The extraordinary fire which engulfed Grenfell Tower and has killed so many people this week is one of those events which will have imprinted an indelible mark on all of us. We grieve for those we lost and share the pain of the families and friends of so many victims of a devastating tragedy. Nobody who witnessed that event will ever forget the feeling of helpless terror, and of course nobody will do less than vow that such an event must never happen again. I for one said a little payer as I watched those live pictures from London.
This blog entry isn’t about the fire though. I am unqualified to say anything about it. All I know is what happened after the fire started, because I saw that. It’s about how my sorrow itself became a victim in the hours and days following.
Within hours, as the flames were still consuming the last vestiges of victims who may never be identified and before the smoke had stopped drifting across our stricken city the blame game had started, with culprits identified on the internet and angry mobs storming local authority buildings demanding ‘justice’. Is this the way we now grieve?
Here’s an example of a headline on a national newspaper website on 18th June:
Couple whose company was paid £3m for cladding refurb at Grenfell Tower are holed up at their £1m mansion
The article then goes on to name the directors of a building company which was contracted to do some work on the tower. The newspaper has done the investigation, identified the cause, determined the criminal intent of people who have probably worked extremely hard to build and sustain their business and can now move on to the next tragedy to help boost their circulation. All within days. What exactly was the point of this story?
I’m getting tired of the default response to almost any event or situation that has a bad outcome. The idea that there must always be a conspiracy against the victims, that there must always be a politician to blame, that the authorities must be incompetent and uncaring, that richer people are safer than poorer. This isn’t the default response of individual victims. They want to grieve, they need to be quietly supported, their anger and despair must be understood, and they don’t want to be forgotten. I’d like to think we could find a way back to the society which could do that without the shouting-very-loudly, blame and demonisation fueled by the need for instant answers, instant allocation and abrogation of responsibility and instant deployment of arguments which demonstrate that every decision taken by our society must have been the wrong one and led us inevitably to tragedy.
I’m tired of that.