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Wonderful Life

Have you ever seen the classic Jimmy Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life?

No, you haven’t?

Oh, ok then.

Well, anyway, Stewart plays a character called George Bailey. When his father dies George takes over the family building society business and continues to provide financial assistance to the residents of the small town they all live in.

There’s a great scene in the middle of the film when, owing to fall out from the Wall Street Crash, a run on the bank sees the business in imminent danger of total collapse. The unscrupulous fat cat leader of a rival, much larger bank, is hovering to hoover up the pieces but George refuses to lie down and accept the apparently inevitable.

He talks to each of his customers in turn and virtually begs them one by one not to withdraw their entire account but instead to just take what cash they really need to get them along in the short term.

At the end of a very long day the bank is left with a single dollar bill and the business has survived the crisis.

Today is my George Bailey day. I have settled a couple of urgent bills and each of my bank accounts have just enough in them to stop whining for the time being. I have food in the kitchen, money on my bus card and still have two weeks of rented accommodation to live out. I also have four Euros in my pocket and I have a class to teach this evening which will add a few more – so in that sense I’m even better off than old George was.

Sure, the next crisis is probably already winging its way over and I’ll have to deal with it as when it arrives but for now there’s a sense of calm – a lull between storms maybe, but a lull nonetheless. And I’m going to have a nice cup of tea to celebrate.

In the film the bank workers dance around the office with the dollar bill before lovingly putting it into the safe, where they hope it’ll reproduce. It does, and they all survive long enough to deal with the next crisis.

It’s a rare film that actually makes you feel sympathy for bankers but I guess that was the genius of its director Frank Capra. Whither the directorial genius today who could make us feel similarly enamoured towards the greedy, faceless breed who run our modern banks?

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