For the last fifteen years I’ve had a part time career in law enforcement. First thing this morning I was called to deal with a punch-up. Even if the perpetrators were two small girls, it still took a brave man to get between them and their advent calendar.
‘Roxana took the sweet I wanted.’
‘You’re such a bloody tell-tale.’
‘She said the B-word! She said the B-word!’
And it’s my fault. After all, I’ve encouraged their selfishness. I’ve laid on this annual confectionary countdown to the apocalypse of avarice on Greedmas day. I’ve brought them up as godless sceptics who, without any church-going charitable good-will rationale for the gift giving orgy, have simply concluded that it’s just their yearly entitlement, their present prerogative, their right to receive.
I mean, it’s not their fault. They can’t be blamed for their own venality. They’re not responsible. They’re just kids. Right? It’s not as if I’ve told them every year: ‘It’s nicer to give than to receive’… ‘Stuff won’t make you happy’… ‘It’s the thought that counts’… ‘You’ll give Nana a kiss or her present back, NOW.’
No, it’s wrong to blame the innocent receivers for their part in the greed parallax, they’ve just taken what’s been offered; it’s the evil suppliers who are at fault. Wasn’t it Curry’s and our Flat-Screen worshiping society that was responsible for this summer’s consumeriots? Not the poor disaffected youths who, nevertheless, got banged up for their part.
This Christmas in our wretched economy, the ethics of greed have never seemed more relevant.
The ‘Occupy The-Moral-High-Ground’ camp by St Paul’s protests the greed of the “1%” of the population who possess an astonishingly disproportionate amount of this country’s wealth.
But then here, in the borough with the highest property values in Britain you might ask: Is that us? Are we that “1%”?
Obviously I’m not because I’m writing for a free newspaper.
And, let’s face it, you’re probably not because you’re reading one.
But we’ve got multimillionaire neighbours keeping our property prices inflated with their fully staffed townhouses reserved for the moment they fancy going shopping. You and I, we’re just the human shield for when the revolution comes. As the “99%” march on the borough, we’re here to absorb the impact of the first salvos as the “1%” scramble their helicopters.
The occupiers blame ‘corporate greed’ for our economic predicament, but watching my own venal children I start to wonder if it’s really just the “1%” bankers, the suppliers, who are at fault.
Before 2008, who wasn’t tempted to take out a sub-prime style mortgage without totally clear means of repaying? After all, who imagined property values going anywhere but up? Yes, bankers were/are greedy, yes they encouraged us to live beyond our means, but weren’t we there too? If there’s a responsibility to giving, so is there in the taking.
Sometimes I wish I could just slap sense into my kids. The fact that they’re down to one present this Christmas might just do it.
Marius Brill’s hilarious novel How To Forget (Doubleday £12.99) is a perfect Christmas present and out now in all good bookshops.