On Friday the 16th, 3 days after the hellish fire of Grenfell Tower’s, my colleague Hannah Rose-Burns and I travelled to Latimer Road.
I had already braced myself for a breadth and extremity of emotion in the community. It was not until I took the tentative steps from the tube station, into the midst of heartache and suffering, that I came to terms with the palpable and tangible nature of emotion; the human ability to share in a consciousness of grief that makes itself manifest into an atmosphere so real it creates a new Earth beneath it.
There is no obnoxious words needed to describe what was felt. The emotions were as raw as they can possibly be: sadness, suffering, resentment and anger. Deep, deep, intense, burning anger.
Those who were not totally irate were lamenting at the needless loss of life. Innocent people who had been murdered, as many of the community members said, by an overarching government that did not care about them because they were poor.
The situation is tragic. What makes it worse is the cladding. For aesthetic purposes the faces of many now sit with sadness and grief, with the scars of lost loved ones etched upon their face.
We can all sit there and be either right-wing, left-wing, centrist. There is no denying, however, that we humans want the best for one another. I find it ridiculous how easily we can criticise and project accusations onto political party voters and condemn them as NOT CARING. Of course, I mean this in reference to the Conservative government.
I shan’t go into the in’s and out’s of my political beliefs. I do strongly feel, however, that condemning the Tory government as wanting the poor to die is absolutely ridiculous slander that undercuts the tragedy of the deaths, the ashes of real people, that now sit in the skeletal tower I can see every day from my office.
Who is to blame?
That was what the community of Kensington and Chelsea wanted to know.
It isn’t the Tory government. It isn’t Theresa May. It was the stupidity of the council.
Yes, I do think it was the council’s fault. But what about the contractors? What about the people that sell cladding as a material anyway?
Why were the people in Grenfell not listened to? They had already put up blogs and given out letters to the council that were horrifyingly ignored.
My heart honestly wrenches at the thoughts of those people, innocently getting on with their lives, whoose last moments were seeing flickering flames under the doors and plumes of black smoke suffocating them as they banged furiously on the window or shined the torches from their phones to make the fire brigade know they were there.
The absolute terror.
The council is to blame, yes. Yet, there is something greater at stake here which was why there was such palpable infuriating among the community.
Whether you are rich or poor, Muslim or Zoroastrian, white or black, you DESERVE TO BE LISTENED TO.
It may not be ‘formal’ to write in capital letters but, do you know what, it is the same need for ‘formality’ that meant that these people died. Just like in the Douglas Adam’s book ‘Hitchicker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’ in which Adam’s mocks the overarching rulers of the universe, the Vogons, who will go through so many formal procedures when given orders or request that they would: ‘send in, send back, queried, lost, found subject to public inquiry, buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as fire lighters.’
The council are also, it seems, Adams’s fictional Vogons.
How dare they not listen to the pleads and cries of their residents! How dare they allow for these deaths, such horrid deaths filled with fear and distress, to occur! It was not they, of course, that wished it. But it all boils down to not listening.
To not hearing the cries of the people. Listening to their pleads.
What do we do next?
We learn how to communicate. We learn how to help the oppressed by standing up and helping our community. The issue with the world and Britain as it functions now is that we place so much desired aid to an overarching abstract thing – the government, or the council. We have to work on a microcosmic level. We need to fight for the people in our own communities whether we are rich or poor, Muslim or Zoroastrian, white or black. When we protect and fight together we are stronger than any ‘strong or stable government’ some non-thing (the government, the council) say.
We are the people. We can make change from the ground up, not from above down.
To those in Grenfell may your souls rest with the angels. To the community left I will be there, as will others, to help fight your corner. To the firefighters who saved so many and are now troubled with psychological trauma – thank you for your services. For being the heroes of our community. Our community.
To the all-seeing eye that has done nothing – your time of authority is slowly running out.