Britain at the end of 2017 is a utopia for the few and a dystopia for far too many, and when this process is over nothing meaningful will alter in the plight of London’s poor and working class.
This article is reprinted from December 2017.The Grenfell Tower fire establishment circus is well and truly underway, placed in motion by a ruling class never more efficient than when managing and palliating the anger of the poor after presiding over their deaths in acts of social murder, euphemistically referred to as ‘tragedies’, whenever they occur.
Six months after a fire ripped through Grenfell Tower residential tower block in London and incinerated 71 of its residents, most of the survivors remain homeless, living in temporary accommodation, many of them with young children. As Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn pointed in a recent broadcast on Grenfell, “our country has a history of working class people’s voices being ignored by those in power.”
The government’s Grenfell Tower Inquiry began in September. It is being chaired by retired high court judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, appointed to lead it by the government without any prior consultation with the survivors, victims’ loved ones, or the wider community. In one of the last cases he heard prior to his retirement in 2016, Moore-Bick was accused of giving a “green light” to local councils across the city when it came to the social cleansing of poor tenants and residents. The relevance of this history regarding Moore-Bick’s chairmanship of the Grenfell Inquiry could not be more pointed, involving as it does issues concerning substandard housing suffered by people of no property, such as the residents of Grenfell Tower, in one of the world’s most developed and unequal societies.
Another key element of the establishment machine that has kicked in in response to Grenfell arrived most recently in the form of a memorial service, conducted in the grand and ostentatious setting of St Paul’s Cathedral. There, survivors and victims’ family members and loved ones rubbed shoulders with members of the royal family, the government, and other representatives of the country’s ruling class. The mournful music, choir, and service they were treated to, the brief words of comfort from people who spend more on lunch in a day than they have to keep themselves and their children in food for an entire week, was establishment theatre at its best, during which insincerity dripped from every pore of an elite whose actual disdain and contempt for working class and poor people is responsible for housing them in the kind of substandard conditions that gave rise to the Grenfell inferno in the first place.
You just know that when this process is over nothing meaningful will alter in the plight of London’s poor and working class. Indeed how could it when Britain at the end of 2017 is a utopia for the few and a dystopia for far too many, a country in which cruelty has been elevated to the status of a virtue and compassion condemned as a vice, in which the carnage wrought by austerity and affluence sit side by side.
Austerity is an ideological weapon deployed in the interests of the rich against the poor in conditions of economic extremis, with the objective in the second decade of the 21stcentury of breathing life into the corpse of neoliberalism, whose burial is long overdue. The dire consequences of seven years of unending austerity were laid bare in a damning report in November. According to the report’s findings, since it was introduced, austerity in the UK has killed 120,000 people.
Poverty is no natural phenomenon. It does not fall from the sky like the rain. It is the product of a grotesque economic reality configured to benefit the few at the expense of the majority. And erected in support of this grotesqueness is an apparatus of propaganda, manufactured and peddled by those with a vested interest in the status quo, conditioning and fashioning our acquiescence in the brutality meted out to our fellow citizens. We are talking the psychological and, in more and more instances, physical destruction of defenceless human beings — men, women, and children existing at the sharp end of the wrath of a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.
Moreover, the grim reality of benefit sanctions, foodbanks, homelessness, and poverty wages, which is today the lived experience of millions up and down the UK, belies the attempt to beguile us with the fanfare surrounding the recent announcement of Prince Harry’s engagement to Hollywood actress Meghan Markle.
It was a fanfare undertaken with the transparent objective of forging a national consensus around the monarchy, a semi-feudal institution rooted in unearned privilege and obscene opulence. It saw the usual parade of politicians, government ministers, and mainstream media commentators – people who are never done railing against the ‘dear leader’ sanctification of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un – engaging in ritual homilies to class privilege, perpetuating the worship of a family they describe as royal and encouraging the country to go gaga whenever one of them farts.
This is Britain in 2017, where the burnt out shell of Grenfell Tower sits just a few miles away from a refurbished Buckingham Palace, a country in which the rich, through their ownership of the mass media and their political flunkies in government and parliament, have unleashed a vicious class war that has succeeded in turning the clock back to the 19th century.