“Balotelli is just selfish. He deserves a lot of slaps, Balotelli does not play for the team, only for himself. He is an egotist, who thinks the world revolves around him. Guys like Balotelli deserve lots of slaps rather than pats on the shoulder.” — Paulo Di Canio on Mario Balotelli.
“I personally have had a great season but my goal has been to win trophies with the team and to bring the club back to its glory days. I love the club and the fans, no matter what happens.” – Robin van Persie
Since those statements were made, Balotelli has begun to behave impeccably on the pitch, and van Persie has apparently declared a strong interest in leaving his beloved Arsenal. Which just goes to show that nothing and no-one in life remains static.
Clearly not all footballers are selfish and egotistical, and we can assume that in the world of banking and finance there’s also a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly.
This week, speaking to a Parliamentary committee of enquiry on the day after his resignation as head honcho at Barclays, Bob Diamond mentioned several times how much he “loved” Barclays and all the thousands of wonderful people who work for this giant banking group.
So here we have a man who takes home more than £20million every year purely as a “bonus” on top of his enormous salary, a man who is commonly thought of as an anti-social, unethical, robotic cash machine, letting us know that he’s completely misunderstood and that he’s actually a loving and caring individual who has simply been the kindly patriarch of the current generation of the Barclays family. A small number of individuals within the family have been rather naughty, but they have now been taken outside and disciplined, just as they would be in any other mafia – oops, I mean family – organisation. What’s more, he’s never done a thing wrong himself and the only reason he’s resigned is as a response to public anger and vitriol since he doesn’t want his beloved Barclays to suffer any more criticism or unfair denigration as a result of him remaining its Chief Executive. So now we know.
For another viewpoint on the Barclays family and its leading members you might read Polly Toynbee’s latest column in the Guardian:
The Barclays ethos infects our culture. Purge the entire board
Here are two key words – culture and ethos. And here’s part of what Polly has to say:
If this is culture change, it’s glacially slow. Five years after Northern Rock signalled a banking collapse that impoverished nations, there is no reckoning. Citizens are impotently angry but business as usual prevails.
Testosterone-fuelled silverbacks eat what they kill in under-supervised dealing rooms, skimming fortunes from everyone else’s endeavour. So far the remedies are cough drops for cancer.
The biggest beast strides off with £100m, plus another possible £20m goodbye money. He is not struck off, nor abashed, not a bit. Is that a master of the universe, that charmless prevaricator with less self-awareness than an ape? These princelings’ characters are malformed by a lifetime of courtiers’ flattery. Politicians face hourly reminders that they are mortal, but not the denizens of the high towers of finance. The FSA signalled unease about the cultural failings of Diamond’s leadership four months ago, yet the board clung on to him even after that £290m fine.
The Financial Times writer John Gapper quotes one ex-banker’s thinking: “It would be a very good thing if an awful lot of people lost their jobs in a lot of banks.” A purge would indeed send out shock waves.
We need know nothing of these directors’ individual talents or deficiencies: they are all responsible for a bank that went out of control. Whether they were all “physically sick” together with Diamond when they heard the news of Libor-cheating in their trading rooms that inflated bonuses, who knows. But here is an establishment web, a hard-wired network of interests intertwined with regulators and ethics-setters where a thorough sacking would send an electric culture-change signal.
Greed is Good
Polly Toynbee talks about the 5 years since Northern Rock went bust; it’s 25 years since 20th Century Fox (!) released Wall Street – a film about the life and times of a reptilian character called Gordon Gekko, “a wealthy, unscrupulous corporate raider”.
Ah yes – scruples. We blogged recently about moral compasses, and we’ll continue to highlight the whole issue of spiritual intelligence and the parts of our brain that are responsible (in most people) for ethics, values and virtues. Spiritual intelligence is the key to being fully human.
“Wall Street defines itself through a number of morality conflicts putting wealth and power against simplicity and honesty.” – Wikipedia
Young people today, in an age of credit rating agencies and computerised decision-making, find it hard to believe that within living memory there was a time when there were no personal computers or office computers, when people met with their local bank managers and were dealt with sympathetically as human beings rather than as ‘credit risks’ and ‘customers’. We were people before we were punters.
So what happened to our society and our culture? How did we become infected with greed and with the affluenza virus? What happened to business ethics and the concept of a ‘fair profit’ rather than maximising profits? Why do we now pay upward of £1,500 to simply sign up for a mortgage or some such “financial product”, when in the era of mutualised building societies there was no fee at all when you took on a mortgage? What happened to the whole concept of mutuality and profit-sharing?
My own understanding of what happened is that at the time of the ‘Big Bang‘ (financial de-regulation), which was around the time of the release of ‘Wall Street’ and the publication of Tom Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987), many of us were brainwashed into thinking that Thatcherism and Reaganite Voodoo Economics was the only game in town.
Wolfe’s novel is a drama about ambition, racism, social class, politics, and greed in 1980s New York City. Lots of nasty stuff. All of which, however, has been given some sort of academic respectibility via the smokescreen of Friedmanite Chicago School economics and MBA university degrees.
Master of Business Administration sounds quite . . . respectable. And so it should. We surely need people who have mastery of business (including banking) administration. Tom Wolfe called the top bankers and financiers “Masters of the Universe” – which in Wolfe’s view is how they thought, and continue to think, of themselves. Masters and not servants. The problem has been that the vast majority of economics professors are now paid-up members of the Friedmanite/Chicago school of thought, i.e. anti-Keynesians, and these are the people you need to please if you want an MBA.
So consider this article, from an Education Guardian supplement on MBA courses (not available on the Internet) published on 6th December 2011:
In The Market for Morals
More and more MBA courses are developing ethical modules in response to the financial crisis, but many students remain unconvinced of the subject’s value. So why is corporate responsibility such a tough sell?
by Liz Lightfoot
The banking crisis and worldwide recession have led to a crop of new MBA modules on the subject of business ethics. Management schools across the world are dusting off their manuals on corporate responsibility . . .
“Ethics was part of business courses until about 10 years ago when the last gasp of ethical content was finally excluded from MBAs”, says Professor Paul Palmer, associate dean for ethics, sustainability and engagement at Cass Business School, London.
Palmer blames free marketeers such as Milton Friedman for the way moral issues were stripped out of the business curriculum in the 80s and 90s. Friedman, the American economist who influenced the policies of Reagan and Thatcher, held that the job of the corporate executive was to make as much money as possible, not to worry about the moral consequences. So suspicious was Friedman of those who wanted business to have a social conscience that he accused them of “preaching pure and unadulterated socialism”.
Palmer says the economic crisis of 2008 had a major impact because it exposed Friedman’s economic position as “mumbo jumbo and unscientific”. Palmer says: “The focus was on very young people earning vast sums of money. The individual came first and the community and ethics went second. What we are seeing now is a rebalancing.”
Is there a balance between ‘good’ and ‘evil’? Between greed and selflessness? Between selfishness and generosity? Does an interest in business ethics mark you out as an egalitarian and a socialist? And if so, is that a bad thing?
All of these words and concepts, of course, ought to be on the curriculum in Primary and Secondary schools, let alone Masters degrees in business schools. How is it possible that anyone has been able to go through an entire education – right through to and sometimes beyond Masters level – without developing any sense of ethical conduct, any concept of values and virtues? What does this say about our education system and the kind of society we’ve allowed ourselves to become?
And how much in-service staff development are our banks and businesses currently providing to help develop the stunted spiritual intelligence of their leaders and their employees, and so many others in our societies? 3Di will do a bit of delving and get back to you on this. If anyone has any information, please let us know.