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All that Glistens

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I thought that this was going to be a great title for this blog but I searched on the internet just to make sure that I had got it right. My caution caused by having discovered after over 60 years that what I thought was "tenderhooks" is actually correctly spelt as "tenterhooks", something of a surprise to me. Well, glistens is also sometimes rendered as glitters and by no less an authority than William Shakespeare as glisters. But then he never used the spell checker, did he? The Bard used a variation on the phrase but Chaucer also issued the warning and it is thought to go back even earlier, perhaps to Aesop (of the fables fame).

I am not trying to be learned, the history of the saying (in whatever form) just serves to show that human frailty of being attracted by something that sounds too good to be true, only to find that it is, goes back many centuries, probably back to the beginnings of mankind.

I have been following in a desultory manner the debate in Scotland about independence and though the vote will have been decided by the time that this is published, I know (and we all know in our heart of hearts) that if the result is "NO" then the pro-independence camp will find a way to extend the debate. The gold at the end of the rainbow being offered by Alex Salmond is very attractive and the future is being painted in glittering terms (or is that glistening or even glistering terms?). We await the result on tenterhooks as the effects will not only be felt by the Scots but also by the rest of the UK, never mind about the result. Perhaps a more interesting vote might have been to ask the rest of the UK whether we wanted Scotland to continue in the Union, the results might have been quite chastening for Mr Salmond, or perhaps it might have made them feel loved.

It is in the human nature to aspire to what might seem to be a better life and so one can see the potential attraction of independence for Scotland. Emigration from these islands over the centuries have been a reflection of those aspirations and I must confess that as newly qualified and married I considered the USA, but in the end the massive salary increase and the attractions of a very different life were outweighed by the perceived risks for a very newly married couple in Chicago (the weather being a consideration).

The attraction of a glittering future does cause many to invest unwisely in schemes or businesses that seem too good to be true. Unfortunately many have made their investments never even considering that they might be investing in fool's gold. I went looking for frauds, scams and spectacular business collapses over the years. The list was unbelievably long, recalling half-forgotten names from over the years. The original Ponzi was from the early days of the twentieth century and this was followed by Insull (1920's), Westinghouse (1960's), IOS and Richard Vesco, Emil Savundra and Fire Auto Marine, Enron and Worldcom and a gold scam on the Canadian Stock Exchange, Bre X. These few, together with a myriad of others offering something that seemed a dream and unfortunately that is what it was, just a dream.

Don't believe that it is only the business world that offers dreams that turn into nightmares. Politicians have the habit of offering what is unsustainable in the hope of being elected or re-elected. It is bad enough when those election promises fade into an unachievable mess in government but is a disaster for any nation when they buy into the bellicose words of a leader and war ensues, together with all that entails.

Over the coming months we, like the Scottish people, are going to be subjected to the blandishments and cajoleries of our own political parties. We will be offered that gold at the end of the rainbow, unaffordable luxuries and a glittering future. Will we be able to resist the lure of those promises? Or will we remember that all that glistens (glitters) (glisters) is not gold?

David Ingall
Past President
UK 200 Group


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