Leeson was the first rogue trader who brought down Barings bank in 1995 when he lost untold millions of pounds gambling on some sort of financial derivatives. For his pains poor old Nick spent a few years as a guest of Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
Barings bank was an old established bank which had been going since the time of Napoleon; Nick closed it with a couple of dodgy bets that went wrong.
However, it is the run-up to the closure that interests us. The top men of Barings went to a meeting in Downing Street with John Major and his chancellor Kenneth Clarke. Later it transpired that the bankers were only worried about whether or not the senior staff would get their Christmas bonuses.
The bankers got a rude shock; their bank was not being saved because England had no money left to save it.
This was the first time England admitted they were no longer in the top bracket in the financial world.
Now come to the present; this past week saw Britain say that they were sending no troops to Syria even if America sent their men. David Cameron admitted in St Petersburg that “Britain is a small island off the coast of Europe.”
The United Kingdom of Great Britain is economically, financially and morally on its knees. Cameron has even given up the facade that Britain is still a great power so at least he is being honest.
We are yesterday’s empire, forgotten and ignored, but all of this has serious implications for us in the New North.
This week the PSNI said that they were spending £50,000 per day policing a silly wee protest in Twaddle Avenue in North Belfast; I didn’t even know they were still protesting up there, I had forgotten all about it.
Are we in the New North so rich that we have £50,000 a day to waste on ridiculous protests? Seemingly £50,000 would pay two nurses for a year, but who cares about the sick and dying when you have a flag to shout about!
While we were protesting, the great and the good all headed off to St Petersburg for a big chat on what was happening in the world of finance. Unfortunately, Mr Assad’s habit of killing a few hundred of his own people everyday overshadowed the whole affair. By using chemical weapons Mr Assad has been deemed by the US to have overstepped the mark.
‘You cannot have people going around killing their own people with poison gas’ is the feeling of some countries in the West.
Unfortunately for those who have this moral high stance, the stomach is not there for a war in Syria or anywhere else for that matter. Did you notice that Germany never spoke? They can bully Ireland and Greece and make paupers of us all but when it comes to standing up for real justice they are strangely silent.
China and Russia have different attitudes to human rights than the USA and most of the west. Chairman Mao is the man credited with being responsible for more killing than any other person in history with over 100 million people dead to his credit. He is followed by Joseph Stalin, the hero of Russia, with more than 20 million.
In China and Russia, the state comes before the person, the opposite of what we have in the west. So if Assad has to kill a few hundred thousand for the good of the state then so be it; it’s as simple as that.
What we are really beginning to see is the impotency of the west in world affairs. A tin pot dictator can kill his people and nobody does a thing. When did that last happen in the world?
But at least there is a degree of honestly in the response of Britain and Germany and the indifference of Russia and China.
“At the Calthorpe Clinic in Edgbaston, Birmingham, Dr Palaniappan Rajmohan, was also filmed agreeing to conduct the procedure even though he told the woman: ‘It’s like female infanticide, isn’t it?’” (Daily Telegraph, 4th Sept 2013)
Like David Cameron saying that Britain is now only a small island off the coast of Europe, Dr Palaniappan Rajmohan called it as it was.
In the end, and I am talking quite a long time from now, maybe another fifty or a hundred years, that’s what will beat secularism as a way of life. People will begin to call our behaviour as it is and will stop hiding behind terms like ‘Great Britain’ and termination of ‘female foetuses.’
A good analogy to what I mean is when at the end of an alcoholic’s drinking the family give up covering for him and call his addiction by its proper name, unacceptable behaviour.
What is that old saying that people have....oh, yes, ‘the truth shall come out in the end.’
There is something in the human spirit that eventually rebels when politicians and little dictators push too far. When communism became unsustainable, the people simply said enough is enough. The British people saw that they were sold a pup in Iraq and should never have been there and now they have said ‘no more!’
Secularism is another example of self-will run riot in mankind; Dr Palaniappan Rajmohan, whether you agree with him or not, was under no illusions as to what he was doing.
I wonder was his conscience pricking him.
Rochus, the last known survivor from Hitler’s bunker at the end of the Second World War, was ninety six when he died on Friday. He said Hitler was not a monster, he was ‘a very normal man... he was no brute, he was no monster.’
