The Other I

June 15, 2017

Tower tragedies

Filed under: Political thoughts — theotheri @ 8:01 pm

Image result for Glen Fell Tower

Watching the evolution of the Glenfell Tower in Kensington, London brought back the emotions I felt the day we watched the tragedy evolve on 9/11 after the bombings of the Twin Towers.

In both situations, people were trapped and the disaster was ongoing for hour after hour.  People jumped out windows, here in London children were thrown out windows in the hope they would survive.  In both cases, the firemen and other service personnel were heroic.

But there is one critical difference.  9/11 was caused by suicide pilots belonging to AlQaeda.  The London fire two days ago was the result of human actions, almost certainly reflecting disregard for the inhabitants of Glenville Tower.

Kensington, London, is one of the richest areas in one of the richest cities in one of the most developed countries in the world.  But Glenfell Tower, like many similar apartment towers throughout the country, was built by the government to house the less well-off.  The inhabitants of Glenfell Tower were often elderly or disabled;  they were often immigrants and their children, seeking an alternative to the civil wars in the Middle East and Africa.

All of the evidence is suggesting that Glenfell Tower was a tragedy waiting to happen.  There were no fire alarms, no sprinkler systems, only a single staircase ascending from the first to the 24th floor. Possibly worst of all, it was refurbished several years ago at the cost of several million pounds.  Unfortunately, the refurbishment consisted of  exterior cladding that seems not to have been fire-resistant, and quite possibly was the cause of the fire’s rapid spread from the 4th floor where it began when a cheap refrigerator exploded to the top, 20 floors higher, in less than 30 minutes.  It was also the middle of the night.

Apartment dwellers had complained to the relevant government departments for years.  But it looks as if these people just weren’t important enough.

Politically I guess I would have to say I am a capitalist rather than a socialist.  It looks to me as if socialism too often leads to a resentment of achievements of others, and a dependence on governments by too many people for everything from cradle to grave.  It’s a system that too often does not value diversity, and actively discourages creativity and innovation.

But it is clear that in any system, there are some things that only government can do.  Our federal superstructures – highways, bridges, electricity, financial stability, immigration – are projects that can only be accomplished cooperatively.   I also believe in a safety net in relation to the basic necessities provided for by governments, which the U.S. Republicans today do not.

It is clear to me that capitalism can – and sometimes has -gone just as disastrously wrong as various forms of socialism have done in the last century.  Capitalism unhindered too often gives honor and privilege and status to those with money.

I fear that is what has happened in relation to Glenfell Towers.  Governments – both Tory and Labour – have disregarded calls for basic safely mechanisms in the very buildings they have subsidized for the poor.  Even today, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, finally visited the site of the Glenfell fires.  She met with the firemen and police.  But she did not meet with a single victim, not a single person who lost everything but the clothes on their backs, which, since the fire occurred at night was often little more than night clothes.  People have been incredibly generous, providing donations of food, clothing, money, even sometimes opening spare rooms in their homes.  Theresa May said she was deeply saddened by the tragedy and promised an investigation to learn whatever lessons we could.

But that’s a promise that’s been made when fires like this broke out 3, 5, even 10 years ago.  One earlier tower block fire even pointed directly to the inferior cladding, which looks like the prime suspect in this fire.

Why was this allowed to happen?

I did not want to see Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party win the last election.  And they didn’t.

But I am beginning to think that it might be better if today’s fragile Tory government falls and there is another election sooner rather than later.   Despite profound reservations, I’m beginning to think it would be better if Labour won.

And I rather think I might be part of an increasing majority.



  1. V sad. This is despite a dozen agencies, I presume, certifying this and that on compliance.


    Comment by tskraghu — June 15, 2017 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

    • You’re right, Raghu! That’s just what they are saying. The world over…


      Comment by theotheri — June 16, 2017 @ 3:42 pm | Reply


    I’m an outsider, of course, Terry. But Bernie Sanders didn’t stand for anything President Eisenhower didn’t espouse or even go beyond. Sanders did refuse to be drawn on foreign policy. But Corbyn, who stands for nothing more than what Labour stood for in 1945, as best I can tell, simply wants the government to go back to being responsive to the people’s needs. Without people like him there would never have been an NHS, and under the Tories that seems to be eroding along with other social services that any modern democracy takes for granted. A Social Democrat is not a Bolshevist, or anything but what the words stand for: a democrat who believes in control of the government by society, the people. I expect to see another financial meltdown within the next year because the banks and the shadow banks and the rest are in fact in control of policy now in the US and elsewhere. They’re bigger than ever, and their gambling debts are in the tens of trillions. We’ll see if this next meltdown one turns out to be suffered as quietly as the last one.


    Comment by Thomas J. Hubschman — June 16, 2017 @ 3:25 am | Reply

    • I would be very surprised, Tom, if we discovered we do not basically agree. You are an outsider to UK politics, as you say, and I have not been a full-time resident in the States for more than 25 years, which in relation to some of current political nuances, I am an outsider to US politics. In particular is the subtle differences that sometimes accrue to the term “socialism.”

      I think too that perhaps if you lived over here you would not say that Corbyn stands for nothing more than what Labour stood for in 1945. Just as I have to say that, although I have a positive feeling about Bernie Sanders, from this distance, I do not fully know what he stands for. No, that’s not quite so. What I’m not clear about is how, in practice, he would attempt to right the wrongs to which he so rightly points. Corbyn, for me, is a bit different, since he seems to think that taxing the rich and levelling the field is the way forward. In my view, his view of fundamental economic realities in the modern world is simple-minded and would accomplish “equality” the way it was accomplished under Communism. Nobody by the few at the top are allowed to be different, to innovate, to experiment. In fact, he was an ardent Communist for many years – as were, admittedly, many early Labour members. (Back then, maybe I would have been too.)


      Comment by theotheri — June 16, 2017 @ 3:41 pm | Reply

  3. Why? There is simply no evidence to
    suggest that under a Labour government
    this tragedy would not have happened.
    Love your pieces, but please don’t join the awful bandwagon of Tories = horrid,
    Socialists = nice. Most often, it’s the
    opposite… Julia


    Comment by Julia Callaghan — June 16, 2017 @ 12:20 pm | Reply

    • Actually, I agree with you on a broad basis. From what I have read, the Labour government was just as uninterested as the Tories in the quality of housing provided in the tower blocks. And as someone who all my life has preferred to do things for myself, and as an American, I suppose, whose parents were of immigrant stock coming to America to work hard for a better life, I tend to favour middle-of-the-road Republicans in the US (not that there are many left right now) and Tories in the UK. But I was a remainer in relation to Brexit, even though the democratic deficit in Brussels disturbs me greatly. But I was in favour of fighting from within the EU.

      And I was appalled by Theresa May’s failure to visit a single victim yesterday — and that was two days after the fire. I see she is visiting many of the homeless centers today, after a huge fuss in the media, and after being up-staged by Corbyn. (And just between you and me, I have to swallow hard to stomach Corbyn. He who spent 30 years refusing to go along with official Labour policy, but who now will not tolerate dissent. He who also said he would not have fought Nazi soldiers had they invaded the UK during WWII but would have offered them a cup of tea. No me!)


      Comment by theotheri — June 16, 2017 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

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