Grenfell Tower, Homelessness and cognitive dissonance.
Recently tragedy struck my hometown of London. On 14 June 2017 Grenfell Tower, a 24-storeyhigh rise tower block in North Kensington was gutted by fire, with multiple injured and at least 79 dead making this the deadliest fire in mainland Britain in more than 100 years. All the surviving families and some from the surrounding blocks have been made homeless as a result.
People from across London rallied to assist the survivors of the fire. The response saw people of all ages, races and social classes come together by donating food, water, toys, and clothes. Over the following week anger at the government grew as people looked for someone to blame for the unprecedented loss of life. Major criticisms of the government response drove people into action and soon the donations were so plentiful that the relief centres quickly filled with so many donations that some could not take anymore. This is an example of society at its best, it shows that there is a sense of community and with that amazing blitz spirit the people will come together in the face of a disaster. Images of blankets and water bottles piling up ran constantly on the news whilst newscasters praised the public response.
Why does it take a disaster of this magnitude to bring out the milk of human kindness in a society. Each year more people die on the streets of London through preventable homelessness and its associated problems (194 in 2015 according to the Guardian) than are known to have died in the Grenfell Tower fire.
In 2011 research into the age of death in homeless people carried out by the University of Sheffield and funded by the homeless charity Crisis found that the average homeless person has a life expectancy of 47, compared to 77 for the rest of the population: a startling difference of 30 years. The life expectancy for women was even lower, at just 43 years. Crisis has called on the government to address this by improving and prioritising health services for homeless people in NHS reforms.
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the distress that is experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. Cognitive dissonance can be a consequence of a person performing an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and/or values; it also occurs when people are confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values. I hope that this article creates cognitive dissonance and mental discomfort in my audience that thinks the public response has been amazing. It is merely an improvement on our very poor record at looking after the homeless and our everyday disregard for our fellow man. Whilst most of you will never have met and maybe never will meet a survivor of the Grenfell Tower fire most of you will pass a homeless person on the streets frequently and just walk on by. It is estimated that there are around 170,000 homeless on the streets of London and these people are dying every week.
Today, Wednesday 21st June 2017 there is a planned “Day of Rage” planned in London. The protest is to demand Justice for Grenfell Tower. It has been expanded to encompass the notion that there should be no coalition government as well. The leaflet below has been produced by Movement for Justice by any means necessary. This groups Wikipedia entry states that it: “was set up in 1995 by people around the Kingsway College Student Union in the London Borough of Camden to tackle racism in institutional and established forms. The group confronted organised fascism as well as death in custody and wider racism to black people as well as travellers, refugees and asylum seekers.
The leaflet states that there should be a class war – no justice, no peace; bring down the government. This leads me to ask what exactly are the protests about? Has peoples justified horror at the events and desire to help been hijacked by left wing groups who’s aim is class war rather than to improve the situation for the victims? Is there any desire to do anything about homelessness in the wider sense?
I feel that there should be some sense of intellectual consistency when getting outraged. If you plan to protest on the day – I hope you seek to put as much effort in to preventing homelessness in general and look at societies wider issues and give them equal consideration rather than just joining in with a group hellbent on the destruction of the current system. If you truly wish to make a change, you can start today. Rather than protesting you can start taking some affirmative action – and help stop homelessness today. Click the link below for more information on ways to make a difference.