Blinking lights on floors high up. Baby thrown to safety. Goodbyes said on facebook. A survivor expressing a sad regret that he made any effort to alert residents – What was the point of waking them up? he asked.
This was not an unavoidable tragedy. On the contrary, this was a long time coming. Foretold in a blog by the Grenfell Action Group on November 20, 2016:
"It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster."
But the long time coming was not November 2016. It’s been coming for decades. Neoliberalism. A perverted twisting of all that we once held unalienable and sacrosanct. Now we have turkeys voting for Christmas. A cheering on of the dismantling of the welfare state by the people most likely to suffer from its absence. A derision of Old Labour. Although Jeremy Corbyn is putting paid to that.
Somewhere along the way we have lost some of our humanity, our moral compass.
We now live in a world where we privatise even the safety net of roofs over people’s heads. Where people are allowed to make a profit for providing a fundamental need, a human right. Where people are allowed to continue cutting corners and breaking health and safety regulation, in order to make the profit margins greater. Where tower blocks are clad in flammable material to make the millionaire neighbours mind less about their presence. Even if this means that people will be trapped in a building 24 storeys high with only one smoke filled staircase as an exit.
Sita Fofana, a Malian plasterer living in Msida in a flat with eight other men, died in March 2017, when he used a barbecue as a heater to warm up his bedroom.
His death was soon forgotten. I would like to know the outcome of the magisterial inquiry. Why isn’t this in the press?
What struck me most at the time was the complete lack of interest into the circumstances surrounding this death. Questions like: Was this flat large enough to house 9 men? Why was Mr Fofana using a barbecue instead of a heater? How much money did he earn as a plasterer? Was it not enough to buy a heater? What rent did he pay? Presumably he shared the rent with the 8 other men – So why was this not enough? What Arms tariff was he on?
Instead social media commentators decided that his death was his own fault. Definitely not the landlord’s for not providing him with a heater. Definitely not the state’s for not regulating the rental market, for not insisting on health and safety. His fault. Leave alone that Mali has a literacy rate of about 35%. No, Mr Fofana was stupid. And the suitable punishment for stupidity is death, of course.
There are thousands upon thousands of Grenfells and deaths like Mr Fofana’s all over the world. People have become blase and immune to the obscene waste of it all. They walk on by, not seeing the despair; not hearing the cries for help.
This is another excerpt from the Grenfell Action Group blog:
"Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation. "
Please everyone - shine a light on the malignity.