Friday 26 December 2014

Time to turn our outrage over filthy 'Pension Porn' into direct action

They're calling it Pension Porn. Ever since the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey, publishers have been searching for another racy pot-boiler that would give their bottom-lines a similarly invigorating lash.

The latest contender is Thursdays In The Park, an erotic novel by 62-year-old British author Hilary Boyd about a sexed-up sexagenarian who meets the man of her dreams while watching her grandchildren in the park. Last week, the book shot to the top of Amazon's fiction charts.

After the 'Mummy Porn' of Fifty Shades, Thursdays has been hailed by admirers as an earthy work of 'Gran Lit' and, by the more prudish, as a filthy piece of 'Pension Porn'.

For those of us who have yet to be grabbed by the novel's arthritic grip, the term Pension Porn has a very different meaning. Day after day, the media is ablaze with ever more shocking titbits from the relentlessly in-your-face scandal of bankers' pensions. While innocently going about its business, therefore, the citizenry is continually assailed with hardcore obscenity.

The grotesquely inflated figures on display offer all the sleaze of X-rated material with none of the attractions. The most objectionable feature of this form of Pension Porn is the feeling of impotence it inflicts. I realise that, by writing about the subject, I'm adding to the oppressive grubbiness. However, what can't be ignored must eventually be confronted. If the general public doesn't make a stand about offensive banker pensions, nobody else will.

December's Budget provides Finance Minister Michael Noonan with a last chance to tackle the issue. The omens for decisive action are not good. Last weekend, after sanctioning a €500,000 remuneration package for yet another executive at the former Anglo Irish Bank, Noonan claimed he was "not legally empowered" to reduce bankers' pay or pensions. But the whole point of government, surely, is that ministers can change the law.

If Noonan fails to act, the only question that arises is what exactly can the rest of us do. That's where you come in. Top bankers may live in splendour but they do not live in isolation.

Without recourse to violence, vandalism or law breaking of any kind, we should be able to find a reasonable means of alerting them to the intensity of public feeling about the pensions outrage. I await your suggestions with interest.

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, the finest minds in banking and politics argued that the financial crisis was "everyone's fault".

We all partied, said Brian Lenihan. Irish people went mad, said Enda Kenny. Consequently, every one of us is morally obliged to take the pain required to balance the books.

Nobody must have laughed longer or harder at this quaint notion than senior bankers. Despite their unique culpability, the top brass confidently believed they would be immune from hardship – and they were right. The fat cats have stopped at nothing in the defence and advancement of their interests. Why can't the rest of us follow suit?

"Everyone" did not cause the financial crisis. But "everyone" should be capable of voicing disgust at the featherbedding of the delinquent banking elite. Pension Porn is a fact of life but we should not become desensitised to it.

Don't just get hot under the collar, get thinking.

Indo Review

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