Friday, February 18, 2005


On a variety of levels, this story from The Times is a fine example of irony, poetic justice, stereotyping, and a whole bunch of other things I learnt in a three year English & Comparative Literature degree.

WHEN 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail. What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.
"We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs," one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. "I've never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view."
Another said: "I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot." Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: "Sod off, Swampy."

Where did these people get the idea that commodities traders would be pushovers? Did they imagine that the Exchange would be full of fat plutocrats in top hats and monocles, like the attendees of the Monopoly Mascot Impersonators Convention, who would merely gasp "Well I never!" before waddling away? Did they expect a roomful of weedy accountants, who would flee before a crowd of hyped-up middle-class bolshies surging in powered by their own self-righteousness?

I've had a few friends who worked in the Finance industry, and through them I've learnt that it's one of the last great bastions of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. They don't care what class you are or where you went to school; if you can do the work and do it well, you're in. Given the responsibility, the risk and the hard work of trading, it tends to attract aggressive or even bullying types; people who have been knocked around by life and managed to knock back and struggle through. Men who have been nancified by years of philosophical hand-wringing at university don't tend to thrive in those environments. Finance types may wear expensive suits and drive BMWs, but underneath they're uncouth, testosterone-addled lads who leap at the chance for a bit of biffo, whether metaphorical or literal.

I could go on about how angry this sort of activism makes me, how it demonstrates total contempt for ordinary people and damages our comparatively great society, but it would just be another contentious yet boring internet rant, and my screen is flecked with enough spittle already. I would like to conclude, however, in noting what is in my opinion the funniest part of the article:

Two minutes later, three Greenpeace vans pulled up and another 30 protesters leapt out and were let in by the others.

Presumably these were solar-powered vans, lubricated with non-GMO, Fair Trade olive oil, and running on tyres made from wicker.


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