It all started twenty years ago. I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday. Usually that meant a lie-in. Yet on the morning of the 31st August 1997 it was different, on that date Sunday mornings changed forever. The usual sequence of events was violated. On that day my mother abruptly roused me from my slumber, earlier than usual, something bad had happened. I registered anguish, pain and sorrow. Someone I knew had obviously died.
It was the day Princess Diana died. I didn’t know Diana personally and, looking back, I recall not caring that much – I was only thirteen after all. Will cricket on the park be cancelled, I wondered? Then the memories fade. I only mention this, because in my mind, that’s the definite date that these mass orchestrated displays of public empathy started. Of course it’s now a common breakfast routine – an English tradition along with bacon butties, beans on toast and suicide bombing.
That was August 1997, but this is 2017. Empathy is one thing, but now increasingly public reaction, opinion and indeed anger to serious society-changing events is being managed. We’ve moved on from empathy management – it’s now the era of anger management.
Take the horrific events of the past three months. In every case public reaction has been closely monitored and managed. We are told to hope not hate, to carry on, to sing ‘don’t look back in anger’, to be passive spectators, a hash tag on twitter, a face in a crowd of mourners. Then the game changed, the Grenfell tower burnt to the ground – and everything was exposed in the ugly charred mess. Islamic terror has a predictable routine and that’s fine, get used to it – but not this time. A poorly maintained matchstick masquerading as a block of flats was not part and parcel of living in a modern global city, and surely not one which imports cheap labour and masquerades it all in the name of diversity, no matter how horrendous the living conditions.
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