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Sadly, banks are a necessary evil

Off the fence
Sadly, banks are a necessary evil


Off the fence
Neill O’Neill


BANKS are like water. Slippery, hard to detect when they start leaking, and even harder to contain once that process has begun. With banks, as with all bodies of water, there is far more to them than what we see on the surface, they often contain odd and savage creatures, from which most people are better off keeping a distance, and ultimately, they can give life or inflict death, depending on their mood.
In fact, it seems the only thing water and banks do not share is transparency.
Imagine modern society without banks. How would we conduct any business, pay for goods or services, or lead our lives with the ease with which we have become accustomed, in terms of financial transactions. Big corporations would not function, neither would small ones, trade, markets, supply and demand, commodities, foreign exchange - none of these would exist.
Cheques, ATMs, credit cards, direct debits, on-line shopping, none of these would be heard of (they aren’t at present for Ulster Bank customers!) In more simple times, centuries ago, this was feasible, but not in a modern world where billionaires abound and debt is measured in trillions.
Then again, without banks we wouldn’t have the mess, austerity, IMF, ECB, debt, cutbacks and Troika in our lives, and we wouldn’t be experiencing the on-going fiscal punishment we currently are, thanks to the actions of a few. Many people bear a deep disdain and suspicion of banks, but how many get on in their daily lives without them?
Listen to the horror stories that abound of banks acting with ruthless impunity against people many of whom were corralled into a hopeless situation in the first place. First time buyers in hopeless negative equity have been rendered homeless at the stroke of a pen. Banks fight legal battles tooth and nail, and most uncooperatively, that no private company would dare. They do so knowing that either way the loss is not theirs, because the same individuals who decimated the banks as private companies, now have the safeguard of state backing in their facile quest to save face.
They owe this unwarranted luxury to successive governments who hadn’t the balls to do anything meaningful about it. Oh, and let’s not forget we voted for them in the first place, but then changed the team at the last election based on a vision for a new strategy, only to watch the new line-up go out and play with the same tactics.
The story of what has occurred in the banks in Ireland and abroad is far from over, but we can expect the brunt of the pain and suffering to continue to be carried by the public at large. After all, as the banks know too well, we need them a lot more than they need us.