The Business Section (Handelsteil)

Kurt Tucholsky

We hear so much about failed banks, collapsed insurance companies, businesses which can no longer meet their obligations… A lot of money has been lost. Yes, a lot of other people’s money. And what do they tell us about? The ultimate desperation of the common people who will never see their modest savings again? Devastated old age? Devastated life? No, no, not at all. They tell us all about the bankers. And what are the bankers doing? Collapsing, that’s what the bankers are doing.

Every banker who has done something wrong, collapses. He has a nervous breakdown, either in a clinic, or at home, although that is not considered to be very fine. He – »Now just wait a minute, that’s not funny: do you think that such a bankruptcy is a pleasure? You should have one before you open your mouth… « – No, thank you, I don’t earn much anyway, I don’t need that. And I’m sure it’s not fun. I just think… »What? What should the banker do when he goes bankrupt? Dance around on one leg?« – No, that would not be a pretty sight. I just mean… if they haul in a train driver because he oversaw a signal after a ten-hour shift and caused a train crash, they lock him up. End of story. – »Well? So what? Don’t they also lock up the banker?« – Yes, but not for as long. There are two doctors and a professor who have forgotten their severity from the time they were military doctors, and who now, instead of crying, »Fit for service!«, write pages and pages of their expert opinions: unfit for prison… the heart… and bail is nearly always raised, and there are nearly always prison authorities who release the man with so much responsibility. – »So that he can help to put his affairs in order.« – Certainly. But the imprisoned worker also has affairs: his family, which is nearly always destroyed by the punishment meted out to him… but that is probably not so important. He doesn’t have responsibilities. – »What do you mean by that?« – That the German word no longer means anything. Responsibility? I occupy a position of responsibility… your responsibility… he is responsible to me for… I recently read in an animal protection newspaper: »When the sheep have come home, the dog is responsible for the flock.« I tell you: the word has lost its meaning. Was anybody responsible during the war? Who is responsible at all? I’ll tell you: small, subordinate, mostly proletarian individuals – everybody else hides behind the group, behind a regulation, behind the rules, behind an order – nobody actually carries the responsibility for what they do. They cover each other, and in the end nobody did it. History will sort it out, won’t it? That’s a nice story. – »But the poor bankers … « It breaks my heart. I see them before me: Sobbing currency traders, handkerchief-wringing-out funds agents, collapsed commercial representatives… to the best of their knowledge and ability… it must be terrible. There’s only one solution.

To keep supporting those deprived of their rights: the common people who fall into the claws of the law, and can’t defend themselves. Anatole France said, »The law, in its sublime equality, forbids both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges.«

Author: Kurt Tucholsky

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