I’d rather be a Hatton Garden jewel thief than a banker

hatton_3276404bI don’t care what anybody says, whoever was responsible for the Hatton Garden safety deposit box heist, whether those who’ve just been arrested for it or not, they deserve a medal for audacity.

Absailing down a lift shaft for men of advancing years, if true, preparatory to breaking into the safety deposit boxes of people for whom tax is up there with poverty as words belonging to a foreign language, is surely the stuff of a sixties British caper movie. I’m thinking here of the original Italian Job starring Michael Caine. In fact ever since the heist took place, I’ve found myself breaking out into regular renditions of “This is the self preservation society” in a bad Cockney accent.

Despite the efforts of the Met to put a positive spin on the recent flurry of arrests in connection with the heist, how many of us can honestly say that their admiration and sympathy has lain with the police and not the men they arrested as prime suspects?

An entire industry built on the criminal escapades of mafia hoods, East End gangsters, hardmen, and old lags – consisting of books, plays, movies, documentaries – could not exist without mainstream society’s fascination with those who make their own rules and live outside the law. Crimes such as Hatton Garden – where no violence is involved – allow us to experience the vicarious thrill of confounding the dull conformity that governs everyday life. When the world’s most famous miserabilist, Nietzsche, wrote, “Morality is the herd instinct in the individual,” perhaps he had a point.

The romance associated with the outlaw has always been a feature of human society. Legends surrounding those who rebel against authority, against society and all its mores and conventions, are passed down from generation to generation.

Where does the admiration for such people come from? Is it the product of a latent anti establishment and anti authoritarian instinct which resides within more of us than society would care to admit; and which, when push comes to shove, holds the police and the law more as an oppressive factor in our lives than the glue which holds society together? Does this then lead us to view those individuals who fight the law and rebel against society as representing our own latent desire to be free of its constraints?

The amount involved in the Hatton Garden heist is said to be around £200million. Compared to the £122 billion in taxpayers money trousered by the banks in response to the financial crisis caused by their greed and recklessness, it’s a mere drop in the ocean.

Yet when did we see news footage of a phalanx of police officers descending on the leafy mansions of those responsible for the banking crisis, a crisis that in turn plunged the entire UK economy into recession, leading to years of austerity and despair for millions up and down the country? As for those who point out that there was no criminal intent involved in the banking crisis, the Libor scandal is your answer.

The German playwright Bertolt Brecht made the point that it’s a “far greater crime to own a bank than to rob one.” Who could possibly disagree given what we’ve been through these past seven years?

The most dangerous criminals in society are not those who go up ‘against’ the system, it is those who uphold the injustice ‘of’ the system. And you’ll find many of those with titles and letters attached to their names, parading themselves as virtuous paragons of decency.

Don’t be fooled.

The £12billion in further cuts to public spending by a freshly-installed and red in tooth and claw Tory government will wreak far more havoc and damage to society than a hundred jewel heists could ever do. This is the contradiction at the heart of an economic system that treats poverty as a crime and wealth as a virtue. Greed, selfishness – we’ve been conditioned to view both as virtues rather than the symptoms of sociopathic behaviour. The consequence has been the atomisation of communities as more and more are delivered into the arms of destitution in the name of fiscal responsibility. The unemployed, the disabled, and migrants are the enemy, we are told, while the rich are the cream of the crop.

Sorry, I disagree.

I’d rather be a Hatton Garden jewel thief than a banker. In fact, doesn’t it have a ring to it? I can just hear it being sung on the terraces at football grounds up and down the country.

All together now…

22 comments on “I’d rather be a Hatton Garden jewel thief than a banker

  1. Lewis Tunbridge on said:

    I was looking for a catchy slogan for my picket board for 20th June. That will do nicely, so thanks.

  2. Karl Stewart on said:

    “You’re only supposed to blow the BLOODY DOORS OFF!”

    Brilliant article – made me laugh out loud and spot on!
    Nice one John!

  3. John on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    Cheers Karl. Great line, though I prefer Caine’s line from Get Carter: “You’re a big lad but in you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself.”

  4. John on said:

    sam64,

    I’d say the bigger story here is the unfettered power of the US in indicting and organizing the arrest of non-US citizens in a third country.

    It’s an outrageous assertion of the right to police the world on their part. Imagine if for example Russia or China had organized and carried out arrests in this manner. The backlash would have been off the scale, yet somehow when the US does it the legitimacy isn’t even questioned.

  5. Sam64 on said:

    John,

    The fact that the indictments are American and the arrests of non US nationals took place in Switzerland does give what has transpired that twist. However, I don’t think it makes any real sense to see what has transpired over the last few days as first and foremost American imperialism/great power arrogance. I doubt even in the broadest sense the American ‘military industrial complex’ gives a rat’s arse about FIFA. Why would they? If there has been national institutional pressure behind these moves it has probably been from within UEFA.

    Better to see what’s happening as the sheer scale of corruption and graft from top to bottom of ‘the people’s game’, combined with the bizarre dictatorship of old man Blatter and his cronies, as being no longer sustainable. The MNCs who fund the shebang may have been prompted to threaten withdrawal of sponsorship by these arrests, but they have probably been getting a little edgy for a while.

