The presentation by banking blogger Joris Luyendijk at the library in Nijmegen was sold out. More people were anxiously waiting. If anyone would fail to pick up a reservation some of them might still get it in. Book readings are usually visited by crowds so small you could drive them around in a yellow schoolbus called Old Yeller, but then again most book readings are not a highly acclaimed international journalist on the opening night of his 6 week book tour.
Someone at the library of Nijmegen had booked him for the kick-off of his Big Book of Bankers Tour (my words), before the winter festivals got him, before the large department stores claimed him, and before the Big Libraries That Mattered could program him prime time.
Someone at the library had done his or her job so well a 6 figure bonus would have been in order.
The only reason I had been in time for a ticket, was because I check Twitter on breaks; I do it when I should be scrubbing the floor; when simultaneously doing admin and when I am already late for yoga. A despicable habit that was bound to pay off one day. And it did: on my timeline I read there were only 3 tickets left and I had been just in time to book one.
I joyfully waved my ticket at the hostess and skipped the coffee and tea table in favor of getting a good seat.
Welcome to Planet Yoga
During the break I got my book signed and ran into a colleague who I consider a hard-core yogi;
modest in his spending, high on ethics, and dedicated to a rigid two hours on the mat daily. Possibly without checking his Twitter. Discussing the content of Joris Luyendijk’s book about the world of finance, he asked me if I thought the ethical principles of spiritual founder of yoga Patanjali (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation, non-grasping) could be used to solve all this.
“If there was something like a yogic political party, what would it look like?” he wondered.
“Yoga is not activism,” I argued, and quoted a more practical approach. “Hatha Yoga Pradipika starts with Find a Kingdom, peaceful and prosperous. Not create a Kingdom peaceful and prosperous. ”
A text for a text.
One yogi outsmarting the other, or so it seemed.
What I didn’t tell him was that I had never cared much for what Patanjali had said. And as far as I was interested in morals they were a private matter. We “only” have ourselves to answer to. And what I definitely didn’t tell the straight-edge yoga teacher was that I nourished a guilty pleasure….. or, as I put it in my tweet to Joris Luyendijk:
I have a progressive fetish for bankers.
My dating life is somewhat of a jungle, and I hang out with my lovers like you would with other predators: enjoying moments of closeness but just like Steve fatal stingray bite Irving I try to get out on time and never let down my guard. At risk of being stabbed in the heart.
The most joyful example of a yoga teacher and a smart banker (as I remembered him), a lawyer (according to Wiki), is illustrated by the series Dharma and Gregg. I even look a bit like Jenna Elfman, and her sarcasm and cheerfulness definitely ring a bell. Dharma and Greg marry on their first date, because Dharma suddenly has the bright suggestion to “skip the whole dating thing”. Awesome!
I remember the series well, including them having great sex.
Maybe Dharma planted the seed for what later would become my fascination with the opposites of me. And what could be more opposing to a non-materialistic, status-free yoga teacher than a City banker?
The Good Banker
It was a warm day in August and the phone rang. An international number. A man introduced himself, told me he was calling from London, and inquired about private yoga classes for his mother. Now yoga is not a fraud prone business, but there are a few red flags.
1. contacting from abroad.
2. asking for multiple private classes
3. dealing on behalf of someone else.
With all three flags waving I was on my guard, although otherwise he sounded fine. Arrogant and bantering yes, but this couldn’t disguise that he loved his mother. My guess was he worked in finance , felt guilty he didn’t visit his mother, and was now trying to make up with a gift.
He explained why yoga would be so good for her, and that if he would pay for the sessions in advance, she would be compelled to go.
“Who are we to tell your mother to exercise more?” I shared my concerns. “She’s 30 years older than we are. Something we have yet to achieve.”
He laughed. “I m not used to this. We are so much more commercial here.”
I bit my tongue and could only just keep myself from snapping: and look how that turned out.
“I could refer you to two colleagues of mine, ” I suggested. “They are the same age as your mother, and have a small inspiring studio. They also teach therapeutic yoga. If you send me an email, I ll get you the referral.”
He accepted my suggestion.
Although I was almost certain he was okay, I did screen him. My two colleagues would more than likely fail to do so and it could still be a scam. I Googled him and discovered I had been right: he was indeed a banker. Like all bankers he didn’t leave any personal information lingering around, but I managed to verify the email account. He was clean.
I emailed him the name of the yoga studio and was satisfied knowing I had done the right thing.
The book about bankers, Dutch title This can’t be true is the result of four years of Going native in the world of Finance (words of the Guardian), and talking to 200 people working in finance. Half of those interviews were published on The Guardian Banking blog. After 90 minutes, the sold out library still had lots of questions for Joris Luyendijk, most of them revolving around what needed to be done. He explained the best way to achieve more stability was not by holding individual bankers responsible (Joris still hoped the upcoming Banker’s Oath was a Dutch April fools day joke) but by reforming the system.
“And the most successful bankers, will excel within any system,” he explained. “They’re not bad people, but we have to change the system. It now only rewards short term thinking.”
Reforming the financial system is no easy task, and will have to come from politics, creating new laws. Joris predicted America and UK will remain incapable of doing this as their political parties receive campaigning money from the banks. Nothing will change there.
On the continent there is a conflict of interest too: politicians who behave bank-friendly get high paying jobs at those very banks, after their political careers. But it is still a lot easier for non Anglo-saxon countries to adjust legislation. In Europe we could start by making baby banks (my words) that are Small Enough to Fail instead of the Too Big to Fail ones we have now. The baby banks would be run by people who benefit from profits, but lose money when investments fail. A good example is Canada: they have always had different legislation around banks, and were therefor nearly untouched by 08’s financial collapse.
And although I share Joris’ concerns and hopes for a better future, I was also hoping for something else: That bankers will read this book and self-reflect, re-prioritize. And that before anybody reforms anything, they book a ticket and visit their mother.
I’m teaching from Yoga with Adriene for 21 weeks & provide her videos here for home practice. After a holiday, we’re resuming classes Monday February 23. I ll be teaching a sequence by combining last week’s video 4 & this week’s number 5.
Yoga has your back (20 minutes)
Feel alive flow (16 minutes)
“This practice will help you shake off the blues to feel revitalized and fresh again!”
Ow…that sounds nice, Adriene! ❤