Political gestures against bankers used to distract from the failings of capitalism
The western financial crisis of 2008 has not only exposed flaws in the capitalist economic model, it has also shown the failure of the political class to address the root causes of the crisis. This is the real indictment of the crisis because it means that aside from token gestures to placate the public, no real change is likely or indeed should be expected to radically address the failures inherent in capitalism.
To prevent a planned Common’s vote, Stephen Hester, Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, waived his near £1 million bonus, which was his apparent right according to the employment contract signed by government ministers after RBS was nationalised. Notwithstanding that his remunerations package is obscene, the fault surely lies with his employer – the government – agreeing the immensely lucrative terms of his employment contract. The token gesture then is an incredibly wealthy individual foregoing a year’s bonus which distracts from the failing of the system that employed him and rewarded him handsomely to lay off thousands of others.
In another symbolic move to appease public opinion, Fred Goodwin, another banker, was stripped of his Knighthood. A Knighthood that was handed to him by politicians for ‘services to banking’ before he presided over the collapse of RBS.
This episode exposes the unhealthy relationship between politicians, bankers and big business with suspicions of insidious associations and political patronage. Most fundamentally however it shows no real political will to address the failures of capitalism which has brought misery to millions of people who in a life time cannot hope to earn what Hester and Goodwin take home in a year.
This is merely the latest in an ever-increasing line of examples that show that capitalism has lost legitimacy even in its heartlands, and it is becoming all too clear even to non-Muslims that the solutions being put forward by their own politicians are inadequate and do not address the root issues such as corruption, poverty and access to wealth. Surely the time has come for Islam to be presented to the world again, both as an intellectual challenge to their weakening ideology and as a real solution for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.