    As for Putin, the African football associations etc, at least some of the ME states, well it’s transparently clear why they’re peeved. First, it’s obviously a loss of face that their capos have been taken out like this. More importantly, in return for their unswerving support, boss Blatter showered them with billions. That’s how patronage works.

  6. John on said:

    Sam64: As for Putin, the African football associations etc, at least some of the ME states, well it’s transparently clear why they’re peeved. First, it’s obviously a loss of face that their capos have been taken out like this. More importantly, in return for their unswerving support, boss Blatter showered them with billions. That’s how patronage works.

    You call it patronage, others would describe it as the redistribution of wealth and influence to the smaller nations of FIFA. You may accuse Blatter of many things, but kowtowing to the powerful nations within FIFA is not one of them.

    There is a distinct whiff of geopolitics about this. I disagree with your assertion that the US doesn’t give a ‘rat’s arse’ about FIFA. Of course it does. It wields huge influence around the world as the arbiter of the beautiful game globally. Surprise, surprise calls for Russia to be stripped of the 2018 World Cup and it given to England instead went out immediately this operation was mounted.

    It’s so transparent it’s sick.

  7. Karl Stewart on said:

    Sam64,
    The reason the US have involved themselves in this is obvious, it’s the sheer amount of profit to be made from controlling it.

    The US is the world’s major capitalist power and they want to be in control of the world’s premier, money-making sporting event.

    That’s the logical explanation for their actions here.

    And if the US is on one side, we should support the other side.

  8. Sam64 on said:

    John,

    ‘You call it patronage, others would describe it as the redistribution of wealth and influence to the smaller nations of FIFA’.

    What like Qatar, home of the next World Cup? I read recently that Qatar is, per head, the richest nation in the world. Presumably that stat applies to the 200, 000 Qatari citizens (or rather subjects), not the c.2 million migrant workers – including the 10,000s of Nepalese working, when they’re paid, for fairly meagre wages on the glittering stadia – at the cost of an estimated 62 fatalities per WC game.

    Or perhaps you mean the Cameroon nation, whose FA back Blatter like other member of the African Football Confederation? Good Ch4 Unreported World documentary on football agents there the other week, ripping off football hopefuls through lying to them about lucrative contracts at European clubs. The Cameroon FA was heavily implicated – though to be fair the president had recently been forced to step down as she was too corrupt even for FIFA!

    On the track record of FIFA under Blatter in Africa, there’s a good overview in today’s Guardian. A mixed picture to say the least. Officials in Africa freely admit that their support for Sepp is due to his Goal development programme. There really is no question that the relationship is one best described by the term patronage.

    As for the idea that the thing is a Western, specifically US, plot designed to wrest power within FIFA because of football’s billion, well, that’s about as ridiculous as Blatter’s claim that he’s the man to sort out the systemic corruption within his own outfit/organisation. The World Cup was held in the USA not long ago ffs, in an open attempt to expand the sport in North America!

  9. John on said:

    Sam64: What like Qatar, home of the next World Cup? I

    The next World Cup is in Russia in 2018. Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, which I hope and expect will be rescinded due to the flagrant human rights abuses of migrant that have been documented,

    But spare me the sanctimony please. Those human rights abuses have been taking placing throughout the Gulf for years, yet Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Qataris remain key Western allies – economic and military – so the hypocrisy here is obvious.

    As for the US, the so called home of democracy imprisons a quarter of the entire world’s prison population and young black men are being gunned down by racist cops on a daily basis. I somehow don’t think you’d be up in arms about that in the event the US had won the last bid to host the World Cup.

    FIFA did not create the huge imbalance in power and influence that describes the global economic and political system we live in today. It merely reflects it. African football would not be able to exist with the support of FIFA, under Blatter, likewise Asian football.

    You fail to see the wider issue involved in this scandal. As Karl states, it’s less about justice and corruption as about control.

  10. Sam64 on said:

    John,

    Fair play on Russia 2018. Sure gay football fans are already booking their tickets. Just a relief Eurovision 2016 isn’t heading that way as well eh?

    As for the rest, this is mainly just a predictable diatribe of whataboutery with the dreary insinuation thrown in that any opposition or indeed critical analysis of the non-Western world (in this case the Zurich based FIFA though, as usual, for you the real party at issue seems to be Russia, specifically Czar Putin’s ego) that is supposedly somehow, in some way, against the Western world, not only fails to see what the big picture is, but is actually complicit in the hypocrisy of the great Satin, the Western world. Yawn…

    Now if we actually stick to what I said and therefore the argument:
    1) Would you agree that, contrary to what you say, the decision to hold the Qatar 2022 World Cup is hardly indicative of ‘redistribution’ given it’s one of the richest countries in the world. The decision was no more in line with redistribution that that to hold the WC in the USA in 1994.
    2) FIFA does indeed operate on the basis of systematic patronage? As is clear, the essential system is that much, by no means all, of the enormous commercial revenue that the WC generates is given to the various FAs of the world, in themselves self-serving elites. Some of that money is used to further domestic football (football at the grass roots level if you like) but a fair amount of goes to the officials within those national FAs. In return, those officials support, through thick and thin, those at the apex: Blatter and his gang. This is referred by the term patronage. It sticks, it’s wrong, it’s not something that any socialist should seek to obfuscate, let alone justify.

