Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Priestly deception

Sometimes I get the impression that certain people are on the fast-track of life; regardless of how competent, resourceful or intelligent, they're going to end up being your boss and making more money than you because, well, just because. Stephen Green the ex-Chairman of HSBC bank looks like such a person to me; with a name like "Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint" he was probably born into a family that made more money than yours going right back to the Norman conquest when the right to fleece everyone else was ordained by God himself (and the small matter of a fleet of ships containing archers and cavalry); not his fault of course, such are the random twists and turns of history.

Some careers must seem like a trip to a giant Michelin star cafeteria; for starters we have a top boarding school followed by Oxford or Cambridge and then for main course we pick from McKinsey and/or the City of London washed down with a vintage magnum of Civil Service and then to cap the meal off we gorge on flambéed Investment banking, Cabinet Minister topped with Quango chief and a selection of exotic holiday homes from the Retirement trolley. Nice work if you can get it, as my old man used to say. Now, none of this strikes me as a problem if the people receiving such privilege are ethical, competent, hard-working, charitable and leave the world a better place than they find it. As it now transpires HSBC under Mr Greens leadership looks like it was helping a significant number of it's (rich) customers to avoid paying tax and therefore facilitating them breaking the contract we all have as evolved primates to invest in the societal infrastructure used to make our wealth in the first place; perhaps there was a warped sense of entitlement prevalent here or maybe Mr Green knew nothing about the scale of the fraud, either way he was either bent or incompetent and needs to answer these criticisms.

Greens example illustrates some important philosophical life-lessons for me, firstly as an ordained (Christian) minister and author of a book on corporate responsibility what people say is rarely a foolproof indication of what they believe or how they act when they think no one is looking. Scepticism is the most valuable sense we have, it's hard not to conclude that he was either astronomically cynical and hypocritical or some kind of patsy. In plain language, born to rule doesn't mean capable of rule.

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