It is strange how history has a way of making things awkward for some people. Misch’s wife was Jewish and poor Rochus could never accept this and in fact he denied it all his life; his daughter practices her Jewish faith.
Perhaps Rochus Misch was in it for the money. He might have been better to follow Rudolf Hess and fly to Scotland, which is hoping to become independent again soon.
Scotland is never going to be totally independent even if the majority of the people there vote for it. There shall always be some ties between Edinburgh and London but in the next twenty or thirty years there is going to be some fundamental changes to the United Kingdom.
Another wee history question—when did the Scottish and Walsh assemblies first meet?
It was in the late 1990s. You would think that the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have been there forever but they are relatively new.
The devolved powers are based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between all the groups in the four countries that make up the UK.
If you look at it closely you can see what way the UK is headed: ‘by 2016 provisions of the Scotland Act 2012 will provide the Scottish Parliament with new borrowing powers and create a Scottish variable rate of income tax,’ is one of its provisions.
Once a country can raise its own taxes it is independent in everything but name.
My point is this: over the next twenty to thirty years the UK is going to mutate into something completely new.
How should they do this?
First, begin to move away from ‘us and them’ politics of the past and concentrate of what is best for all in the New North.
Second, start asking real questions about the truth of the history of the Free State and its ambivalence, to say the least, towards the discrimination against the nationalists of the north.
Third and this is the most important point of all, set out the principles upon which we wish to build our community; do we want to go the purely secular way or do we want to include some recognition of God and his laws in our land?
For once in the ‘history of the state’ let’s be honest about where we are headed.
The zero sum politics which has bedeviled the New North has to be consigned to the dust bin.
Where will we start?
Would someone go up to the Ardoyne and tell the idiots at Twaddle Avenue that we have bigger issues to worry about in the New North than a wee walk up the street where you can carry your flag.
As Britain becomes more and more broke we shall all remember what John Hume said, ‘you can’t eat flags.’
The latest US offensive came at the weekend. John Kerry, who was not born in that great football county, arrived in Europe to do the rounds in order to garner support for military action in Syria.
That’s the problem with killing; one man’s murder is another man’s justifiable death. Think back to the days of ‘legitimate targets.’
Ah, those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end!
In 1995 John Paul the Great wrote an encyclical called Evangelium Vitae. In it he talked about the Culture of Death that comes about when man rejects God and takes authority over life and death.
We are now living with the effects of the culture of death. Killing our young is an accepted part of daily life now in Northern Ireland and the Free State as well as every other modern ‘sophisticated’ country that we all want to be part of.
When Merkel, Putin, de Kirchner of Argentina, Singh of India and Nieto of Mexico, along with other G20 leaders refuse to commit to action in Syria at least they are being consistent. Killing the innocent is the order of the day.
Before Mr Obama goes ranting and raving about Assad killing 400 children he might like to reflect that an estimated 1.13 million (3000/day) abortions took place in the US alone in 2011. At least Assad gave them a chance to run away. Why point to the splinter in Assad’s eye and ignore the plank in our own.
And then on Sunday I got my laugh of the week, courtesy of the Irish Independent.
The Independent ran a big headline and story about TDs who voted for abortion taking stick from priests and catholic lay groups when they go to communion.
Eh, what did they expect? Is there no integrity in these people?
‘Communion’ from the Latin for ‘with union’ means that you believe and adhere to the teachings of the church. If you don’t want to do that, then fine, but at least have the integrity to stand behind what you say and believe; don’t run crying to the Irish Independent.
‘Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged.’ as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says.
The gassing of children in Syria is wrong. We all know that. We don’t need God or religion to tell us that.
But the problem with the ‘culture of death’ is that it distorts the reality of death and leads to this kind of confusion, where killing one person is fine but killing another is wrong.
John Paul the Great wrote in Evangelium Vitae, (paragraph 71):
“Consequently there is a need to recover the basic elements of a vision of the relationship between the civil law and the moral law...”
Modern man does not like to hear mention of the moral law but when you look at the heads hung in shame at the G20 summit as world leaders know they no longer have any moral authority, and then we can easily understand that we are living in the culture of death.
But let us end on a high note.
The painting shall do what all great paintings do; it shall bring joy and hope to many people. At the end of the day hope is one of man’s great aspirations.
And the ordinary people of Syria shall never lose hope—it’s what keeps them going.
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