Comments, EdgeNotes, In Focus

How do you measure missed bedtimes?

Travelling on the London underground, recently, I noticed an ad, featuring a photo of a young child asleep. The ad was for the bank, JP Morgan. It read, “You invest in missed bedtimes. Choose an ISA provider that could make the long hours count.”

Steve Latham

But I’d like to know who chose JP’s advertising company. It seems to me like a case of shooting themselves in the foot. The impact from this ad can only be negative.

We need to ask: What values are JP Morgan espousing?

Let’s deconstruct the message: you miss bedtimes because you’re working for some international firm; but don’t worry, you can make it up by buying some ISAs ( (Individual Savings Account) for your child. Is that right? Is this the message lying behind this ad?

Now, some people, let’s say those who work two or three jobs just to pay the bills, have no choice at all about how many hours they work and therefore how little they see their kids. Many parents I know struggle to spend time with their families. It’s not always easy to get the balance right.

But for a company to promote these anti-life policies and priorities would be inane. Richard Sennett, in his book “The corrosion of character”, points out that in contemporary capitalism, the lifestyle values required by the system are detrimental to community, relationships, and family.

Long hours, moving house regularly, short-term contracts, paradoxically serve to destroy the fragile network of relationships on which business depends.

If we carry on, we will become like King Midas. In the Greek myth, the gods offered him a gift. He asked that everything he touched would turn to gold.

Initially, he elated with his new-found wealth, he then discovered that he couldn’t eat, since even his food turned to gold when he touched it.

And then, his daughter came to embrace him one day, and before he could warn her, she too was transformed into gold. Perhaps JP Morgan needs to study their classics?

It all reminds me of the new book by Michael Sandel, the Harvard professor, “What money can’t buy”.

Sandel theorises that we have moved from a market economy, to a market society. All manner of things, which never used to be subject to market prices, are now under the measure of money.

But, as in the Greek tales, after hubris, there is nemesis. After pride, the fall.

Perhaps in JP Morgan’s case, the same might be true. Shortly after I saw the ad on the tube, I read in the The Guardian (13th July 2012), that JP Morgan had suffered a $5.8bn (£3.7bn) loss.

Although Jamie Dimon, the boss of JP Morgan, originally called the affair a “tempest in a teapot,” by July the company had lost three times initial estimates.

Morality is embedded in the fabric of the universe. To move from Greek philosophers to Hebrew prophets, perhaps we are witnessing in this case, not an impersonal nemesis, but a very personal judgment?

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