Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shame and the banks

To the tune of Richard and Linda Thompson's For Shame of Doing Wrong'

The UK government is floating the idea of jailing bankers who transgress good practice. There is little point, though I admit I'd get a jolt of Shadenfreude like anybody else. As someone said on C4 news tonight, the CEO will always say his (always his) financial advisors, staff, board and shareholders all supported him in malpractice. This is because banks are not composed of people

Banks are cyborgs: very large machines with human biochips plugged in. You cannot blame the biochips when the machine employs them for interests utterly divorced from theirs, or any human's.

The motive of corporate cyborgs are not human. They know only one goal: to accumulate wealth. They do not share human goals like happiness or well-being or spending the afternoon drunk in the arms of their beloved. Most of all they know no shame.

Shame is one of the most human of emotions – though I'm sure at least some animals also feel it. Our capacity for shame is proof of our inescapable commitment to the other. It is the bitter wound left by failure to give, or give enough. Shame is not embarrassment or regret, not gentle remorse: but the stabbing pain of memory. Bankers might individually feel shame: if not, they are clearly psychopaths and need our care and therapy. But banks do not feel shame.

Banks externalise shame. Where we might feel the agenbite of inwit, they export shame, and not for the past but the future. As debtors, we feel the shame; shame becomes ours, and pervasive, as we are all dragged into mortgages, pensions and credit. Shame is a pollutant emitted by banks in the shape of debt because shame is, from the perspective of the pure accumulation of wealth, external. Banks dump shame into the external environment like factories dump toxins. It is important therefore to realise that we should never be ashamed of toxic debt because lending, not borrowing, is toxic.

Banks are constitutionally incapable of shame, and thus inhuman. Not the singer, then, but the song needs to be attacked. It is to our shame that we have permitted banks to become the most powerful agents of history. These inhuman, shameless cyborgs must be terminated.

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