Monday, 19 March 2012


The manager of our local Co-op where I get my paper, milk, bread and so on most days is something of a surprise. Young, well read and a polymath he is stalking me intellectually.

This morning he came up and said:-
“I was thinking of you last night” I eyed him suspiciously – this is Brighton after all, “I was reading Socrates who said ‘beware the barren life of a busy man.’”

Beware the knee of an irate customer I thought.

But I also thought how interesting it was that despite the lamentations of politicians about declining educational standards how much brighter and how much more intellectually curious many people seemed to be today. I’m constantly in cabs with drivers who have degree like intelligence….more in the north of England than the south. In Sunderland I think most of them have PHDs.

In Brighton where there are few well-paid jobs they say laughingly you need a 2.1 to get a job at Pizza Express. But actually it’s probably true.

And why not?

Intellectual brightness is a gift you hone and enjoy whatever you do and nothing whatsoever to do with commercial smartness.

Which brings me on to the term “muppets”.

This is the term of affection or scorn with which Goldman Sachs are said to describe their clients. Shocked? Don’t be. The big and famous client-facing companies like Tesco, HSBC, WPP, Google and so on that are on a roll, are not often or ever focused on the betterment of their clients but on creating the illusion of that betterment and the beneficial association of being served by a winner.

I’ve heard ad. agency people call their clients “pond life” , “punters” and “johns”.

But if you’re a Master of the Universe you would wouldn’t you? Power does that. It makes you nasty.
It also creates a pretty barren life. Here’s how barren. It could turn you into a “vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”.

That’s how they talk about the demonised Goldman Sachs. Greg Smith who resigned this week accompanied by a heavily critical and well publicised letter shows that his employer is definitely not a not-for-profit organisation.  But like the masons with their insidious reach, Goldman employees have taken over the world of banking and international finance. Here’s a glimpse of the line-up:-

First of all Chief Squid – Lloyd Blankfein. What a great name. Nearly as good as the US Republican Congressman from Colorado called Randy Baumgardner.

“How are you Lloyd?”
“I’m blank fine you stupid muppet”

Nice smile Lloyd.

Uncertain smile Mike but still waiting to succeed the chief squid, Michael Sherwood

Well would you smile?

Greek prime minister, Lucas Papademos. Helped get Greece into the Euro. Together with….

Now Prime Minister of Italy, 68-year-old Mario Monti was an international adviser to Goldman Sachs from 2005 until 2011.

 Mario Draghi President of the European Central Bank. He was the vice chairman for Europe at Goldman Sachs International from 2002 to 2005.

PM's wife Samantha Cameron worked for Goldman Sachs executive Mike Sherwood after he led a buyout consortium in 2005.

Economist Gavyn Davies was head of global economics at Goldman Sachs from 1986 to 2001. The former chief UK economist was a key adviser to Gordon Brown.

“Beware the barren life of a busy man” said Socrates allegedly.

When it comes to a final tally most of these guys will shamelessly protest they did a great job. But I bet they really wish they’d worked at the Co-op…which is where in the next life they’ll end up.

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