This week, this newspaper has been reporting on the increasing presence of loan sharks in some of our most vulnerable, deprived communities.
These types of unscrupulous lenders, preying on people’s desperation, have, of course, been around for time immemorial. And ruling over them and their victims with an iron rod is the demon of debt.
Personal debt is still one of the final taboos of our society, coming with a sense of shame at your perceived lack of self control. I know, because I have been through a debt crisis of my own, and all the self-loathing attached to it.
New research this week said one in 10 of us could be suffering in silence under the weight of our debt. But debt is neither a first world problem, nor the poor man’s burden - it is a disease which can grip anyone at any time.
When Boris Becker - a sporting superstar who made his name by supreme control on the tennis court - was declared bankrupt this week, it brought home to me again the universality of this illness. It can hit anyone, whether you are a struggling working dad fighting for your family’s survival - or a celebrity with a fatal frivolous streak.
William Shakespeare wrote in Henry IV that “borrowing only lingers and lingers it out, but the disease is incurable”. But I don’t think that’s true in this day and age, when we live and die by the size of our mortgage and credit card debts.
It is high time more resources were pumped into helping people to escape the vice-like grip of debt. Because it is no longer a source of shame. It is a fact of modern life.