At the End of the Day

“He who excuses himself accuses himself” – Gabriel Meurier

A regular, longstanding Slogger sent me a clip from today’s papers about the former Chairman of Lloyds ‘explaining’ why his purchase of HBOS in 2009 had saved the
UK banking industry. In it, the retired banker made this cracker of an observation:

“Look, when it comes down to it, the only people who really lost were the shareholders”

Rather like, I’d say, somebody saying in Washington in the late 1850s, “Look, it was a pretty dull play and the only bloke who really lost was the President”. But such sociopathic chutzpah appeals to me on one level as a means to an end: for this sort of unfeeling, flying-brick sensitivity could become a powerful weapon against the pc mob.

Their version of the Lincoln assassination would be, “Becoming alarmed when Wilkes-Booth pulled out the derringer would’ve been an act of unforgivable Confederatist stereotyping, and it should therefore be a matter of great pride for the American People that base emotions were eschewed in favour of taking the objective view”. People who think like this, to steal from Lou Reed’s Dirty Boulevard lyrics – ‘need a lesson to be taught’.

Take for example the mangled knots Progressives get into when dealing with Islam. They boff on for Africa about fgm, and then invent the term Islamophobia to brand anyone who questions Muslim marital misogyny as some kind of obsessively compulsive bigot. Wouldn’t it be wonderful – just once before you die – to smile and say, “Yes, but at the end of the day, right, the only gender that suffers is yours”?

One thinks of the Titanic, and feeling able to give free rein to the opinion that “it wasn’t that big a disaster…the iceberg came out of it without a scratch”. Don’t laugh: just three weeks ago, the Labour MP Dianne Abbott remarked, “Yes, millions of people died, but Mao did some very good things too”.

Thomas Szasz said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make for a good excuse” and I had personal experience of this during the 1960s when I spent a summer in West Berlin. An older German chap spent the best part of an hour in a bar near Zoo Bahnhof telling me that Hitler probably only killed three maybe four million people, whereas Stalin was far worse in that he rubbed out over eighteen million humans. It’s hard to know what facial expression to adopt when that sort of exculpation is in progress, but Mel Brooks picked up the ball wonderfully in his screenplay for The Producers, having the bitter expat Nazi say, “Everyone says Churchill was a great painter – pfaff! Hitler, now there was a painter – one apartment, two coats, half a day”.

Perhaps it comes down in the end to our contemporary empathy with the villain not the victim – what I call ‘antiempathy’.

GPs have long specialised in the art of antiempathy. Tell one that your left arm hurts when  raised above shoulder level, and the doc may well say, “Let’s face it – it’s a minor disability, and only likely to become a problem when a bank robber tells you to get your hands up”.

Antiempathy is simply the conferring of innocence upon an act of solid-gold guilt: ironically, it’s what makes the ranting comment threader from Liberal Conspiracy indistinguishable from RBS’s nihilistic dickhead Fred Goodwin. I spent many years with a lady who, when occasionally faced with incontrovertible evidence of having done something inhuman, would excuse the act by saying, “I’m only human”.

That’s the sort of excuse that goes beyond lame and into the territory called quadraplegic. It was exemplified as never before when the then British Culture & Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP told 400+ fellow MPs – following his attempt to hide 120 incriminating emails from the House – “I have done nothing wrong”. The flaw in his defence lay in the final two words.

The era we inhabit is one where there’s an ever-present need for terms like ‘moral compass’ and ‘ethical hazard’ in order to rationalise the launch of products obviously designed to cheat those customers without whom the originators would be foraging in the hedgrows for puffball mushrooms and blackberries. When caught pulling this kind of stunt, service and manufacturing companies go full volume on the “there will be a full enquiry, full compensation and fulsome apologies to those who inadvertently suffered from this regrettable oversight” PR. What the senior management of such concerns never do is go to jail.

Without incessant euphemism – and the 21st century destruction of civilised behaviour – the present day public excuse would be laughable. It makes me more certain than ever of just how important my original discipline of History is. For while we airily talk about “telling it like it is”, having the knowledge to tell is like it was will always be infinitely more condemnatory.

Earlier at The Slog: the Clinton-Syria-Murdoch-Brexit connection

22 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. All those years ago, 2008, a solicitor friend told me that she had withdrawn all her and her firm’s money from HBOS ( think, a huge London firm) My puts in HBOS were more than OK.. The London resi market is tanking, and the lenders are going to have the same experience. So who do we short this time round? All our Celtic bankers went bust years ago.. Staveley Barclays and Portugese / Lloyds can probably muddle through, so my money is on Santander UK going belly up!

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  2. I suppose its only to be suspected that the sacred cow suffers from BSE it would explain the constant Maooing….tendency….

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  3. Let’s examine this now ….

    In March 2008, HBOS shares fell 17 percent amid false rumours that it had asked the Bank of England for emergency funding. The Financial Services Authority conducted an investigation as to whether short selling had any links with the rumours. It concluded that there was no deliberate attempt to drive the share price down.
    On 17 September 2008, very shortly after the demise of Lehman Brothers, HBOS’s share price suffered wild fluctuations between 88p and 220p per share, despite the FSA’s assurances as to its liquidity and exposure to the wider credit crunch.
    However, later that day, the BBC reported that HBOS was in advanced takeover talks with Lloyds TSB to create a “superbank” with 38 million customers. This was later confirmed by HBOS. The BBC suggested that shareholders would be offered up to £3.00 per share, causing the share price to rise, but later retracted that comment. Later that day, the price was set at 0.83 Lloyds shares for each HBOS share, equivalent to 232p per share, which is less than the 275p price at which HBOS raised funds earlier in 2008.
    To avoid another Northern Rock-style collapse, the UK government announced that should the takeover go ahead, they would allow it to bypass competition law.
    Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, previously an economist, said of the takeover: “I am very angry that we can have a situation where a bank can be forced into a merger by basically a bunch of short-selling spivs and speculators in the financial markets.”
    Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats’ economic spokesman mocked so-called “masters of the universe,” whose hedge funds profited from short-selling.
    On 18 September 2008 the terms of the recommended offer for HBOS by Lloyds TSB were announced. The deal was concluded on 19 January 2009. The three main conditions for the acquisition were:

    Three quarters of HBOS shareholders voted in favour of the board’s actions;
    Half of Lloyds TSB shareholder voted to approve the takeover;
    UK government dispensation with respect to competition law.

