Amy Jenkins: Bankers must have a death wish

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The Independent Online

Born in the mid-Sixties to lefty London parents, I am a fully paid-up member of Generation X. We've been called the slacker generation and, until 9/11 at least, we were pretty apolitical.

I have to admit that, unlike my parents, I went on no protest marches as a student. (In fact, I remember rather a lot of Champagne picnics.) So I'm thoroughly ashamed to say that beyond dancing at Live Aid and waving my arms in the air in support of cancelling third-world debt, I haven't been much preoccupied with questions of injustice.

But my formative years fell firmly into the short spell following the Second World War and ending, roughly, with Thatcherism when there was an atmosphere of reasonable equality in Britain, or perhaps I should I say, less inequality. There was the aristocracy, of course, but I never worried about them too much. It seemed to me that they had to pay a terribly high price for their privilege: all those draughty stately homes, the awful tweed outfits, the being abandoned at a young age to merciless public schools. As for those at the bottom, I voted Labour and hoped for a more equal distribution of wealth.

So I'm interested to find myself, so late in the day, in a political fury, the like of which I've never really experienced. I'm boiling with rage about bankers' bonuses. Now, I know there are arguably far greater injustices that I should have spent my whole life being worked up about – our shabby treatment of the developing world, for example – so I'll mention two things in my defence. One is that bankers' bonuses are right under my nose every time I step out in central London and am nearly run over by an Aston Martin. The other is Equity Theory.

Equity Theory was developed by the behavioural psychologist John Stacey Adams. His research showed that mankind's evolved need to live in groups meant that people put a great deal of stock in fair treatment. This isn't about equality. In a marriage, for example, a husband and wife may agree to make different contributions suitable to their particular biologies – the husband carries the heavy shopping, for example, while the wife breast-feeds the babies. But both partners will have a firm eye on equity of inputs and outputs and if equity becomes unbalanced there will be a move to redress.

You have to add in the fact that our concept of fairness is highly subjective and we develop sophisticated rationales to explain inequities. Thus, we all witnessed the arrival of the "super-rich", we all knew about bankers and their crazy bonuses, but we thought it was all right because we thought we were all benefiting. I remember quite enjoying reading pieces about the excesses of the city boys and (not many) girls. It all seemed part of the merry zeitgeist of the era; an era in which a serious newspaper like the The FT could publish a magazine gleefully called How To Spend It. Because, really, they had so much money they had trouble spending it and it was all quite amusing.

And then the penny dropped, or rather the markets – and our jaws, too. We found out how they'd been making all that money. We found out that they'd been living in a delusional fantasy of debt and greed and had brought on a recession the like of which we hadn't seen since the Thirties. We found out that ordinary people were really going to suffer, to lose their jobs and experience hardship. And so Equity Theory kicks in, bankers are told to "join the real world" and the City now fears popular taxes on bank pay will be mooted in the Chancellor's pre-Budget report.

There's a lot of gloomy talk about things not having changed. The bonus pool is bigger than ever, but these are relatively early days and I think – I hope – that Equity Theory means that the writing is on the wall when it comes to bankers greed. In fact, there is outrage everywhere about overpaid individuals of every description. Times are changing. A crackdown on tax evasion has raised £1bn in 18 months and more tough measures are expected. There's talk of wealth taxes and windfall taxes. Britain has at last come alive to the injustice of a culture in which 10 per cent of the people own 50 per cent of the wealth. Whatever bankers like to tell themselves, there will be no return to the glory days – even if they mainly hang on to their unjust rewards, they've resoundingly lost the moral high ground.

Fascinatingly, in researching his Equity Theory Adams found that those who perceived themselves as over-rewarded in a group or relationship felt just as distressed as the under-rewarded ones. So who knows, perhaps the bankers unconsciously brought all of this upon themselves.

Perhaps they knew the justifications were spun like candy floss. Perhaps they felt the inequities and, like overwrought children on a sugar rush, they pushed it and pushed it, secretly hoping that someone, somewhere, would put their foot down.

Victimhood is no cause for studied celebrity

I don't really know much about the American pop star Rihanna beyond the fact that, to the untrained eye, she's easily confused with Beyoncé, She's a kind of Beyoncé-lite – with a churlish, sulky expression and none of Beyoncé's feisty ebullience.

I also know she had a hit song about an umbrella and, last year, took to wearing an eye patch (see left). It was a spangly, sparkly eye patch and it looked quite stylish, but it led to speculation that her boyfriend, the singer Chris Brown, was beating her up.

As always with these kinds of wild and torrid celebrity rumours, the "unconfirmed" stories turned out to be 100 per cent correct. Rihanna was badly assaulted by Brown in March this year and she was photographed with a black eye while he was hauled off to face charges.

Understandably, Rihanna went off the radar for a while to recuperate, but now she's back with a new album, Rated R. That's all well and good – especially as she's split from Chris Brown – but am I the only one who finds the photo on her new album cover slightly disturbing? Her head is down. Her hand clutches and covers that once bruised eye again. Her face is petulant, sultry, sorry for itself and heavily made-up.

It's fine to accessorise with an eye patch if you're into the pirate look – but to accessorise with domestic violence, to make it almost look like "it's kind of cool to be a victim" – that really is too much.

The sweet smile of success

I did a double take when I saw Simon Cowell's big grin leaping out at me from the cover of this month's GQ magazine. It's a testament to his wealth that he gets to grace a spot normally reserved only for the beautiful people. Although they do take the piss a little – in the most genial of ways – by giving him a computer-generated sparkle, a beam of white light bouncing off his rapacious teeth.

Inside he talks about having teamed up with Philip Green to form a global entertainment company and their plans to broadcast the X-Factor year-round from Las Vegas. But the most striking thing in the interview is the moment when he's texted by another journalist asking if the pair might be buying ITV. "We could do it," says Cowell. And apparently it really is a possibility. No wonder Cowell's smiling so much on the magazine cover. He's like that Remington man who liked the shaver so much, he bought the company.

It's far too soon to sum up the last decade

Somehow my heart sinks into my boots at the thought of 2010. Why? Because of all the "reviews of the decade" we're going to have to suffer between now and 2 January. There's something indecent about our haste to turn the near past into history. We have this insatiable desire to package and label and tie up a decade with string.

I guess I think it's just too soon to sum it all up and come to any meaningful conclusions. I'm not ready to have it all regurgitated. I need some time to digest. The whole thing calls to mind an episode I once saw of the prank TV show, Jackass. A man unceremoniously stuffed himself with raw eggs, uncooked tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms, milk, butter, a pinch of salt – then put his fingers down his throat, threw it all up into a frying pan and made a lovely omelette.