The Grenfell Tower fire has raised many issues. There are questions being asked, and answers being provided from many quarters. However, there is a distinct lack of ‘official’ information. A lack of response by RBKC has led to Government staff being sent in.
One point residents and volunteers are angry about is the reluctance from media organisations to report the large number of potential casualties. Those on the ground have first hand information which is not being picked up by mainstream media, adding to the perception of being marginalised and ignored. There is even speculation of a cover up with political motives. No doubt there will be lawyers for insurance companies and those potentially responsible trying to find ways of limiting the impact upon them.
And they have good reason to be worried. There are numerous sources indicating this was an accident waiting to happen. Those who downplayed the risks for whatever reason are no doubt looking very closely at how to avoid responsibility. But I want to move away from Grenfell Tower as a specific case and consider how the economic and political structures themselves create the context under which ordinary people have the most to lose.
Some say that this tragedy should not be politicised. But I don’t think we have much choice in that matter. Simply because decisions and events that have contributed to this tragedy are rooted in the political climate of the day. In the case of Grenfell Tower, we have good reasons to conclude that it was a combination of corporate/individual greed coupled with political and economic factors that has led to the loss of life and human suffering. There are structures and legal loopholes in place that unscrupulous individuals and groups will exploit for their own gain while the ordinary taxpayers suffer the consequences, which in this case is the death of a large number of people. However there have been other cases of systemic failures and abuse which led to the suffering of the common citizen through financial losses and higher living costs and crippling taxes. Those who suffer the most are sadly the very people who don’t have the awareness and understanding of the system to realise what’s going on.
Take for example the privatisation of the Royal Mail. It was undervalued and sold to private hands. Once sold, the share values rose and as a result the investors gained, while the taxpayer lost out. How many ordinary people would even understand the concept of share markets, let alone be able to articulate their disapproval of the government’s handling of the situation. Apart from a short discussion among those interested in the sector there was little outrage. Afterall there are no visible victims, and people just put it to the back of their minds and carried on apathetically, and as a result those responsible get away with it.
Consider the case of the BHS pensions scandal. There was nothing ‘illegal’ about what was done (or so we are told). Company assets were sold, share dividends were paid out. Everything done as per legal requirements. But with a little insight and deviousness those in the know exploited the loopholes in the system to benefit themselves while those lower down the social chain suffered as a result. Again, for the vast majority of the population, they have little awareness or knowledge of the complex nature of the company structures which were manipulated. Those people directly impacted did raise voices of protest, but they only sought to recover their own loss, without questioning the systems in place which enabled such a situation to arise in the first place.
Moving on from specific cases of exploitation to the general structure of the financial system itself. It can be successfully argued that the above cases of exploitation, are in fact closer to the norm, rather than the exception. Even the way the monetary system in Capitalist society is structured leads itself to the exploitation of the general population for the benefit of those who run the system. The politicians in cahoots with the bankers control the supply of money in the economy thereby controlling the value of the citizens efforts. They can create money which they hand over to the banks, because banks are too big to fail. This devalues the money for the ordinary people, who as a result must work harder. This system of financial control is geared toward keeping the rich and influential in control while the poor and disadvantaged are squeezed for every penny. The rich and elite political and financial leaders dupe the public into voting them into office, while they use this votes as a mandate to act on behalf of the people. But they don’t act in the interest of the people. Far from it, their only interest is in keeping the system in place which they and their clique can continue to benefit from.
The above points should make you question the systems in place in society. They are meant to serve the people as a whole, but time and again it seems that the well connected and influential in society exploit these systems for their own ends leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces. It makes you wonder if the systems were in fact designed and intended to be that way. If you consider the whole idea of creating corporate entities under which individuals exploit to make money through, and then walk away from responsibility when things go wrong due to limited liability. Surely these systems at a fundamental level must be questioned, because as human beings, we have the ability to change the systems under which we live.
Guest contributed article by Muhammad Patel