The democratic right to protest has no place in a democratic society. There is a far more profitable solution to the Grenfell tragedy.

by richardhutton

Your home burns down, you lose everything, your relatives are missing. Few people would begrudge a measure of discontent in such circumstances – but the stiff upper-lip has always been the British way; and must be maintained, for the good of a civilized country. It doesn’t do to be disobliging about these things.

Being upset about a tragedy is all well and good; but making a fuss simply goes too far. Quite wrong, I say, to make political capital out of this sort of incident, as well. After all, it’s just a natural fact of the world that landlords lease inflammable properties to people.

Very worrying, therefore, to see protesters raising a hue and cry. I even overheard one young ‘gentleman’ going so far as to cast aspersions upon the basic competence of local authorities. This went on for at least half a minute; and struck entirely the wrong tone.

It is not merely indecorous, but quite unbecoming. When you have been the victim of an inconvenience of one kind or another, you don’t take to the streets and protest – you take to the letter pages of the local newspaper, instead; and write a strongly-worded complaint, outlining your grievances in stiff terms if need be; but without personal reproach. Thus ensuring a satisfactory outcome for all parties, with no unpleasantness on either side. I see no reason why this should not apply to the conundrum of combustible human habitation, just as readily as it does to the tardiness of councils in addressing chronic problems with brusque tradesmen.

As for calls to rehouse people temporarily in empty properties – well, it beggars belief. Nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned park bench, I say. Speaking from personal observation, you could fit an entire family in a derelict shop doorway, in fact. You can’t say fairer than that.

The apportionment of any blame to landlords is equally misguided. It is a simple question of risk versus reward. We should wait until we can establish that it was actually a bad calculation to pare back the old red tape, before condemning anyone who made the tough but fair decision to save £2 per square meter on the cladding. £5,000 of savings may very well have prevented the loss of lives; but look at the bigger picture herein.

If it costs more to construct buildings to house the lower orders, then rents will rise; and people will be forced to live in smaller spaces – or at least ones which are far away. Some of them, in fact, may be forced to commute by walking further distances – and therefore place themselves at greater risk of being struck by lightning, should there happen to be a thunderstorm at the time. These things have to be taken into consideration.

Obviously, a solution is necessary, if we are to avoid similar incidents in the near future. True, conventional wisdom says prevention is the better part of cure; but commonsense offers a far more profitable way forward.

Few people are willing to exchange their personal convenience for lower fatalities among their distant neighbours; and we have to live within our means. Installing sprinkler-systems, fire-proofing buildings, expanding rescue services, providing fire-extinguishers, creating emergency exits which aren’t simply painted onto brick walls – these may all sound appealing, but they could very well upset the taxpayer. I fear public disorder would not be far behind. Or, at least, the newspapers would have an uncomplimentary thing or two to say; as is their democratic right.

What I propose, therefore, is to harness the power of the free-market. Adopt an entrepreneurial approach to matters. Use a bit of initiative. The whole Grenfell thing has given me an idea. Namely, that we take the poor, the destitute, the indigent and the impecunious; and use them as a source of renewable fuel.

There’s never any shortage of them to begin with, after all; and should the need arise we can always make more poor people. A limitless resource, in many ways, within our society. It would allow us to do our bit for the environment, too; as the poorer somebody is, the more carbon neutral they are.

According to an acquaintance of mine – who knows about these things – a young, underfed adult in their twenties accounts for no more than 8.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Very little is required by way of kindling, as well. Welcome news, I am sure, for any householders feeling the pinch by the end of the month; or even those who are simply frugal, as the times require.

There is a broader import, yet. The majority of hard-working and respectable people can only withstand so many demands upon their charity; before the wearisome task exhausts their goodwill. However, this venture would ensure that the poor need no longer be a burden on society. More importantly, they would not feel themselves to be so; and the full knowledge that they might prove a very serviceable resource for even the most homely fireplace or kitchen oven – and thereby contribute to the well-being of the elderly, during harsh winter months, for example – would obviously raise their self-esteem no end.

I see no reason why there can be no trade in this promising commodity, in fact. There is an abundance of low-quality housing, crowded with many occupants, throughout Britain; with abject squalor aplenty (admittedly, there is only relative abject squalor in our country; but the point remains applicable). Anyone with a flair for enterprise can surely apprehend the possibilities therein: a fair, cheap, and easy method of turning the poor into sound, productive members of our society.

Let it not be said that there are alternative modes of recourse open to us on this. We cannot simply rely upon governments to house people adequately; less still will improving the old health and safety reap dividends. Regulations are not like instant coffee – they take time to formulate; and would require a teaspoon the dimensions of a good-sized ship in order to stir them effectively into a large tower-block. Applying this method to every inadequate, high-rise dwelling place in the land would require further enormous teaspoons; and there is no warehouse large enough to store them all, so far as I am aware.

By contrast, requisitioning the poorest members of society, and turning them into a stockpile of ready-made fuel, offers a simple cure-all solution. For one thing, transforming people into a profitable produce would overcome the impossibility of paying rent without money.

In fact, the poverty-stricken would be actively welcomed by even the most reticent of landlords; once they realise they have a  perfectly salable commodity on their hands – at say £22, or perhaps £24 per square metre (taking the London differential into account). This would even make a virtue of obesity, where it exists among the malnourished. Indeed, while it falls beyond the scope of this proposal, the broader benefits to public health should not be overlooked by policy-makers.

The basic fact of the matter is that this proposal makes simple financial sense; and that is evidently the main thing for the preservation of a civilised, caring, and decent society. I have no motive beyond serving the public good; and barring the need for a refinement or two, I am confident this scheme will fulfill the purpose admirably.

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