Monday 25th April 2011
BANK holiday. Now there’s an interesting concept.
Does it mean we should spend the afternoon down by the river? Or is it a day when no charges accrue on our loans and overdrafts, when no interest is paid to those with millions in their investment accounts? Or should it, instead, be a time for giving the financial institutions a break? Perhaps we could all agree not to say anything critical about them for a period of twenty-four hours. If only I could find it in my heart to be that generous…
Acceptable behaviour (in this country) has undergone several changes in my lifetime. Racism and homophobia are now rightly treated with disdain. There’s some way to go before hitting children is universally regarded as unjustifiable, but we appear to be edging towards a society where physical or mental torment of the weak or meek is considered unethical.
Unfortunately, the lawmakers always take a while to catch up with the rest of us.
The practice of shipping poor or orphaned British children overseas – often to suffer appalling abuse – was still being ignored (and possibly even sanctioned) by the Home Office as recently as the 1970s.
If a man walked into a police station today and confessed to having raped his wife on the night of their marriage, twenty-five years ago, he could not be prosecuted. Marital rape did not become illegal in the UK until 1991.
What has this to do with the banks? Not a lot, you might say.
Well, I invite you, dear reader, to ask yourself which you regard as more important: social justice or legal statute?
They are not breaking the law, but under what moral code can bankers accept bonuses of several million pounds, knowing that their institutions’ actions have led to an economic crisis, cuts in public service and hardship for the many now facing unemployment?
I believe it will be a mark of our progress when later generations shake their heads in disbelief at how our generation allowed these dishonourable few to commit what is, in effect, financial rape.