Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Drug pusher logic

The mother of specks, eyes and planks: "don't blame the banks. It's the little people who created the mess".

Some people out there are still unable to spot what the banks have been doing throughout the past decade.

Whether it's vested interest, default devotion to Big Money or genuine inclination for toss-arguing of olympic proportions, the old strawman that the banks are "not responsible" for people's incapacity to manage their own finances is still alive. Yes, even after the big collapse of that sandcastle built on virtual money.

A generalisation it may be, but you find that such statements are usually made by those who've never had to struggle to pay the rent or an electricity bill. Those for whom there is little pain involved in turning down five Barclaycard offers in a month. Perhaps those whose wages are enough to pay for their tooth extraction- but I suppose that's fair enough.

So while even Dave Bleeding Cameron said that "banks have partly collapsed under the the weight of their own irresponsibility", a blog called Banditry has decided to champion "a rather nice post" circulating elsewhere. It says that "nearly all the stick [the banks] get [is] from people who can’t be bothered to check whether they’re over their overdraft limit, and/or who’ve borrowed silly amounts of money so they can go to Ibiza and have a big TV…". Banks instead, should be praised for offering "goods and services".

So here we are: irresponsible little ignorant thickos with the big fuckoff telly who then blame it all on "The Big Conspiracy from the Illuminati". Does such a hideous statement deserve a reply?

Perhaps not, and perhaps it's not even worth bothering with the dull roll of honour of all the people each of us knows who were pestered with unsolicited virtual money, credit cards, overdrafts, summer loans and christmas loans from all directions, or those who were actively encouraged to go into the red to incur charges.

Because people like Banditry know about it, of course they bloody do. But they suffer from that ancient syndrome called double standards, speck-eye-and-plank, the one that makes you go all squint-eyed when information is processed and cue a succession of strawmen that put The Wicker Man to shame.

Clueless kids aged 18, people on the dole (!), casuals or part-timers earning £200 a month or less, people with a hair-raising credit history, desperate people with zero chances of paying back, and in the case of RBS, even dogs. The truth is that hundreds of thousands of them did not even ask for virtual money. They were actively chased, sometimes harassed, the carrot dangling in front of their eyes like there was no tomorrow. Some people may not have done their homework before signing, but the banks and their highly dedicated departments knew exactly what they were doing.

And guess what, not only did they fail to vet millions of financial backgrounds: they actively encouraged them, cajoled them, tempted them, using the most sophisticated marketing techniques, ranging from dangling carrots to outright lies.

Blogs like Banditry would probably tell you that it's all very well to moan now, but you did get that help when you needed it. Basically, what some people would call Drug Pusher Logic, especially in a country as extortionately expensive as Britain where over 35% of all adults admit that they're relying on overdrafts to make it til the end of the month.

And let's not even approach the subject of students. Most loaded aside, do you know a single one who isn't in debt? All idiots, aren't they?

That is how Britain became the Land of Hope and Debt in no time at all. Is it coincidence that in 2006 2/3 of all personal debt in the EU came from Britain? Are the French, the Dutch or the Germans better at managing finances or could it be that their population wasn't subjected to such a toxic, clinical bombardment?

Those who've lived abroad know that unless you have a steady income (not necessarily high- steady is all you need), there's more chance of water running upwards than your bank handing you virtual money. On the 'Continent', the concept of a person being 'invited' to visit their branch with the purpose of an "account review", that is a Christmas loan offer or one for a new car, is as alien as the notion that cricket may be enjoyed.

Tell a Frenchman or a Swede that 18-year-old students in the UK are still routinely showered with thousands of plastic money and "it's-your-own-fault-if-you-mismanage-it" and they'll laugh at you. Oh...Remind me, which country ended up bailing out the banks in the end?

And you don't need to be particularly sharp to figure out that you don't get a whole nation to increase personal debt to the tune of £1 million every four minutes without some concerted effort, or like John Harris said in 2006, "the most aggressive advertising and marketing environment ever known", as he wrote of today's Britons turning into "Generation Debt".

So why could some bank automatically stop you from withdrawing money if that would take you into the red while most would let you? Why is it that to open a standard current account, certain banks would make it mandatory to attach a £1500 overdraft and a £3000 credit card "and that's the way it is"? Why is it that so many people would have their credit card limit doubled only to find out later on?

All of these, dear Banditry, were not mistakes or isolated incidents. This was systematic: a routine way of conducting business for more than a decade.

Perhaps, just perhaps, because -like a man once said- if we all had our account in order, if no-one defaulted, missed a credit card payment or went beyond their overdraft limit, the banks would miss out on an awful lot of dosh.


john b said...
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cjcjc said...

It is *just possible* that both groups share the blame...

Richard said...

one group know exactly what they're doing, write the small print,call the shots and profiteer (NOTE : not profit - profiteer) from this.

The other are often desperate or from ill-informed or naive categories.

I'll let you figure out which category is which.

claude said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
socialist sam said...
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david brough said...

I've traveled round this country
From shore to shining shore.
It really made me wonder
The things I heard and saw.

I saw the weary farmer,
Plowing sod and loam;
I heard the auction hammer
A knocking down his home.

But the banks are made of marble,
With a guard at every door,
And the vaults are stuffed with silver,
That the farmer sweated for.

I saw the seaman standing
Idly by the shore.
I heard the bosses saying,
Got no work for you no more.

But the banks are made of marble,
With a guard at every door,
And the vaults are stuffed with silver,
That the seaman sweated for.

I saw the weary miner,
Scrubbing coal dust from his back,
I heard his children cryin',
Got no coal to heat the shack.

But the banks are made of marble,
With a guard at every door,
And the vaults are stuffed with silver,
That the miner sweated for.

I've seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land;
I prayed we'd get together,
And together make a stand.

Then we'd own those banks of marble,
With a guard at every door;
And we'd share those vaults of silver,
That we have sweated for.