Thinking about Grenfell Tower

It’s impossible to stop thinking about the fire at Grenfell Tower. And what has happened to residents and to neighbours.

But that’s not the only reason to post this, I am posting this more as a commitment.

The brilliant Bush Theatre, and other community organisations local to Grenfell Tower, have been finding ways to support in the aftermath.

Most have been emphasising how important it is for any support to be in line with what residents and neighbours need, seeking to amplify their concerns, not create new ones.

In this spirit, last Sunday morning, Madani Younis (Artistic Director of the Bush) and Mark Thomas, organised a meeting for people to come together to explore ways to support, a gathering which is going to keep happening.

Every time I think about this fire, I keep returning to a question: how have we found ourselves in a place where a local authority, established by the people for the people, to govern and care, has passed on its duty of care to others, with such catastrophic results?

There is an emerging campaign to ensure the terms of reference for the public inquiry reflect the concerns of residents and neighbours. There are huge questions to answer about fire prevention, containment, crisis management and victim support.

But even without an official investigation, it is already clear, from what’s happened on the ground, that duty of care has calamitously broken down. Decisions, before and after the fire, have placed a group of citizens in peril. How have we let this happen?

Stepping back from the immediate events around the fire, what has gone so wrong with our system which has led us to a point where duty of care has broken down in the first place? What has gone wrong politically, socially and corporately?

If we trace back from the specific decisions about the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, how far should we go back to find the catalytic moments when our system changed – and we began to create an environment in which duty of care could fail so disastrously?

Do we go back years to find those decisions, or even decades?

In terms of our wider system, we are all complicit to some degree. We have all voted or not voted. We have all said things or not said things. We have all stood up for people or not stood up for people.

And in this moment we cannot just pass the buck between different groups of people.

That is the very thing that killed people in Grenfell Tower.

We have to take responsibility that we have all been complicit in creating a system which has led to this moment.

So maybe we have to get better at understanding the complexities of our wider system, in order to understand how we have got to Grenfell. And in order to rebuild duty of care between one group of citizens and another.

If this is about understanding a complex interconnected system, perhaps we need to come together as community organisations, architects, contractors, building regulation teams, council officers, social and political historians, and others, to trace back steps from the specific decisions made about Grenfell Tower’s refurbishment, to a wider set of political, social and corporate decisions made in recent decades?

Seeking to understand different decisions that have created a gravely flawed system that’s led to the way that Grenfell Tower residents have been treated.

I expect some paths will lead back to Westminster, some to K&C Council, some to corporate practice, to custom and practice, to community organisations.

We might just begin to create a visual picture of some of the key decisions and behaviours that have happened, over time, which have contributed to a breakdown in our duty of care for one another.

The inquests or inquiry, we can only hope, will hold people and organisations to account for Grenfell.

Perhaps there is also a broader socio-political-economic piece of thinking to look at what’s gone wrong with our system? – and to go about this in a collaborative, creative way?

It is clear that whatever we each choose to do, individually or collectively, to support, this is not something that we can care about now, for the next few weeks, and then allow to fade.

So I am writing this post as a commitment to myself to take action, over months and over years, to better understand what’s gone wrong with our system, and our processes, and to try and do my bit to change them.

 

 

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