You have to be made of strong stuff not to have been deeply affected by footage of the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London. I could barely watch it, finding myself sick to the stomach in a way that I haven’t been since September 11th, 2001. Twenty-four hours after the fire started, the final death toll is not yet known and Fire Officers are talking in terms of weeks for this to be established, giving some idea of the unimaginable job they face. Once again, we find our emergency services doing their utmost to save lives while putting their own in jeopardy. The reaction of the local community has been magnificent, the level of support has been astounding, but it doesn’t take away from the reality that several hundred families have lost loved ones, friends and their homes. I’m finding it hard to comment on it. Some of the articles I’ve read and the interviews I’ve seen contain the words of very angry people and the fallout from this will be immense, I’m sure. The shock and trauma will continue to ripple through the community and they are going to need a great deal of care long after the last news camera has moved on to the next event.
In just a few days time, it will be a year since those who voted to leave the EU prevailed by 4% over those who wanted to remain. Whereas some have been almost holding parties in the street to celebrate what they achieved (nobody knows what that is, yet); for me, and I suspect a great many others, accepting the result of the vote is one thing, but the reality of how its left us feeling is quite another. With the outcome of last week’s general election the country is now making course corrections for this EU-less destination and its forcing me to make some course corrections of my own. I can no longer worry about things I can’t control, I’m going to have to leave that to someone else. I have to narrow my focus, reduce it down to what I can tangibly affect the outcome of, or else I will continue to feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.
Shock makes us think and for a while afterwards there is a community cohesion and a willingness to embrace change for the good. But, we inevitably fall back if we don’t continue to embed those new habits that keep us talking and working together. Last year, in the run-up to the referendum, we were all horrified by the shooting of the MP Jo Cox. This week, her husband Brendan’s book is out. It’s called More in Common. Alongside it, he’s promoting the Great Get Together, an opportunity for communities to come together. Social media is great, but there are acknowledged problems; one being an increasing sense of isolation and another is that we tend only to hear like-minded voices. We rarely stray out of our online bubbles to listen to the views of other people. I’m as guilty as anyone for doing it and that’s one of the things that has to change. It’s not going to happen overnight, but nothing will change if we don’t continue to talk about it and act on it.