Power of silence. I was reminded about the power of silence when joining for a short time the silent walk in memory of the Grenfell fire. For all the disaster that it is, I can see how it has knitted the community in the North Kensington area together and while the divides ever-present in Kensington remain – I feel some people from all sides have crossed and those divides are being more critically examined. Whether it will amount to much is harder to judge. However, the North Kensington library has been saved for a community value use and pressure post Grenfell has been reported to have played its part (ES article). A few pictures below.
It also reminded me of the power of silence used as rhetoric in Emma Gonzalez’s remarkable speech advocating for gun control. See post on it here.
There has been scrutiny as to the scope of the Grenfell inquiry. (Inquiry site here) "The Grenfell Tower Inquiry will examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the fire at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017. It will establish the facts and will make recommendations as to the action needed to prevent a similar tragedy happening again."
While debates have centred around legal technicalities on the scope, it seems to me that it is the causal degrees to be investigated which are the underlying debate. The terms of reference centre around the immediate first order causes (Grenfell Inquiry terms of reference) whereas there is anger about the first order causes, there is perhaps more fury at the second and third order causes.
The first order causes centre around the cladding, the advice to stay in vs evacuate, and the poor state of repair of parts of the building. There will be debate as to if a sprinkler system would have helped. Although interlinked, in my view, all of those factors will be implicated as a first order cause.
The second order causes relate to council management of social housing, the unheard voices of social tenants and the race to the bottom for pricing on maintenance and construction work.
This level of causality is interlinked with the problems that Carillion has revealed on the poor state of subcontracted work. (This FT article on Carillion (behind paywall), and also see my posts on it here, go over some of the factors in play; plus the government report)
It is also interlinked with the problems of “ownerless companies” or “ownerless assets” which is an expression of the problems of investing for longer term benefits and value; and also the problem of investing into intangible values - the type of items which might be very valuable but hard to price in dollar terms such as the value of good design, communal spaces and deceptively simple matters such as sound proofing or fire proofing.
This then harks to a third order cause. The cultural and sociology-political structures that can over-emphasise well funded, well articulated special interest groups (cf. gun lobby in America) and processes and political decision makers that find it hard to invest in long term intangible matters that don’t relate to political cycles.
There is also likely some uniquely conflicted about land use and planning which pits landlords against tenants, and systemic vs local concerns, and historic elite land ownership. (Martin Wolf, economist, has argued for a Land Value Tax all the back in 2006)
No one wants a wind turbine near them, even if it would benefit the whole country or world.
No one on the edge of a green belt, would want the green belt restrictions loosened, even if that would ease housing and infrastructure pressure.
Few people next to an airport would want it expanded even if there were proven economic benefits to the rat of the country.
Still on the level of the first and second order causes, one solution is listen more closely to the people involved. Use primary evidence and don’t dismiss it.
This can be tough when those involved already feel marginalised or also don’t understand how to make their voice heard in the system.
A second solution is to attempt to put a value on the longer term intangible items which we are currently not pricing. Items such as great urban design with community consultation.
Will this cost more money upfront? Yes. But we should think of it as building more valuable long term assets and also saving us the cost of a Grenfell disaster and the conflicts such as riots that under investment causes.
The current Arts blog, cross-over, the current Investing blog. Cross fertilise, some thoughts on autism. Discover what the last arts/business mingle was all about (sign up for invites to the next event in the list below).
My Op-Ed in the Financial Times (My Financial Times opinion article) about asking long-term questions surrounding sustainability and ESG.
Some popular posts: the commencement address; by Nassim Taleb (Black Swan author, risk management philosopher), Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude.
How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man. On play and playing games.
A provoking read on how to raise a feminist child.