Jeanette Winterson: When Bankers Rob the World

“Meanwhile we had riots [in the UK]. David Cameron our beloved PM said that they weren’t politically motivated, as though you can have a bunch of bankers rob the world, get bailed out by our taxes, force a global recession, meet with neither punishment nor sanctions, and expect no social consequences.

The message is that a particular class or a particular kind can behave as they like and the rest of us will pay for it. When an underclass riots and behaves as it likes, the police use water canons and kids get 18 months for stealing dustbins and bottles of water.

I hate what happened in the riots but they were nothing compared to the robbery we have all had to put up with from the banks. Pensions are gone, jobs are gone, savings have disappeared. People have lost their homes and their hope. Kids have lost their future, their chance at affordable education, and any sense of justice. They went out and smashed and grabbed. They copied the masters of the universe.

Political unrest means more than organised direct action; it can be a trigger response to an intolerable situation.

Sometimes I walk round the really poor parts of town. Frankly, I don’t know why there aren’t more riots. The toxic message is that life is all about spending power and buying power. You can’t pump that out 24/7 through TV, Web, and Social media and not expect a major mess on your hands when suddenly there is no money. If your only status is your trainers and you can’t buy the trainers what are you going to do? If there are no jobs what are you going to do?

Yes the riots were mindless, malicious, destructive, anti-social. And so was parcelling up junk bonds as A rate security and pushing loans on people who could never repay them. Malicious, destructive, anti-social – but no, it wasn’t mindless – it was done deliberately to turn a profit at the expense of the social order.

And those guys didn’t go to Court, they talked they way around a few Select Committees. They didn’t get fined – they collected their bonuses. They didn’t go to jail – they threatened to leave the country if they were regulated. But none of that was criminal was it?”–Jeanette Winterson, author of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?