Banks are government-supported organised crime syndicates – or scorpions


[Background: When I was student, my older sister signed surety for me one year so that I could get a loan.]

Got a call from my mother today: “Has your sister called you yet?”

In the first place, my mother calls me from South Africa? I think crisis. Has my sister called me yet? I think crisis with my sister.

Turns out it is [redacted] Bank who has, as they call it, “tracked down” my sister, telling her they cannot find me anywhere, and despite the fact that I – who cannot be “found” – is giving them money every single month, they want more. And my sister has to give them more right now, otherwise they are going to make a complaint and open a case with the police and my sister’s employer will have to be notified and it will be a blot on her name and it’s one hell of a crisis. And then the inevitable: “Your sister is hysterical.”

I sat and I listened, and then after a few minutes, I exploded. I pay them each and every month and they have my email and I am tired of this, and I didn’t ask for the loan in the first place and I have already paid them more than R100,000 and what else do I have to do …

After an hour, a 7-Eleven chicken burger, a brown rice milk and two cigarettes I had calmed down sufficiently to call “Christina” and tell her to write me up for more money from the end of next month.

A few important points:

Point 1. Why did I lose my cool? Embarrassment, the shame that bears down on you when you are “caught out”, when you fail to do “what you are supposed to do”, when you want to play according to your own rules and it’s not yet working out. Oh, and because you are suddenly standing in front of the establishment again, hat in hand, to be reprimanded because you committed that primal sin: you took money from the bank – and you are not giving it back fast enough. (Forget about the fact that I have paid them back double the original amount a long time ago, because as a result of interest I still “owe” them money.)

Point 2. A bank is not much more than a government-supported organised crime syndicate, even when they play according to the accepted rules. Smiling, shiny faces on billboards notwithstanding.

Point 3. All of us – my sister, the bank, and I – have a leg to stand on. However, I believe throwing a poison pill in the soup by claiming they couldn’t find me was an immoral tactic for which someone at the bank should take responsibility.

Point 4. This situation reminds me of the film, The Crying Game, where the guy tells the story of the frog and the scorpion, with the frog agreeing to help the scorpion cross the river. Despite assurances and promises that he won’t do it, the scorpion stings the frog halfway across the river. “Why did you do that?” the frog asks. “Because it’s in my nature,” the scorpion replies. “What did you expect?” So, I think, it is with banks, debt, and the way banks deal with people who owe them money. It is, after all, a bank. It is in the nature of their business to do whatever they deem necessary, no matter how immoral, when it is in their interest. What else can we expect? (Ends: Monday, 12 March 2007)