“All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us” They Don’t Care About Us – Michael Jackson
Last weekend, “Britain’s Got Talent”, a show that I don’t personally watch, made headlines. It’s winner was a man with cerebral palsy. Today, I have seen many think pieces that ask whether England has turned a corner with regards to attitudes towards disabled people. To that I would say: settle down. Below is a small sample of headlines from the last couple of weeks from around the country:
As a society, we love to look at singular examples and pretend that they are indicative of the national mood. Just take the Royal Wedding that solved racism. We must stop trying to find the exception and suggesting it is the rule. If you are disabled, poor or an ethnic minority, life is objectively more difficult in this country. It can be difficult to get things that others take for granted, especially justice, and if you don’t believe me, I have a prediction for you: there will be no justice for those that lost their lives at Grenfell.
I desperately hope that I’m wrong, but I believe this tragedy will follow a depressingly familiar track and no amount of clever quips or quality journalism will change that. With Grenfell, I feel something akin to despair. My first post today is simply titled
“The Ballad of Grenfell”.
The 14th June is burned in my mind,
Poor people’s grief in the shadow of wealth,
In the scorching wreckage, a nation finds
Out some troubling things about itself,
‘A Tragedy’ is how it is described,
Which is true, but the word hides the scale
Of the offence. Its telling was transcribed
By tenants who said Grenfell would fail
When – not if – fire knocked at their front doors.
The landlords were playing dangerously
With the lives of the disabled and poor.
The worst thing it predicted? Famously:
“They can’t say that they haven’t been warned!” Why
Has this post, signed some months before the blaze,
Been forgotten? I’ve cried all I can cry
And TV keeps feeding my grief; it preys
On my sympathy, a steady diet
Of sombre presenters and broken lives,
Juxtaposing rage with eerie quiet
As we hear the names of husbands and wives,
And the subtle message is this my friends:
The vulnerable don’t receive justice,
They won’t get it when the inquiry ends,
“Lessons will be learned…we grieve…trust us”.
Winston Smith said that hope lies in the proles,
Then kicked a dead prole’s hand in the drain
He showed himself unable to console,
To empathise, to feel another’s pain,
The guilty are rich – and sadly, We know
Justice herself bends to those with money,
Their lawyers will find loopholes and then sow
Doubt…they’ll walk…it’s a joke but not funny.
Justice costs, but a wise woman told me,
We must fight for the change we want to see.