Posts Tagged ‘London’

We’ve just witnessed a seismic event in our national history; I’m fairly certain of that. The Grenfell Tower disaster will be talked about for weeks, and written about for decades. The working classes, who have generally been patronised, written off and demonised by the media and establishment since Thatcher’s day, have a voice again, but only in the aftermath of a delirious nightmare come true.

 

You cannot listen to any of the residents’ stories without welling up with grief or fury at the injustice of this catastrophe. Mothers throwing children from high-rise windows; frantic narrow escapes involving vaulting over piles of corpses; trapped people screaming in desperation as death enveloped them. This must have been as close to a manifestation of Hell as the human mind could conceive.

 

Safe in my family postwar council home, I got up and watched the news footage in genuine astonishment. My first thought, other than horror at the people caught in the nightmare, was the intensity and scale of the inferno. How could a modern building be so consumed so quickly? Even my modest knowledge of fire prevention told me that fires do not spread like that unless there is an accelerant involved; certainly not if there are sprinklers or fire retardant material on every floor. The reports confirm the first response team arrived a mere six minutes after the alarm was raised, and yet the building was absolutely engulfed from the fourth to top floors as it was still being battled, and took hours to bring under control.

 

People disparaging any mention of political decisions (and ideologies) in the context of this horror are disrespecting every victim of this utterly avoidable tragedy. A few things swirled around my mind when the wretched scene had sunk in; was this another case of neglect from private companies cutting corners on safety in tower blocks not meant for affluent residents? Subsequent reports heavily imply that recent refurbishment seemed to concentrate more on making the outside of the building more pleasing to the eye of the wealthy denizens across the way, than ensuring every floor had basic fire prevention and safety measures implemented. It was also revealed that a resident group’s previous warnings were ignored. Perhaps some zealous ministers will think twice about using their favoured “bonfire of red tape” idiom from now on, for this is ‘deregulation culture’ writ large.

 

The disgusting irony of that phrase in this context also brings to mind former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to close numerous London fire stations, as well as telling a critic of this policy to “get stuffed” in his own trademark infantile manner. Boris himself is of course renowned for blowing over £320k on water cannons that were later declared illegal and had to be sold unused; the notion that water jets should be used to protect citizens from the worst effects of devastating conflagrations apparently less desirable than using them to potentially blind protestors to the corpulent gibbon.

 

Neoliberalism should have been laid to rest in 2008, when the inevitable culmination of its ideology in the finance sector saw it bring the world economy to its knees. But then Cameron and his coalition of chaos decided to apply defibrillation, and its zombie version rose to begin cannibalising the few aspects of the system that could be seen as remotely positive. Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the snap election has cast a shadow over its immediate future, but this disaster should be the last rites for this sickening cult of individualism, corporate greed and abdication of state responsibility to its people.

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I had a fantastic time at the Million Mask March in London on 5th November. I never attend any other kind of social gathering where complete strangers will happily talk to you, take your picture and help you out. Only at a summer festival or carnival could you get the same spirit of brotherhood as people laugh and dance and sing together in defiance. Yet the responses on social media and national media were depressingly familiar.

The right-wingers tried to discredit the gathering with the usual dial-a-jibe outbursts: ‘plastic activists’; ‘dole scroungers’; ‘wouldn’t know hardship if they read about it on Facebook’; ‘protesting against corporatism while pouring money to Time-Warner for their masks’; ‘tree huggers’; ‘haven’t grown up yet’; ‘whining about Labour being voted out’; ‘bugger off to North Korea if you don’t like it’; ‘put that effort into getting a job’; ‘Halloween’s over’ etc etc ad infinitum.

The left wingers chastised too: ‘plastic activists’; ‘wannabe anarchists’; ‘pointless’; ‘Anonymous fanboys/girls’; ‘Russell Brand followers’; ‘middle-class Guardianistas on a jolly’ and so on.

I spoke to a youngish journalist from Forbes, who wanted to interview ‘Anonymous’ activists. Knowing the source, I expected to be condescended to, especially with a loaded question like: “What message do you have for corporations?”, but when I’d had my say and been called ‘eloquent’, I’d hoped for more than the sneering article which, though not entirely derogatory, included very little rational pro-March comments, and was clearly edited to fit the Forbes agenda. All in all, it was a pretty typical aftermath of any protest by most standards, with the usual non-coverage by our supposedly impartial broadcaster, the BBC. The Establishment will set its attack dogs in the media out to discredit opposition in any manner it can, lest the rationale behind the protests catches on and spreads too far for a few hundred tooled-up riot cops to kettle.

So the depressing narrative surfaces again: either accept the status quo quietly, or be censored. Stay at home or be kettled and dismissed. Dare to attempt direct action and be arrested. How did it get this bad? Perhaps the nadir of peaceful protesting came at the ‘Not in my Name’ march against the Iraq War in February 2003. Much of the widespread cynicism at the futility of public protest can be traced back to the Thatcher era, where her obstinate refusal to adhere to public opinion was widely lauded as a necessary evil at the time, only to be lamented when it had taken hold with all successive governments, none more so than New Labour, who, despite 13 unbroken years of rule, did nothing to roll back or abolish the toxic policies introduced by the Headmistress of the Neoliberal Doctrine.

