Pride of Britain…

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As I write this, five men have been arrested in connection with the burning of a Grenfell Tower effigy at a bonfire party last weekend. There has been widespread condemnation from the Prime Minister downwards and across all the usual social media commentators. It is undeniably a grossly insensitive act, but sadly one which doesn’t really surprise me in the current climate. I can think of a few people I know that would have found this despicable thing funny. I remember, as the horror unfolded early on the morning of June 14th, live pictures in my office showing the smoke and flames billowing from the burning building. Even then, people around me saw fit to make comments like, “It’s okay, they’re all illegal immigrants in there anyway” and “Benefit scroungers, they won’t be missed”. Society, to me, is now more uncaring than it has ever been, certainly in my lifetime, even under the worst excesses of the “I’m alright, Jack” days of Britain in the 1980s, under Margaret Thatcher. The pall of confusion that has befallen the nation as a result of the Brexit referendum, where nobody knows what they have won or refuses to accept the result, without suggesting an alternative has led to uncertainty about the future, which is translating to fear. And so, people feel empowered to be more racist, more misogynistic, more homophobic, more distrustful in general. Since 9/11, it seems all Muslims should somehow bear responsibility for the terrorist acts done by a tiny minority in the name of their religion in a way that Catholics were never held to account when the IRA were blowing up Harrods and pubs in Guildford and Birmingham a few decades before. A culture of not caring, about throwing people on the scrapheap has seeped down from top level government, where the Home Office was happy to create an environment of hostility, to underfund public services, for encouraging corporate greed and letting them put profit over people. The sick and the weak are vilified as burdens, anyone of a different persuasion is viewed as suspicious. We have gone backwards in a very short space of time. We care more about who wore what on the red carpet at the Pride of Britain Awards, than who won for what achievement. Education, facts and knowledge are now not regarded as important to the argument. Last night was Bonfire Night, but I wonder just how many people knew exactly what they were celebrating (the overthrow of a terrorist plot in 1605 by religious fanatics, with foreign backing, to destroy Parliament, assassinate the monarch and impose a new regime and laws shaped by their own religious beliefs, fyi) and last week, were we all solemnly remembering the saints (hallows), martyrs and all the faithfully departed? No, Hallowe’en is pumpkins and trick or treating, Bonfire Night is fireworks, hot dogs and burning a “Guy” or indeed any other effigy we think might be amusing or funny.  

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