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Archive for May 26th, 2009

Who do you respect?
Set aside for a minute the individuals you look up to, because they have impressed you.
What category of people do you think deserves a respectful nod, being – by virtue of their work or standing – more important than you?
None?
Well, that’s good.
But until very recent times, it was obvious who the leaders in society were.
If you were preparing to meet your bank manager, for instance, you would put on a tie or your best shoes. You would want him to see you at your best, as a responsible and dependable person. You might even have felt a little frisson of humility when ushered into the presence.
That was six months ago.
Now what do you think of bankers?
They have plummetted in the public regard from being seen as the people who oiled the cogs of business, from the small company to the major enterprise; they were the ones who assessed the credit you could afford to handle and who endorsed your efforts with a little patronage.
Now they are widely seen as scheisters and rogues, who turned out not to be deft managers of credit but financial alchemists.
I mean, thanks for the sub prime mortgage, chaps, but did you have to give every one else one?
But the speed of the collapse of the reputation of bankers, dizzying as it was, seems sluggish compared to the collapse in the standing of members of parliament.
These are people who live by ritual, are addressed as honourable and right honourable, just in case we shouldn’t notice what fine and elevated people they are. And, sure enough, they are our law makers and also our servants.
And their position was underwritten by the great ideological principle of our times, democracy. So even when they were making a hash of things, we could allow them to imagine that they had the people behind them.
Then we got the slow erosion of respect for them through spin and media management, followed by the total crash of their stock, as it emerged that they had been fiddling their expenses and using them, in many cases, for property speculation, while, at the same time, lecturing us on the need to tighten our belts, limit our payrise claims and live off miserly benefits.
I mean, how low and hypocrtical do you have to be to string out pensioners with vague promises of future increases while shuffling them parcels of coal through the winter, while at the same time all around you MPs are shuffling their receipts to maximise returns from the tax payer?
The problem for the MPs now is that they can not credibly demand that people pay their taxes fairly, any more than bankers can insist on our probity.
And, if two pillars of rectitude alone had been deflated within months of each other, that would be remarkable but there is a third, the church.
OK, it is a long time since people saluted the priest on the street and got out the best china for him when he called.
Today you might be advised, if he did call, to usher your children upstairs out of harm’s way.
The implosion in the prestige of the church has been progressive over several decades. The religious orders had collapsed before the scandals.
But there was a time when a man or woman in black robes, walking towards you on the street, would prompt you to straighten up and show a little respect.
Who inspires that reaction in you now? Anybody?

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