An egotistical take on the Grenfell fire
I don’t often watch TV news, but I did see the Panorama programme on Monday, which provided an overview of last Wednesday’s disaster, its surrounding circumstances and causes.
Of course this is early days to judge, but I imagine that everybody who watched the programme, and nearly everybody who’s been following events, will have experienced the following emotions pretty strongly:
- sympathy for the homeless and bereaved
- awed admiration for the ordinary people and organisations who provided immediate help
- shock that such a thing could happen in Britain in 2017
- anger and disgust at the authorities who apparently showed such complacency about safety; such disregard for complaints and warnings; and such unwillingness to provide basic support and assistance to those who had suffered so horrifically, and for whose situation they were responsible.
The anger in London and elsewhere is very strong. There is a wise article by Deborah Orr in the Guardian for 17th June saying that unbridled anger is not necessarily helpful or constructive, and I agree with her, but that’s not what I want to say here.
I felt all the emotions listed above, but I also felt another one, familiar to me. This is pity for the perpetrators.
I don’t usually sympathise greatly with terrorists and other murderers. But when death or disaster has been caused through someone’s carelessness, recklessness or error, I tend to feel sorry for them, imagining their feelings of guilt, and the abuse they’re likely to receive on conventional and social media. Social workers who fail to notice the lies of child-abusers, for example. People who knock down and kill children while distracted by their mobile, or even while speeding or drunk. Even bankers whose over-large bonuses are exposed in the press.
I’m a member of a political party that does rather thrive on anger, and sometimes I struggle, a la Tim Farron, to reconcile this with the Christian duty to love enemies.
So it would be nice to think that the part of me that pities the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, and is uneasy about the scenes of furious people shouting in the Council foyer, is motivated by Christian love and proves that I am a wonderful person.
But no, this time I really don’t think so. (The wonderful people are the ones organising donations of supplies on the streets.)
I feel sorry for the managers because at bottom, as a former lawyer, as a very law-abiding citizen, as a middle-class person who’s always lived comfortably and respectably, I identify with them. I identify, not exactly with perpetrators, but with government and authority rather than with victims.
I can more easily visualise myself making a catastrophic mistake that ruins someone’s life, than I can imagine being the person whose life is ruined.
Similarly, I tend to identify with the rich man in the parable in Luke chapter 16, rather than with Lazarus, which is of course why I find the parable frightening.
This is not admirable. This is not like Jesus. This time for once all (or very nearly all) my sympathy should have been with the true victims.
Love from the PPI Blogger