I have just been reading about how six londoners videoed a bonfire they made in their back garden on which they burned an effigy of Grenfell Tower, the block of flats that was destroyed in a real blaze a couple of years back and in which 72 people died. I would have liked to read a neutral account of the video and make up my own mind how I felt about it but I never got the chance. In pretty much every article the stunt was described as ‘sickening’ and the men were ‘thugs’ and the article’s view then became my view, so easily influenced am I.
I watched part of the video the men had posted online but even after two minutes I got bored and switched it off. Though I have no idea what these men are like in person I suspect they are no worse than the kind of Brits I come across every day at the pub or in my local Indian restaurant: loud, coarse and determined everyone see and hear that they are having a good time. Their wives and girlfriends are pretty much the same.
On the other hand I was amazed that they had gone to so much trouble to make a mock-up of the tower. The kind of people who really depress me are those who never take trouble with anything – what my old headmaster used to call ‘not-botherers’. I myself would not have put any effort at all into realising in cardboard such a crumby joke, which should have remained a fleeting, guilty thought that once shot momentarily through a Londoner’s mind and then disappeared again, like a shooting star.
And there I go. I felt duty-bound just then to describe the joke as ‘crumby’ in case someone misreads this as a defense of the men’s actions. I have no idea if I could defend their actions. I just want to know how I would have felt if I hadn’t been told beforehand how I should feel i.e. ‘sickened’ by ‘thugs’.
Had I read a more neutral account I suspect I wouldn’t have been very outraged. Instead I would probably have compared it to all the other bad things that happen on a daily basis in England: someone getting punched for no reason; an old lady’s purse getting stolen; someone denting a parked car and just driving off; people pushing their way to the front of the queue ahead of physically weaker people; drunks swearing at passers-by; men pissing in shop doorways; groups of youths laughing when an old person shuffles past; scum bags spitting on the floor of a bus or on a child’s bicycle seat, as I once saw in Barcelona. These latter affronts to decency are because they are unavoidable, unless of course you want to stay indoors all day. At least with this Youtube video you can click off it, as I did.