The trouble with stopping doing the stuff that fills every ordinary day is that it leaves a vacuum and a vacuum might fill with all sorts of things, things pleasant, but also things that are annoying, things that still rankle decades after they happened. Contemplating nothing in particular, memories of a conversation surfaced; a conversation in a London pub, a conversation that was about nothing in particular, but contained words unintentionally hurtful, words that still hurt.
The conversation was a friend in the long past, who went on to very lucrative things in the financial world. He told me of an interview he had conducted with a very able candidate for a post in the bank for which he was working at that time, “It’s not that he wasn’t very well qualified for the post; it’s just that he would not have had the confidence to cope with the clients.” To be honest, it was much more blunt than that, he said the young man was from Cornwall and was a “rustic.” Being from Somerset, from a small rural community, being a rustic, it was a conversation that persuaded me at the time that I would never have coped in the City of London, that had I been the subject of the interview, I would not have been employed.
In the moment of reflection, I contemplated memories of the conversation, then thought about the damage that the financiers and the bankers had caused to the lives of countless millions of people through their reckless speculation and gambling on the markets; I thought about the years of austerity caused to the people of Ireland by the economic mismanagement of politicians and the deliberate deception of banking executives; I thought about those sold houses for which they will be paying for decades, those whose lives are lived in debt bondage, those who still spend every hour they have trying to remain solvent; I thought about them and I thought about that interview more than twenty years ago.
The Cornishman was not appointed to the job, not through any lack of competence, not through any lack of ability, not through any lack of appropriate skills, but because he was considered to be unlikely to be able to “cope with the clients.” What did that mean? It meant he hadn’t the necessary chat to please them, he could not soft sell them things they dd not really want, he would not have been a man that would have earned great bonuses through multi-million pound deals. All these years later, it seems likely that his chief fault was that he was honest, and when people are declined work through being honest, then the slipper slope to financial collapse has been reached.
It is easier to think about nothing than to recall such annoying stuff.