Shylock Visits Greece

From the moment we invented money we have had an uneasy relationship with moneylending and usury, the practice of making profits from others misfortunes. 2000 years ago Christ, in his only recorded act of physical anger, threw the moneylenders out of the Temple.

1600 years later in the Merchant of Venice Shakespeare, the world’s greatest dramatist ever, created Shylock who demanded a pound of flesh ‘nearest the heart’ as security for a loan and then demanded it when the borrower defaulted.

In my early days in the City of London, a much respected bank manager explained to me that the difference between ‘banking’ and ‘moneylending’ lay in the third question. When asking what security was available for a loan and whether the borrower could meet the repayments a banker would also ask: “Is it necessary?”

Like moneylenders, bankers are aware that loans can prey upon our weaknesses and sought to protect us from our own irresponsibility by making us think seriously about what we were about to indebt ourselves to them for.

Greece is in seriously troubling times as a result of its politicians taking on vast debts to stay in power. Aided by the lenders, this burden was hidden from the people AND the EU, when applying for membership.

With these loans came the condition of severe belt tightening ‘Austerity’ measures, effectively hobbling economic growth as well as humiliating the Greek people. Additionally, non-elected technocrats were installed in government, (as well as Italy), to ensure that interest payments are always met over the needs of the country and its people.

The repercussions from this have resulted in Greek youth looking at a bleak future, with little chance of gainful employment during their lifetime. People who previously held responsible jobs are now reduced to scavenging through the garbage for food, or relying on charity to survive. Is it any wonder that the extent of this human tragedy has also seen a dramatic increase in the rate of suicides, caused by an environment of growing despair as lenders continue to demand their ‘pound of flesh’?

It is now clear that Greece can no longer afford these secretly made obligations, whilst lenders simply proffer more debt as the solution to meeting the repayments.

The reality is that if these payments are taken out of the county’s balance sheet Greece is in credit! Accusations have been levied at the Greek people, which in most part they accept, that they have not been responsible in paying their taxes and so they are to blame.

How credible are such accusations, when the very people who lent them the money and are now taking over the country’s public utilities at heavily discounted prices, are themselves constantly avoiding taxes? In the last few days it has been whistleblown that a subsidiary of HSBC, the 2nd largest bank in the world, is actively helping wealthy clients dodge taxes.

Unlike Greek shopkeepers, these global institutions have armies of accountants constantly looking to see where tax can be avoided or evaded. Unlike Greek shopkeepers , we are talking here about billions each year that are hidden in designer made tax havens such as The Cayman Islands, Lichtenstein and The Isle of Man, to name but a few. Pot calling the kettle black . . . You decide!

An Impassioned Plea . . .

The brave people of Greece are now in a very, very lonely place, as debt repayments they can’t meet fall due at the end of this month. Like a modern day David and Goliath, they now confront their financial oppressors whilst the rest of the world looks on.

Goliath cannot be seen to be backing down here, because it will create a precedent of unmanageable proportions for those lenders with other European countries in similar situations. I, for one, believe Greece is now fighting a battle the rest of us in the western world will have to face, if we are to relinquish our continued enslavement by debt.

Surely NOW is the time for the rest of us to express our refusal to continue with the “High Debt, low growth and unemployment” we are told by the IMF “could yet become the new normal in Europe”, by showing our support for the people of Greece on social media and elsewhere.

Mine is this simple message that will be repeated daily for the next week:

If, like me, you are convinced ‘Austerity’ only works for the lenders please support this message by hitting the RT above right here and now. Or use your own words with #GreekDebt, so our collective voice will let them know they are no longer alone.

We owe it to their bravery in making a stand . . . How can anyone look away?


Until the next time.