. N. led by the General Secretary. Urgent consultations are needed to arrive at a means to move the situation forward politically. World leaders including Presidents Obama and Putin and the leaders of China, India and African representatives need to make a clarion call for peace, for the immediate end to the slaughter. The middle east needs our prayers and attention like never before with this tragic situation in Egypt, the ongoing civil war in Syria and the delicacy of the Israeli Palestinian negotiations. Afghanistan and Iraq also remain in a continuing state of violence. It is time for the voice of the world to be heard for enduring peace in the middle east and throughout the Earth.

For further commentary cf the reputable Australian internet daily at:

http://www.crikey.com.au/?p=392656

Suicide is no Laughing Matter

It is always a challenge for men and women alike to find directions to where we are going. This applies in both the practical sense of finding an unknown destination. Some years  ago, late in the night I found myself in Cairnryan, a suburb or Glasgow and not the ferry port where my ferry boat was soon to embark. I had trusted an early Sat-Nav and machines sometimes don’t know better. I didn’t know enough about where I was going. The importance of directions applies in the decisions that you take in life in general, or in specific areas such as career path and family relationships. In fact it applies in all walks of life!

It is widely held in some quarters that men have a great reluctance to seek directions. A version of this lies in the reproduction joke as to why do men have to have 350 million sperms so that a single female egg is fertilised. The answer is that none of the sperm will ask for directions.  There is some truth that in the assertion that men can be slow to ask for directions. A related and more serious aspect of masculine shortcoming is that men are often very slow to ask for any sort of help. Somehow there appears to us men to be an element of shame in doing so, in revealing that I am less knowledgable than I would like you to think I am.  If I have to ask you for help you might actually think less of me, but what the heck, why should I be bothered. I don’t actually need your approval, particularly when I know that my willingness to seek help makes more sense than keeping silent.

When it comes to emotional problems and in the most severe expressions of this in the suicidal tendency, I want to suggest here that if men knew better to ask for help and when we need to, fewer men would be taking their own lives. This approach is of course not confined to men but to women and children also. The plight of the young who appear unable to continue the road of life has been brought home only too clearly in recent weeks. All the wise people I know move along their lives seeking help where necessary. The assistance  can range from plumbers, financial advisors to those in the field of personal helping such as psychologists or counsellors. Friends and family are supposed to be helpers and I have been helped countless times by friends and family members, sometimes when I asked directly and sometimes when they just knew and acted compassionately.

Everyone is in both roles, sometimes giving help and sometimes getting it. It is part of the true dance of life. There is plenty of encouragement to be a helper. We also need to encourage our fellow travellers to seek it when necessary, especially when a bit lost in the strange valleys to which life leads each of us sometimes.