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July 14, 2009updated 29 Jan 2016 11:36am

Free Little Pigs

By Alessandro Tome

What’s with all this wallowing in recession misery? Far better if we stopped whining and took responsibility for our own lives, says Alessandro Tomé


he dreaded recession word is definitely on everyone’s lips. Everyone has become an overnight finance expert. The shop owner on a little island in Greece and the local village’s bank manager both want to talk about it, tell me who is at fault, and the bank manager wants to tell me why her bank is safer than the Geneva private banks because it didn’t own any Madoff. And the fact that hers is offering to pay twice as much interest on a deposit as any of the larger German or French banks doesn’t make hers any riskier, she says.

From Ibiza beach bum to London socialite, they have all turned into economics professors. Whether you like it or not, they will tell you why it started and whose fault it was, and some, but only a few, even have a view on how to end it, whether it be outlawing banking altogether, banning profit-generation in finance while still believing stock markets will always go up and never down, and of course the favoured one: skin the hedgies alive. That is often before most of them even find out that I work or, possibly sooner than planned, used to work in hedge funds myself.

I can’t say it any more than my kids can say ‘Voldemort’. Instead, as they do with Harry Potter’s evil nemesis, I refer to ‘the thing that can’t be named’ when asked what I do. We have gone from teaching the kids not to say the ‘F’ word to them telling us not to say the ‘R’ word, and soon they may wear paper bags on their heads to school if I were to continue in the world of ‘HFs’.

Angel Wife and I have even been banned from discussing financial issues at the dinner table by our kids. They say it’s boring and I agree. I would much rather discuss GoGos, trade Match Attax cards and have a Gormiti battle — which I try to do in order to avoid such conversation when out and about, but my kids find it easier to shut me down than I do others.

People can’t seem to get enough of ‘R’ talk, like a shark feeding frenzy, except this time the erstwhile sharks are usually part of the menu. But beyond the blame game we humans find so easy to revert to the moment we can’t assume our own responsibilities, what fascinates me is the delight we seem to have in revelling in the depressing and sometimes desperate sense of it all. It must be part of our coping mechanism, that and denying we are in any way affected by the ‘downturn’, ‘market correction’, ‘Ponzi schemes’ and general withdrawal of credit.


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eing able to look at fact rather than fiction, as peddled without shame by so-called journalists, is a vital necessity. Differentiating rational from irrational fears is an imponderable tool to see things for what they are and not what the dreaded BBC and their obnoxious business editor Robert Peston want us to believe. To misquote, ‘Were ever so many fooled and depressed by so few?’

And while not wanting to sound the Charge of the Light Brigade, why go on about it so much? Sure I’m taking the bus, sure I’m having to think of something new to do, sure people take their time in settling invoices, sure some marriages may break up if you don’t deliver the goods (perhaps that’s not such a bad outcome at the moment), sure things are complicated out there, but in reality when are they not? It is just a question of how much more, not if.

Some deal with it by rioting at the G20 summit, although I wonder how many of the participants would actually be able to name the said G20 countries, let alone locate them on an atlas. Some are even famously trashing an RBS branch while wearing UBS hats. (Perhaps just healthy banking competition there, then.) Merkel bitches about the Anglo-Saxons; Sarkozy thinks everyone else is an idiot, but at least says so; Zapatero is just that, a cobbler; and the Brown–Darling show is a pantomime. Oh, and Berlusconi’s just a joke.

Therein lies a lot of the problem. We Europeans have elected leaders who don’t seem to know how to lead. But then again, Europe never seems to be able to lead and is completely incapable of taking tough decisions. It actually is designed to be unable to do so.

It reminds me of those very annoying people who never make a decision, ponder endlessly over choices and then, when someone makes one or expresses a view, they are the first to jump in and criticise it. They are the kind of guys you would have beaten up at school. That’s back in the days when actually children were allowed to grow up as children, rather than robots.


o we let others (the US primarily) make most of the tough decisions and blame them when they go wrong and pat ourselves on the back for not making any decision at all. But at least they DO something; we Europeans really miss that ‘bring it on’ attitude.

As I was saying to a good friend on a personal level, if you never express a view, you can never be wrong or criticised, but you also never progress, and if you do not evolve, you eventually become extinct. European ‘leadership’ is well on its way, and I may be tempted to add, so I hope. But we can’t just blame our ‘leaders’ as we put them there in the first place and so we must in some way feel empathy with them, or even worse, be like them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t riot, but also don’t follow, lead instead; don’t listen, act instead; evolve, reinvent, develop, take on, create, take ownership of your life and have fun doing it. Don’t let the BBC and other intellectual dwarfs tell you how you should feel, and certainly don’t plan on going extinct, at least any time soon. Back to the ‘F’ word is all I can say.

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