I find it interesting when people talk about sharing as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I’m all for sharing, in theory, at least. In my experience, however, it doesn’t always work in practice. For instance, I read recently that Sean Fitzpatrick had ‘great sympathy’ with the shareholders in Anglo-Irish Bank who lost their pensions and life savings following the collapse. I suppose the worse aspect is that people felt they had been betrayed by the members of the Board. The fact that even today no-one is prepared to take responsibility for what went on even though by now it is obvious to all that the directors ran fast and loose with the shareholders’ money, shows how casual people are when it comes to making free with people’s lives. There’s no need to go to the dictionary for a definition of the word ‘share’; suffice to say we all looking for our piece of the cake. Well and good. I’m all for it – you share with me and I’ll certainly share with you. Unfortunately, in real life, it doesn’t quite work like that and the reason it doesn’t work is because human nature being what it is people are greedy. Once they get a taste for something or should I say once they develop a taste for something, the tendency is to want that something all the time. Worse still, the tendency is to want it for nothing. This is fairly typical of conmen and burglars. The temptation to steal other people’s possessions becomes so great they either escape abroad with the treasure or are caught with it red-handed. The directors of Anglo-Irish Bank were caught red-handed. As the recent banking scandal proved, it is not the little man who does the conning, it is the corporate executives, the men in suits, who are prepared to take the risks. The reason they are prepared to take the risks is because the rewards are great. After the first ‘killing’ the rest is easy or so they say. So when people talk about sharing with others I wonder who they are talking about? Who is it they have in mind exactly? Are they talking about those who get the lion’s share? The directors of Anglo-Irish Bank certainly got that. And what about the lion’s providers? They all have to have their bit too, don’t they? And so it goes on down the line until there is no cake left by the time it reaches the bottom – well, who said those at the bottom were entitled to a slice anyway?
When I listened to that person talk about sharing I had to think about my own attitude – do I believe in it as a principle? The answer is yes, I do. Do I believe in sharing with strings attached? The answer is no, I don’t. Let me explain. Some time ago I was attached to a writer’s group. The idea was we share each other’s work then criticise it at a workshop. In principle, I thought this was a good arrangement. I was enthusiastic. Enthusiastic that is until I discovered that although I was sharing my work with the other members – we were all part of a network – the other members were not sharing their work with me. They could access my work but I couldn’t access theirs. Now, forgive me for saying so, but do you think that is quite fair? Do you think that is in keeping with the spirit of sharing? I think I was being conned in the same way the shareholders in Anglo-Irish Bank were conned – in other words, people were taking advantage and making arrangements behind my back as regards my ‘share’ in the proceedings. For if we are as open and transparent in our dealings with others as we like to think we are – then surely we have a right to expect that others will be as open and transparent with us?
So the next time someone offers you advice on shares and sharing think twice before entering into an arrangement.