    A group of Scottish businessmen challenged the right of the UK government to approve the deal by over-ruling UK competition law, but this was rejected. The takeover was approved by HBOS shareholders on 12 December.
    Prime Minister Gordon Brown personally brokered the deal with Lloyds TSB. An official is qouted as saying: “It is not the role of a Prime Minister to tell a City institution what to do”. The Lloyds TSB board have stated that merchant banks Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley were amongst the advisers recommending the takeover.
    Lloyds Banking Group said Edinburgh-based HBOS, which it absorbed in January, made a pre-tax loss of £10.8bn in 2008.
    Andy Hornby, the former chief executive of HBOS and Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, its former chairman, appeared before the Commons Treasury Committee to answer for the near-collapse of the bank. Mr Hornby said: “I’m very sorry what happened at HBOS. It has affected shareholders, many of whom are colleagues, it’s affected the communities in which we live and serve, it’s clearly affected taxpayers, and we are extremely sorry for the turn of events that has brought it about.”

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  4. ”Which reinforces my view that if one gets one’s news from Australian newspapers – one has to excuse oneself.”
    Prince Charls

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  5. Aggression and hostility, appropriately differentiated or not, have for millennia been essential to human survival in a naturally hostile environment and are hard wired into the human psyche whether we like it or not. During the last century or two we have learned to control this natural environment to an extent which was hitherto unthinkable, and the need or opportunity for displaying these behaviours for the good of ourselves and our communities has largely receded. The behaviours, however, cannot simply be sloughed off over such a short evolutionary timescale and in any case are far from voluntary. Also, to the extent that they are appropriately differentiated and not barbarous, they are still useful: hence, ever more spurious ways to disguise them have become essential in order to project a civilised self-image. In response to this dilemma we seem to have developed an acute need for passive aggressive behaviour in order to maintain the disguise; feminism and political correctness are obvious examples of this, both depending largely on projection. In addition, research has revealed that ‘gaming’ human psychology – often for the age old objectives of wealth and power – can be relatively straightforward, resulting in a sharp increase in paradoxical behaviour by those who measure their lives in terms of those objectives which many of us find hard both to refute and to live with. What would hitherto have been regarded as common sense is now largely perceived as anathema in order to justify a range of so-called imperatives that are themselves illusory. ‘Antiempathy’, it appears to me, is just such a paradoxical behaviour and, of course, it serves the sociopath admirably.

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  6. Sorry Hiero, I agree wholeheartedly with what you write about the dangerous mismatch between our evolutionary hard-wiring and our current environmental and social conditions, but would you mind defining ‘Antiempathy’ with a concrete example? (I always feel slightly in need of remedial English and Philosophy lessons when I read your contributions :-)

    OT I have just spent an hour watching Jim Fetzer’s latest video via a link from Paul Craig Robert’s site. It was worth the time, and those that watch with an open mind should find it fascinating. (Of course, as the late great Terry Pratchett put it “The trouble with having an open mind is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”)

    http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/02/25/professor-jim-fetzet-tells-us-things-that-the-presstitutes-do-not/

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  7. Spot on JW . When something really shi##y happens ,don’t you just know an enquiry ( or is it inquiry?) and sincere apologies will follow , but the enquiry is always years off the mark so that evidence,passions and memories have faded and to quote the late Stanley Holloway ” the magistrate gave his opinion that no ones really to blame”.

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  8. Just developing tThe Lion and Albert theme a bit , that’s another thing the crafty burgers do , sow a seed of doubt or discredit the evidence. Are you sure it’s your son he’s (the lion) eaten.? Yes there’s his cap in the cage for Christs sake.
    Well it could have been another boy who was wearing Alberts cap could it not ?.
    Totally implausible alternative,it’s what they do.

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  9. @Canexpat

    False flag empathy, or ‘antiempathy’ as JW describes it and provides his own examples above, is pretty well covered by Jim Fetzer wouldn’t you say. Thanks for the link, which suggests that the illusory imperatives being deployed to directionalise public opinion amount to little more than crass deceptions which do not stand up well under any degree of forensic analysis or rigorous objective examination.

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  10. You may have more on this..From memory ..A daughter made some dosh when TSB was sold off (it was by UK standards, queer setup! it had more cash than any other bank…………….after a short period it was purchased by LLLLoyds
    and was found that in a short that period it had invested most of it’s dosh in a load of crap!

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  11. Thanks Hiero. There was quite a long time lag between my reading of JW’s article and reading your comment and I have to confess that his use of the word had completely slipped my mind. As I re-read JW’s piece I feel extremely foolish as he defines it quite clearly. My apologies.

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  12. One of the things that has always amazed me is why noone has sued the criminal banks for supporting the drug cartels.

    Surely there must be some rather irked people in Mexico and elsewhere around the world who could bring cases against our most beloved national financial institutions?

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  13. reg

    To quote Winston Smith; “Sanity is not statistical”. A brief comparison between reality and what most of the populace of the West believe would affirm this.

    Ad hominems do not persuade me any longer.

    Liked by 1 person

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