Wonga whacking

The predatory loanshark outfit Wonga.con….sorry .com ;D come under attack last week from two directions, although unfortunately both misfired somewhat.

Firstly a Geordie’s Untied footballer refused to wear his club strip with Wonga as a sponsor, as he said that Wonga’s practices (charging of an eye gouging 5,853% APR) conflicting with his Muslim believes and the Islamic ban on Usury. Unfortunately, him being caught in a casino (Islam also looks down on gambling also) didn’t exactly help him to hold the moral high ground :-/.

Then the Archbishop of Canterbury waded in claiming that he hoped to destroy Wonga. Now while I had visions of him leading an angry mob by torch light to Wonga’s corporate headquarters (difficult given that its likely some web address in the Cayman Islands or something) and burn the heretics at the stake while holding hands and reciting Psalm 23…instead his plan was to promote and encourage people to use credit unions… :no:

Of course a financial link being then established between Wonga and the Church of England hardly helped him hold the moral high ground either. Wonga have of course been fairly quiet about all of this, but then again if you’re critics decide to shoot themselves in the foot and undermine themselves why say anything?

Don’t get me wrong I’m not a fan of Wonga. While I’m somewhat sceptical of many religions, I certainly understand why, whoever wrote the Koran, Bible or Torah (I’m still waiting for them to find the missing first page), chose to include this ban on usury. For usury is not only morally dangerous (companies like Wonga rely on the fact that some debtors will default to function) but it allows one to make money off the labour of others while doing very little. Inevitably if everyone tried to make money the easy way nobody would be out there making stuff or growing crops or doing the hard jobs and society would fall apart.

Of course there is usury (a bank or credit union giving a mortgage to someone or extending a line of credit to a small business) and then there’s usury (sub-prime mortgages, market speculation, short selling, loan sharking). But part of the problem here is that at various times all three religions have found loop holes that allowed usury to occur, by following the letter of the Bible/Koran/Torah while perverting the original meaning of it (ya, I’m sure god won’t mind that one little bit! After all he only flooded the world once and threw Adam & Eve out of the Garden of Eden over one tiny apple, ya that sounds like the sort of guy who forgives and forgets!). This apathy from religions created a massive moral vacuum and the inevitable results have been for some very greedy people, such as those behind Wonga or the ponzi scheme we otherwise call “the markets”, taking things to an extreme.

And I often find it odd how religions can be so apathetic to the goings on in Wall Street (thou shalt not covet thy neighbours goods?) or President’s starting wars (thou shalt not kill), but some woman who was raped wants an abortion or a gay couple want to marry or some doctor wants to cure cancer with stem cells, oh, somehow that’s going too far…or is it that religions picked on easy targets rather than going after the real hard core sinners?

In short what the Archbishop is doing is trying to slap a plaster on a dam that burst sometime ago. If the church wants to suddenly take a stand on usury it needs to be clear what that is, what it considers acceptable and what is not, possibly forming an alliance with other churches (Pope Francis is hardly a fan of neo-liberal economics either) to oppose it. Then maybe we can take him seriously….or just bring back the Spanish Inquisition!


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