The 3-month terror of burning pigeonholes and knives: The mighty have fallen
** Originally published by Blasting News
Over the last three months, London was put to test three times: terror at Westminster Bridge, terror at London Bridge and terror at Grenfell Tower. As a Londoner, I have always felt fortunate, safe and privileged to be living in one of the most desirable, prosperous and diverse cities in the world. But, as I watched yet again the agony of my fellow Londoners, the rising numbers of the dead and the missing, I identified within me a feeling that I have been suppressing for months. A feeling that I never wanted to experience first hand. A feeling that New Yorkers shared on the 11th of September 2001. A feeling that I am now selfishly trying to release through this article.
Yes, it is true that Londoners, New Yorkers, Parisians, and so on, are living in the world's most advanced and wealthiest spaces. But like another Icarus, London flew too near the sun. The consequences and the aftermath of terror made me realise that our London wings are mere human constructs of feathers and wax, and despite our might, even us, Londoners, can fall. And what a fall it has been.
"Do you want all these Towers fireproofed, or brought down?", the journalist asked Nour Osman, one of the Grenfell Tower's victims. "Brought down ... they are like pigeon holes", she said. "You can't put human beings in pigeon holes ... just because we can't afford, they can't dump us somewhere like that". The journalist asked again: "What do you want?". "We don't want human beings to live in pigeon holes like that", she cried.
Her words reminded me of Charles Dickens' A #Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us".
250 years later, and London is living Dickens' Reign of Terror. And I am not referring to the terror caused by extremists. I am referring to the terror caused by ourselves.
Let me qualify this, but before I do so, some disclaimers are in order. I do not subscribe to any political party, and I will refrain from referencing conspiracy and so on theories. Many have been quick in blaming government, Council officials, even the #Public Services that on all three occasions responded beyond the call of duty (some, giving their very own lives). I have not been directly affected by the three events either.
So, I speak from a comfortable position of pain. Anger and loss are still being processed, and it is with much hesitation that I write. The terror that we Londoners experience today is nothing but a byproduct of our refusal to raise the mirror of responsibility. We have become complaisant, and indeed complacent. We have accepted the cheap politics of populism, and we are entertained by gossipy tweets authored by celebrities, presidents, the 'Great and the Good'.
At this low moment for all those living in prosperous, beautiful cities, I can't stop asking myself, where will our moral compass take us after these events. My anxiety grew stronger as I put London in the context of a divided country over Brexit, another terrorist attack in Manchester, five other terrorist attempts, a hung parliament, a government without a clear mandate and an EU that feels betrayed by the British who turned their back on the European dream that we all set off to achieve after the atrocities of two World Wars.
"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky", Dickens wrote.
The truth is that even in the most democratic regimes, we, the demos, cannot control how our given governments, Council officials and public services will respond to yet another terror and community suffering. In fact, the actions, or inactions, of those in power are not without context. They are not random. They are warranted and authorised by the electorate, the silent observer, the busy business man and all the bystanders of rage and fear. We are the architects of the environment within which institutions and decision makers operate.
As the grieving goes on, a message of hope. History has shown that it is the result of millions of small actions that we change the status quo. These are undertaken by people, not with power. Remember the Suffragettes, Indian Independence, civil rights in America ...
My anxiety started to wane as I remembered that more than 75% of our young people went to vote for a change; that we elected more than 200 women in Parliament and that we are slowly turning our backs to populism by rejecting political forces that appeal to widespread public grievances while seeking to exclude others. The wind of change is slowly blowing in our faces. As we fly away from the pigeon holes of shame, a reminder of Icarus and his pride. In the circle of life, the birth and the demise of all matters are a certainty.