Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Wednesday 4 July 2012

Arrogance (n.): Assuming, overbearing, insolent.

THE list of 'bad guys' gets longer every day.

First it was Labour, then the Tories and the Lib Dems; it included tabloid journalists, then private detectives and the Murdochs; they were followed by investment bankers, hedge fund tycoons, and tax-avoiders.

But that's what bad guys are for - to be made an example of so there is a public idea of 'bad' and everyone realises the best way to behave is the opposite of it. Fairytales, with heroes and villains, work because we understand the plot and see it will always end badly for everyone who's not Snow White.

Of course the bad guys are fairly ordinary human beings who end up doing extraordinary things because they think they ought to: like the concentration camp guards who were never given an express order to eradicate a race but did it anyway because the boss says their work rate is a little low.

The problem is not that there are bad guys because that will always be the case, but that they think it was all right to be bad in the first place. And the reason for that is normally arrogance - a belief that it is all right so long as you are the one doing it.

It is arrogant to think that because you were swept to power on a tide of public opinion in 1997 that the public will always like you, that you can start some wars in the teeth of massive opposition and not many people will mind, or that in Opposition you have a hope of winning the argument again with a team which consists almost entirely of people we already don't like.

It is arrogant to think that hacking phones won't be found out, or that it doesn't need to be justified by a strong public interest. It is arrogant to insist no more than one person could have been involved, that bad journalism doesn't have a price every other journalist ends up paying, and arrogant to claim in court that you do not need to say who ordered the hacking.

It is arrogant to say that everything which goes wrong is the previous administration's fault when you should be saying how you'll put it right. It is arrogant to try to wriggle out of a full investigation because it'll probably make you look bad.

It is arrogant to think that even though not enough people voted for you that you should raise tuition fees, axe police jobs, screw everyone's pensions but your own, tackle the national debt principally by shifting it from a public liability to a private one, and set up a year-long inquiry to put a leash on the only watchdog capable of holding you to account.

It is arrogant to fiddle with the interbank lending rates, to make phone calls telling bank bosses you want them lowered, to tell MPs calling you to account that someone else made you do it and arrogant to think that when you've affected the savings and mortgages of billions of people around the world you have any right to claim a £25million pay-off when you had to resign in disgrace.

None of those things are anywhere near right. They're not right to most normal-thinking people, they're not right with a following wind or a bit of a squint, they're utterly and completely wrong and the people who did them need to be shown it.

The trouble is that in fairytales there is an over-arching morality and you know the good guys will win in the end; that the shoe will fit, the prince will find her, the frog is beautiful on the inside. That there is, in some way, a kind of God particle which makes everything all right in the end.

In real life people have forgotten that because other people contribute to the story and sky pixies are harder to spot than a Higgs Boson you need to have morals if you want the ending to be as it should.

Barclays, like many other banks and businesses, was founded by Quakers who believed you didn't need to swear or drink (Eh? - Ed), fight wars or have more worldly goods than you needed. They were philanthropists, they campaigned against slavery, and promoted prison reform and help for the poor.

They've been busy helping themselves of late, but there's a very easy solution. And that's to move your money. Move it away from people who behave in ways you don't like, so that if they want to get their hands on it they are forced to act in ways that you approve of.

If there's one thing you can guarantee about who wins in the end, it's that people will always follow the money, and that those with less of the stuff are never as arrogant as the ones with plenty.

Why don't you?