London Isn’t Very Equal (Part Two) – To Tower Hamlets

London remains scandalously unequal
London remains scandalously unequal

Click here for Part One

From London and its most gentrified and fake, we go the city at its poorest and most raw.

Leaving gentrified Bermondsey, we went to visit another friend. We knew Compadre #2 from school days in Somerset, when she was a warm, caring, alternative type who wrote and sang her own songs. She still is warm, caring and alternative, thankfully, but has chucked in the guitar and the lashings of emo-standard black eyeliner for a job in a small music promotions company.

It’s laughable to look back on now – especially given where we’d just come from – but at school we called her ‘posh’. She lived in a slightly nicer part of town and her dad had a reasonably well-paid job. In truth, they were just about middle class, and probably didn’t bring in a whole lot more than the average household income.

Now she lives in Tower Hamlets, one of the most glaringly unequal parts of the country, let alone London. It’s hugely deprived – 42% of its children are impoverished, the highest proportion anywhere in Britain, and its richest inhabitants live about 11 years longer than its poorest ones. But it’s just a few minutes east of the oligarch’s den itself, the City, and the gleaming phalluses of the bank buildings dominate the horizon. A relatively small number of super-rich residents pull the borough’s average income up to £58,000 a year – the second-highest in the country – and its proximity to the biggest financial hub outside Wall Street gives it an economy worth £68bn. Its house prices have gone up a mind-bending 43% since last year. Continue reading “London Isn’t Very Equal (Part Two) – To Tower Hamlets”

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Grisly Arithmetic – ignorance, apathy and humanitarian disaster

starving-children1The Bemolution is staunch in its grouchy belief that the worst thing about civilisation is how sickeningly easy it is for one group of human beings to ignore the abject suffering of another. Horrendously, it’s not just socially acceptable to ignore the suffering of others – determined ignorance is society’s default position.

Bawling about injustice, inequality, poverty and war is a highly adaptable way of committing conversational suicide in an excellent range of social situations. For disastrously many, far-off suffering just doesn’t compute. People are puzzled at the notion they should know or care about humanitarian catastrophe, let alone try and do something about it. We’re conditioned not to criticise the world we find ourselves in beyond impotently grumbling, and we shrink from anything too bleak or upsetting that might make us question the way things are.

Given what goes on on our planet, this is very bad. It’s this blog’s position that a less horrific world, if it ever arrives, isn’t just going to be about dry economics. Bypassing our ingrained individual selfishness would require nothing less than a grand, socialism-enabling ethical overhaul – more specifically, a major compassion transfusion.

And thus, to further its pseudo-Buddhist fixation with suffering, the Bemolution is going to start a new item on the reasons why the world needs to shoved, firmly, in a less humanly disastrous direction.

Crudely, it’s going to have a go at roughly working out just how many members of our species have died unnecessarily over the previous 30 days or so, and how many are wobbling on the brink. It will try and highlight particularly grotesque humanitarian crises in an effort to spread the word. And it will spend considerable time moping about the horror of it all.

Forcing yourself to dwell on the suffering of others, no matter how personally unpleasant that might be for you as an individual, is a most vigorous way of exercising your empathy muscles. Buddhists have been doing it for over a thousand years.

Trying to comprehend the anguish of other people, and imagining yourself and those you like in those same terrible situations, is a way of training yourself to be more compassionate – and, on the side, of battering down the daft cultural barriers that mean we don’t see far-flung suffering as our concern, and only show basic human decency within driving distance, if that.

And now, to end, the Bemolutionary theme tune.