I lived in a tower block much like Grenfell Tower when I first came to London, with my mom and sister, and several relatives coming and going. It was a squeeze at times but we lived there for over a decade in Kilburn, a half hour from Grenfell Tower by bus. If I looked out of my balcony, I would have seen the cloud of smoke that darkened the sky as it engulfed the Tower in its flames.
When we left a politically unstable country for Britain, the old colonial masters, it was in the hopes a better life, sacrifices needed to be made and they were. My mother left a career as a scholar and took on several menial jobs to make ends meet and to put food in the mouths of her children, often times not hers- this is the story of many of the immigrant families who come to the West in search of a better life. Our only hope is survival and it is the grace of subsidised housing that we have survived and are here today. Britain; where class defines survival and response; what are we but black and brown bodies with names they cannot be bothered to pronounce correctly, because they think we shouldn’t be here. Poor and have nots who live on the margins of society. Our lives are throwaway to them because we were born on the wrong side of the tracks, the other side of the world, where the only realities are what they see from a media too instituted in its own bias to be objective for the most part. Our lives, don’t matter to them.
Residents of houses like Grenfell Tower have for years complained about faulty cladding, lack of sprinklers, amongst other safety issues of social housing, several tenants have told about their liaison with the housing authorities and the lackadaisical response they have received, some bordering on threats from the council and all of it falling on deaf ears. Until of course something terrible happens to jolt a response from the government. Since subsidised housing is often inhabited by immigrants they care very little if at all for the state of it; this much is a fact. A government that thrives on cuts and austerity, would rob a one eyed man of his one good eye and then blame him for bumping into things and costing the public services money for the care take. George Osbourne and his damned disable tax whilst giving relief to the wealthy. Boris Johnson, and his piss poor job of the national services and that damned fucking garden bridge that was simply a colossal waste of money in the end. This government operates like it hates its citizens so their words and platitudes are just noise. Insincere and disrespectful. In the wake of this tragedy we have seen the government take action it should have taken, testing tower blocks which have all failed cladding tests, and some now being evacuated, there is talk of tearing down tower blocks in the capital, a wrong and regrettable move; rather than invest in making social housing safe, the government would rather just do away with them all together; where are the inhabitants to go? How are they to afford living in a capital where the housing market is now mostly reserved for the rich and elite and foreign investment?
Grenfell Tower fire is a tragedy, make no mistake, but it is man made; the council the contractors, the government have to be held accountable. Someone took a decision to supply subpar cladding, someone in the council approved this, no checks from the government and here we are today. Value of human lives simply negligible.
Poverty. This government holds it against you. The correlation between poverty and a higher propensity to death is quite obvious; poor people cannot afford to eat well, cannot afford good housing, need the social services to survive, require government subsidies, subsidised housing, benefits, etc. and what do the government do? They chop and chop and chop, until it is the bare bones and there is too little to support the many who heavily rely on it. Yet the government will not put policies in place to help tackle poverty at the heart of their fanciful manifestos, They won’t invest in programmes to help the poor or support the social services that the poor depend on to survive, yet they will give tax relief to the rich and penalise the poor for being… well poor. Until its too late. Until bodies fall burning out of the sky. Until Towers are fallen to the ground. Until mothers die with babies in their arms. Until talented artists die a senseless and avoidable death. Until toddlers die of smoke inhalation. Until families, whole families, are trapped and ravaged by fire. Until it is too late… that is our government, too late. Always too late and the people who pay are the poor, the marginalised, the black and brown, immigrants… people whose names they cannot pronounce. Nameless and faceless- that is what we are to them.
Grenfell is to the shame of this government and so it shall remain.