“Coq d’Argent is the number one restaurant in the City for business entertaining with a spectacular rooftop location.”
So says the text on the website of the Sir Terence Conran owned restaurant in the middle of the City of London (“the City”). It’s the place to be seen for young bankers and traders celebrating their success and spending some of their huge salaries and equally large bonuses.
On the evening of the 4 September 2012, a young and successful businesswoman took a sip from her glass of wine, carefully put down her handbag and walked over the edge.
Three years earlier another young person also stepped over the edge from the same restaurant, 24 years old, handsome and with an active social life, who, in addition to working as a stockbroker ran his own business.
A couple of years before then, another City employer plunged from the same place.
And only two days ago on the 11 October, another man fell into the atrium of the restaurant from a walkway on the same level.
What makes apparently successful individuals, city types of the celebrated fat wallets, expensive cars and fast lifestyles, want to kill themselves?
I don’t know, but an article that caught my eye in the London newspaper “the Evening Standard” a little while ago, may contain some of the answer.
On the 3 September, Andrew Grimshaw wrote an article under the heading “Why everyone wants to work 48 hours without sleep?”
“The brain of a young banker or lawyer is abused like a car that is driven harder than it was designed to be driven”.
It amazes me that people cannot draw comparisons between the way workers’ bodies were ruined in the early days of industrialisation in back braking never-ending toil and the way the now same thing is being done to their brains – all in the name of extracting the largest amount of profit for the owners of the businesses.
The training for this type of life starts earlier and earlier, with the obsessive push from parents for their children to do as many part-time activities as possible, so that they can “stay ahead of the game” and collect interesting achievements for their CV’s at an age when they have still barely entered puberty, and sometimes earlier. Parents burn up their free time ferrying children to and from these activities, and the basic thought behind it is that this will make their offspring stay ahead of the competition.
If things go well, their son or daughter then gets a place at a “good” university and if things go exceptionally well, they study law or economics and get that coveted job in the City of London.
Then they are on the thread mill that Grimshaw describes in his article: “Great tracts of the city (of London), and especially the City, are infected by an obsessive habit of overwork that wreck countless lives, including those of the addict’s family.”
“The saddest thing”, he says about this work ethic, “is how eagerly the new recruit embraces it. The youngster who works through the night for the first time is as proud as if he had proved his virility by seducing a supermodel”
Many of these practises, according to the article, emanate from the place which is still at the cutting edge of developed capitalism, the US.
Talking about the way these employers try to eliminate the need for employees to go home, Grimshaw goes on to say: “These American practices are spreading. In its refurbished offices at Silk Street, Linklaters, one of the great City law firms, has installed a 24-hour restaurant and provides its staff with a physiotherapist, doctor, dentist, dry cleaning company, multi-faith prayer room and sleep pods. Why waste time going home?”