Crisis of Credit: The story of bright, greedy bankers with no common sense…

A complex crisis made simple...
A complex crisis made simple...

At the height of the Cold War, some of the best brains in both the United States and the now extinct USSR worked for their respective nation’s nuclear weapons development and maintenance work. They were basically driven by Mutually Assured Destruction, a doctrine of military strategy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two opposing sides would effectively result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender. It was appropriately abbreviated as M.A.D.

The men (it was mostly if not entirely male) with these deadly toys have been described as very smart people with no common sense. They’ve been the subject of much study, commentary and satire — Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 black comedy film Dr Strangelove among them.

Where would very smart men with no common sense (and few, if any, scruples) find work in the post Cold War period? Looks like some of them went into banking!

How else could we explain the deadly games played by bankers that triggered the credit crisis which has snowballed into a global economic recession affecting us all?

Sub-prime mortgages, collateralised debt obligations, frozen credit markets and credit default swaps. These terms are now being bandied around but a year ago, few had heard of them and even now, how many of us non-bankers understand what they mean?

Aren’t they the weapons of mass destruction of our times? While the nukes were well guarded and their use was tightly controlled (with only a few near misses over decades), where was regulatory oversight when bankers accumulated toxic credit over time?

In September 2008, I wrote a blog called Financial Meltdown: Putting pieces together of a gigantic whodunnit with links to some current affairs documentaries that tried to explain what was happening. In December 2008, I named the American blogger, investigative journalist and film-maker Danny Schechter as Moving Images Person of the Year for his relentless, now prophetic work cautioning about the coming credit crisis from years ago.

Now, design artist Jonathan Jarvis has come up with a brilliant animation that tells the ‘Short and Simple Story of the Credit Crisis’.

Watch it on YouTube: Crisis of Credit, part 1 of 2

Crisis of Credit, part 2 of 2

Here’s his description:
The goal of giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. This project was completed as part of my thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

For more on his thesis work exploring the use of new media to make sense of a increasingly complex world, visit

See also: Prudent Banking 101: A lesson from Mary Poppins

Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

One thought on “Crisis of Credit: The story of bright, greedy bankers with no common sense…”

  1. Jonathan Jarvis is a creative genius! He’s done what most journalists, commentators and economists have struggled to do…explain to a complete laywoman like me the debt crisis in a way I can get it. And now, finally, I got it!

    You compare nuke boys with banker boys. Interesting. but beyond draining their national treasuries and contributing to the demise of the Soviet Union (not a bad thing), they didnot do half as much harm as the greedy bankers have done. This carnage is without parallel and beyond compare.

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