A revolutionary government like the postwar Attlee administration, which was responsible for two decades of growth, housing, healthcare and opportunity across the class spectrum, seems more unlikely than ever, when even lobbying the government from a non-big business perspective is being stifled with the proposed ‘Gagging law’, currently on a short hiatus:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-weir/governments-gagging-law-is-still-dangerous-shambles

I doubt any of us are surprised that the Bill originated from the same corrupt MP who introduced the policy-for-donation privatisation of the NHS: Andrew Lansley. This debacle serves once again to remind us that the current administration is slipping dangerously into fascist territory. Examples below:

Over-the-top police response to peaceful protest as revenge for being embarrassed by Millbank damage?

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2010/nov/10/met-police-student-protest-london

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14029676

Check.

Demonization of human ‘collateral’ of your reckless policies?

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jan/09/skivers-v-strivers-argument-pollutes

Check.

Discrediting every credible counter-argument/defending indefensible policies with lies?

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/05/02/even-the-economists-george-osborne-cited-to-justify-austerity-have-abandoned-him/

http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/category/iain-duncan-smith

Check.

Suggesting greater control of press is desirable only when it reveals Establishment spying and abuse of power?

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/28/david-cameron-nsa-threat-newspapers-guardian-snowden

Check.

Constant demonizing of Trade Unions and suggesting limiting their influence, to throw off attacks on big business lobbying?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-is-accused-of-using-lobbying-scandal-to-curb-labours-trade-union-support-8642757.html
Check.

Encouraging blind worship of the military to justify illegal wars to the public?

http://www.adamus.nl/uks-worrying-proto-fascist-worship-military/

Check.

Just for effect, William Hague even also decided to emulate Joseph Goebbel’s immortal aphorism: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10108564/William-Hague-British-public-have-nothing-to-fear-from-US-spies.html

So we should all be aware of the creeping insurgence of fascism, and not write it off as hyperbole. Fascism, after all, is a natural next step for a Government that knows they are acting against the interests not just of the poor, but the middle classes and especially their children: the 99% essentially. If you can’t pacify enough with media divide-and-rule propaganda, then you need to utilise the other, less subtle, methods of control at your disposal to keep them subjugated.

The state apparatus, which has from time to time actually been used to challenge vested elites and work for the greater good, has now returned to simply being a vital tool for the new (and old) elites to keep those below them in line. It lashes out like a violent reactionary at every form of criticism, and more and more seems to crave ruling with an iron fist; as if Orwell had never been imagined. The puppets eased into the seats of power by an anachronistic voting system on a wave of divisive anti-intellectual media bilge seem to no longer have any concept or perspective of political history or a world outside unrestrained Neoliberal Capitalism; reacting only to devise policies which pay back whomever has donated the most to their respective party’s propaganda coffers.

They no longer maintain even a flimsy pretence of ruling in the good of the nation, or thinking in any term longer than the five years they have inflicted on us. Do the damage early, hope for a miracle, bribe the more gullible sections of the electorate just before the election; is now order of the day. If you can set traps for the next administration to sabotage their spending plans, all the better.

It is easy to treat the Government or MPs as the enemy, but it gets us nowhere. They have the police and military protecting them, and are expert liars. I want to suggest that our real enemy is concentrated wealth, and its own apparatus: the corporation.

So Londoners living on housing benefit are currently being told they must move to more affordable areas:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/24/housing-benefit-cuts-londoners_n_1449242.html

Although the housing benefit cap will also affect others in many parts of the country, it will be felt most acutely in our great Capital, such is the concentration of wealth in such a relatively small metropolis. Many objections have been raised to this scheme, with regards to children facing GCSEs and having to leave all of their friends. Another consequence of this policy will be for poverty-stricken people to lose their own support networks. Where middle-class children rely very much on parents for career contacts amongst other things, so people lower down the socio-economic scale will rely on their own family and friends for job assistance and emotional support when times are tough. Perhaps single parents will need to rely on family and friends for babysitting should a job be taken up. From a vulnerable position, this cap will remove all potential support from people who may also be in a precarious mental state.

And what will be the final outcome of this plan? We all know that employers will be less likely to employ a long-term unemployed person, no matter the circumstances, so the likelihood is that this move will simply heap more misery onto the already downtrodden. Unless of course they are indeed all ‘on the fiddle’.

A worrying bigger picture is starting to emerge, where villages are mentioned as becoming ghettos for semi-retired rich people, while London is chiefly a rich person’s playground already. Are we heading for an extreme dystopian scenario in a generation or two, where the poor are all herded into economically dead regions with pitiable infrastructure and law enforcement, where social disorder is rife, whilst the rich live it up in flourishing rural urban areas inside gated communities with armed patrols to prevent the poor getting in?

Of course, the sensible way of saving a lot of state money in the long-term would simply have been to build far more social housing and introduce rent controls, eliminating the need for this social cleansing. But the narrative seems not to be cutting state expenditure as much as punishing the poor for being poor.