Thursday, 9 February 2012

Stephen Hester: 'I'm an animal for the burning, and money does not drive me on.'

I've been speaking to Stephen Hester, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland - as if you didn't know. What, do you live in a cave?

This is what was spoken between us: 'Mikey, you're an animal. (Well, thanks, Stephen. That's a great way to start off.) Oh, don't get upset. You know what I mean. You're like me. (You're an animal?) Yeah. A commercial animal. I'm an animal for the burning, and money does not drive me on. You can dig that, can't you? (I suppose. It's why you're at RBS, and not some hedge fund. But -) Exactly. And it's why you're writing that half-arsed blog of yours. We're different, Michael. (Different from each other, maybe.) No, the others. We're different from them. (Well, I am.) Me too! (That's not how I remember it.) What do you mean? (That time you came to the desert. You were just like them, the others.) As I recall, I was burning. I had the animal thing. (You were pretty good at faking it. Ganesh said to me: "He's only interested in the money. He's not like us. He's like the others.") Ganesh? (The elephant god.) Oh yes. Whatever happened to him? (Retired. Sort of.) He was an animal, that elephant! (Obviously. Stephen, mate, we don't even burn that much any more. We've left the desert behind. Things are different now.) Was that Big Herb's decision? (No.) How is Big Herb? (Dead.) Oh. Things have changed. How does a god die? (A razor in the astral night. It's easily done. You've just got to have the will, and the ambition. I did it.) Oh. Are you a god now, then, a money god? (I'm working on it.) Jesus. And I thought - (And you thought you were an animal like me. A wild one. A creature for the magic that exists beyond money. No, Stephen, you're not like me. You're like them. You're like all the others. So go and get a job in a fucking hedge fund. You're not proving anything at RBS.) You're a hard man, Mikey, I mean, Mr Fowke, sir.'

I've got to be a hard man. No one knows the troubles I've seen. Yet I go on, and on, and on. I believe in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. A lot of good it does me. Why must I suffer so, when lesser men are living on easy street? It's a mystery. It really is!