The latest tragedy to befall the United Kingdom, a country that has had a grip on headlines in the last year, concerns a fire that consumed Grenfell Tower. The building consisted of public housing flats, and the disaster claimed 80 lives, with the number set to rise.
The flames themselves are symbolic of the hellish potentialities of late capitalism and rampant privatization.
These individuals—among them working class Brits, asylum seekers and people of color—did not have to die. Instead, they are tragic victims of their government and the monstrous economic policies adopted in the last several decades.
Public housing, reserved for those most in need, isn’t something to be left in the hands of private companies.
I can hear the age-old capitalistic counter-argument now: “leaving public housing in the hands of companies creates competition, hence better conditions for those seeking shelters.” Wrong.
In the months leading up to the fire, residents of the flats were insistent on the “dangerous living conditions” they faced, which included only having one escape route, the odd placement of boilers and gas pipes and the lack of a building-wide fire alarm or sprinkler system.
The Grenfell Action Group, an organization dedicated to housing rights, were quoted back in November as saying only a “catastrophic event” could expose the ineptitude of the Kensington and Chelsea Management Organization, the landlord of residents at Grenfell Tower.
The GFA, formed in 2010, maintains a blog in which it documents the ongoing struggle of “mostly working class, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic” residents.
Robert Black—the recently resigned chief executive of the KCTMO—and other high-ranking KCTMO officials, should be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Not heeding the concerns of their clients, many of whom can no longer speak for themselves, is a gross negligence of housing and human rights.
This disaster has brought to light inequality in the United Kingdom, which is only worsened through austerity measures, subcontracting construction jobs, and ignorant politicians.
If the KCTMO was removed from the hands of murderous landlords and put under the auspices of resident committees elected by residents themselves, safety concerns and ever-rising rents can be responded to. The Grenfell Fire, though without much precedent in the West, is an inevitable reality as density and privatization continues to rise in city centers.
When you think of late capitalism and where it is dragging us, picture the 6-month-old infant found dead in her mother’s arms in the hell that was London on June 14.
– Rudy Martinez is a philosophy senior