    Do you not agree?

  11. Karl Stewart on said:

    Sam64,
    If the choice was Sepp Blatter or Jesus, then I’d pick the carpenter – much nicer guy all round.

    But if the choice is Blatter or the USA, I’ll pick Blatter every time.

  12. Noah on said:

    Sam64: I doubt even in the broadest sense the American ‘military industrial complex’ gives a rat’s arse about FIFA. Why would they?

    The US does not rule by the gun alone. Try reading Brzezinski’s ‘Grand Chessboard’ – he devotes a whole chapter to the importance of cultural and other forms of ‘soft’ power.

  13. Sam64 on said:

    Noah,

    Fair point but irrelevant to the debate.

    Football, or soccer as the Americans (the minority who have an interest in the game) call it, is not an American sport. If there was a poll of which Liverpool player, a household name in much of the world, is about to join LA Galaxy, I doubt most Americans would have a clue. America certainly has its games, there has been the globalisation (or Americanisation) of those games for both commercial/political reasons, but that’s aside from the global scam that is FIFA.

  14. John on said:

    Sam64: Sure gay football fans are already booking their tickets. Just a relief Eurovision 2016 isn’t heading that way as well eh?

    This is just the same old demonization of non-western countries and governments we’ve heard over and over. It is liberalism writ large, sans any understanding of how uneven and combined economic development impacts cultural, social, and political development.

    Despite claims to a radical political consciousness, for you the status quo works, makes sense, and is quite okay when all is said and done.

    Interestingly, I’ve just been reading Zizek on this very theme. In his book ‘Universal Exception’ he writes, referencing Orwell:

    “Orwell’s point is that radicals invoke the need for revolutionary change as a kind of superstitious token that is intended to achieve the opposite, to prevent that very change from actually occurring.’

  15. Sam64 on said:

    John,

    That sure is a bizarre way to rationalise – or at least to try to deflect criticism – the state orchestrated homophobia of a conservative regime. And, I’d have to say, not as clear an obfuscation (if you know what I mean) as Sepp Blatter: Qatar’s stance on homosexuality is a “moral and ethical” issue.

    The questions are above if you want to continue the debate.

  16. John on said:

    Sam64: hat sure is a bizarre way to rationalise – or at least to try to deflect criticism – the state orchestrated homophobia of a conservative regime.

    You win Sam. We’ve already had that particular debate. You can easily catch up on my views on it if you wish.

    The substantive point is that no state has clean hands when it comes to its treatement of minorities. Russia has a problem with homophobia, no doubt, our problem is Islamophobia. The hyporcisy lies in demonizing Russia while giving your own government and society a free pass.

    You have a habit of doing so, I feel.

    But, hey, it’s Friday night and I’m sure we have better things to do than spend it on a blog. At least I hope we do.

    Have a good weekend.

  17. Karl Stewart on said:

    Anyway, if we’re talking football, let’s hope we can all agree it was great to see the Huns getting smashed last night by “The Steelmen”!

  18. Vanya on said:

    If the subject is football now, I had thr great experience last night of attending the official opening of FC United’s new ground in the form of a friendly with Benfica. Brilliant atmosphere as always.

  19. non-partisan on said:

    From today’s Guardian

    Oh America, America, America! I adore you as the world’s policeman. Not the world’s policeman as the role was previously defined: which was to say, the world’s bungling warmonger (bunglingly assisted by sidekicks such as ourselves). As that, you were somewhat less lovable. But with this business of being an actual policeman, and hunting down Fifa felons, you are really spoiling us.

    A good indication of the intended result. However the Swiss as far as I can tell were involved all along and acted with the FBI, this doesn’t mean it wasn’t US instigated but does mean wasn’t simply the US operating at will outside its own borders.

    I don’t know, and to be honest nor do most people if Fifa is corrupt or not. My guess is with that much money sloshing around it would be surprising if it wasn’t. So there two things here, the corruption or lack of it, and the motivation of the US in pursuing it. I’m afraid the attitude of ”íf the US are for it , I’m against it” comes across as over simplistic to say the least.

    If FiFA are corrupt then they should be taken down, while we can point out the hypocrisy of the US in
    dealing with Fifa now *large money grubbing org providing lots of headlines* while US cops attempt to slip below the radar internationally for the almost daily murders of black people. Or why not investigate it pre 94, when most commentators say it has been this way for decades

    But simply defending a corrupt FiFa ‘(if it turns out to the case) because the US are involved in laying the charges does not show anti-imperialism but a lack of understanding about how these moves will be perceived , and how to reach people with a real anti imperialist message.

    Ok, but really, Qatar? for a game played over 90 minutes in the open air in daytime?

  20. sam64 on said:

    Vanya,

    Yes, great achievement that and fitting that the game kicked off shortly after Sepp Blatter, the embodiment of so much that is wrong in football, was re-elected.