a haven called home

“I get very angry that these greedy bastards in the City [of London] and elsewhere are able to drag us all down. Dante had the right idea, tip them head down in shit 23 hours a day.” Someone great said that.

Someone much less great, Marshall Langer, said this: “The most important tax haven in the world is an island. They are surprised, however, when I tell them the name of the island is Manhattan. Moreover, the second most important tax haven in the world is located on an island. It is a city called London in the UK.”

I live about a mile north of that second most important tax haven. And I often think it’s strange that people who live on that rainy island called Britain don’t realise just how responsible are British accountants, bankers and lawyers – often educated at our ‘best’ schools like Eton et al, and taken through our ‘best’ universities like Oxford et al – and just how rich they get by operating in and maintaining what is probably the most fundamental corruption in the world.

People point fingers at the elites of that country I like so much, Angola, as well as other places like Nigeria, and say They’re so corrupt, it must be awful… All those poor people… Their rulers are so corrupt… What can be done? Why is Africa so corrupt?  I too curse the level of corruption among the Angolan elite. But there is one thing that I really don’t do: I don’t think that my own British elite is not just as dirty and guilty and corrupt. The men in suits in the City of London are in many ways the makers of corruption, the partners and engineers of corruption, they are the very rich people who help make corruption possible and help make other very rich people even richer; they are the people who oil the system that allows it to work, that allows money to be hidden and hurried away, and they are the people who benefit from it too. They are also supremely rich. Some of them are the kind of people I went to school with, or the kind of people who the girls I went to school with have married. Some of them, anyway.

And all these people – the rich and corrupt of the City of London, the city of Luanda, the city of Manhattan, Delhi, Sydney, Malabo, Lisbon, Paris, Caracas, São Paolo et cetera et cetera – are operating in a world far above the rest of us, in a community of money and corruption. Which is why I get annoyed at those who condemn the rich of, say, Angola, as somehow being worse than the rich of, say, New York. Sometimes people come back at me, arguing, But Lara, the rich in Angola are worse… They are richer… They care less about their own poor… And I know then that there’s no point arguing. These people have a problem of vision, a psychosis of perception, which enables them to be blind to the extreme wealth of the wealthy world, whilst they are blinded by the wealth in the developing world. It’s more than hypocrisy: it’s psychological and bound up, too, with racism. Rich black people somehow being more shocking than rich white people. I’ve never quite understood this. I hate rich people, full stop. So when members of the Angolan elite get cross with me, and accuse me of being nasty about their beloved nation, I try to explain that they are missing the point: I’m just as nasty about their peers in London, the only difference is that they themselves aren’t interested in that. A double psychosis of perception, if you like.

I’ve never wanted my blog to become a ramble. This morning it has. Perhaps to cover up the shame of the crush… who knows? But can I encourage you all to take a look at the Tax Justice Network. I know it has the unsexiest name on the planet, and it does have a mild tendency to be a wee bit too knowing and a wee bit too I told you so, and seems to be run by largely (only?) men… but if I can get over all that – with all my chips, anger and general unsavoury behaviour – then it shouldn’t stop you from benefitting from the research they do and the important matters they are trying to tackle also. I sound like I’m lecturing you now, don’t I? Sorry.

I’d make it 23 days, Dante, not 23 hours. I’d leave them there, perhaps, for 23 weeks. Or years, why not…

P.S. I confess, I went to a school called The Lady Eleanor Holles School for Young Ladies. There you are. And it’s not a made-up name either, it’s true.