Category Archives: Departments, Autumn 2017

Review: Can Stories Counter Hate Speech?

London Reader, Summer Issue: The Hate Speech Monologues

Given the recent political climate in the United States, hate speech has been thrust into the media spotlight once again. This makes the current issue of the London Reader both incredibly timely and extremely poignant. While this issue was released before the August events that put hate speech back on the front pages, it provides a worthwhile background for understanding racism and hate in the contemporary climate.

While each issue of the London Reader typically features creative writing united around a central theme (past issues have been devoted, respectively, to the genre of cyberpunk, stories of migration, and stories of love in the 21st century), this issue delves into the political realm with true stories that portray the genuine human effects of hate crimes on individuals, proving once again the old adage that the personal is political.

This issue is based on the Hate Speech Monologues that are produced in Budapest each year, featuring true, personal monologues that originally appeared on stage. In print, these stories remain incredibly powerful: from personal experiences of the effects of mass murder, to a woman’s meditation on her grandmother’s experience of racism during WWII in Soviet Russia, to people’s stories of escaping genocide, these compelling works of creative non-fiction have a lasting effect.

While this issue had the potential to remain in the emotional realm of personal stories, the addition of thought-provoking interviews with acclaimed American historian Ibram X. Kendi and renowned legal theorist Theodore M. Shaw, as well as the special introduction from Michael Ignatieff, former leader of Canada’s Official Opposition, propel it well beyond, providing a political and historical background to hate speech that grounds the reader in the real world of policy while also providing possible solutions to a problem that is plaguing contemporary America and the world.

While the creative writing is emotionally moving, The Global Intelligence looks forward to more installments from the London Reader focusing on such thought-provoking political topics as the Hate Speech Monologues issue. The next number of the London Reader will feature creative writing and interviews on the subject of mental health, another topic whose troubled policy dimensions are an ongoing concern.

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Op-Ed: Grenfell is a Reminder

The Grenfell Tower disaster is both a symbol and a result of misplaced priorities.

By Alexander H. Maurice.

Late at night on June 14, a small fire in an apartment in a tower block in West London began to spread and quickly engulfed the entire 24-floor building. The fire burned all throughout the night and the next day. Some people escaped the flames by leaping to their deaths; others suffocated or burned alive in their homes. So far, 80 deaths have been confirmed, but members of the local community as well as Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott say the true number is likely in the hundreds, including unaccounted-for friends and relatives who were at Grenfell Tower that night. The actual toll may not be known until the end of the year, as police officers complete their searches of the destroyed tower and the heartrending, complex task of identifying the dead.

Many questions are now being asked about how this could have happened. On the purely physical level, it has been established that the cladding on the exterior of the building was not fire-proof and therefore spread the flames from apartment to apartment. Ensuring that it was fire-resistant would have cost the local council the grand total of an additional £5,000; instead, in the name of economy, it used a type of cladding that was already banned in the United Kingdom. Some people maintain that the main reason the cladding was installed in the first place was to disguise the building’s dereliction from its wealthy neighbors. Although it is the cladding that has filled media reports, there were many other fire safety issues with the tower. There were no sprinklers in the building, and the main gas pipe went up the central staircase. Nor was there a fire escape. Local residents had raised these issues with the council multiple times, but were ignored, and some were even threatened with legal suits if they continued their campaign for improved safety. The spread of the fire, from one apartment to the next, up the entire building, was entirely preventable. Many analysts are calling this tragedy the tangible result of contractors and inspectors ignoring the so-called “red-tape” of important government fire and safety regulations.

The building was owned by Kensington and Chelsea Council, and many of the tenants had been housed there by the council as part of social housing. The people living in the building were among the poorest in what is otherwise one of the wealthiest boroughs in London. Many families who escaped the inferno are now homeless. Some have been offered temporary accommodation by the borough, but others have been asked to leave their temporary accommodation. Some have been left sleeping in cars and parks. With their home a burned-out shell, these families don’t know where they will be able to live.

The leader of the official opposition party, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, has called for the now homeless survivors to be housed in vacant dwellings in the borough. According to the Independent, there are 1,399 vacant dwellings nearby. These are luxury flats bought mainly by foreign millionaires, not to be lived in, but as investments. As property prices continue to soar in a massive bubble in London, the investment properties gain value just by sitting empty. Most of these buildings are registered to firms based in the British Virgin Islands or Bermuda, allowing their owners to avoid paying taxes, according to Private Eye.

The council must now rehouse many families made homeless by the fire, and housing them in the available stock of empty homes in the borough is a sound option. In fact, according to U.K. Government YouGov poll, it is supported by 59 percent of the British public. The U.K. has a long history of making use of empty properties. During World War Two, large parts of London were destroyed by German bombing, so many U.K. soldiers returned homeless. Some housed themselves in empty homes or deserted military bases.

After the fire, tests have been carried out on tower blocks around the U.K. So far, all of the more than 60 high-rises inspected have been found to violate health and safety guidelines. On the orders of the Fire Department, Camden council in North London had to immediately evacuate 5,000 residents in the middle of the night over fears that what happened at Grenfell could happen there. For years, in the name of austerity, the U.K. government has cut funding to the councils, imposing drastic reductions in funding to services for the most vulnerable, and the social housing properties they own have been neglected as a result. Many are not up to fire code. As councils around the country scramble to test and strip flammable cladding off the tower blocks, the question of what will happen to their residents remains. One thing is clear: to house the poor in fire traps is a moral monstrosity. Buildings must adhere to fire and safety regulations, and if residents are currently at risk, they should be temporarily re-housed in the thousands of vacant investment properties owned by off-shore firms. The burned out skeleton of Grenfell Tower stands over the city as a stark reminder of what happens when greed is prioritized over human life.

To read more articles from the Autumn 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.

Alexander H. Maurice is the London Correspondent of The Global Intelligence.

Editor’s Comment

In Memory of Probir Kumar Sarkar.

With this issue, we pay our respects to the memory of Probir Kumar Sarkar, founder and Executive Editor of The Global Intelligence, who passed away unexpectedly in April.

Mr. Sarkar had a long and respected history as a journalist, writing for the Wall Street Journal Asia and India Today in Delhi before relocating to the United States in 1990, where he joined the staff of the Hollywood Reporter and worked as the U.S. Foreign Correspondent for Organizer Weekly. He was a longtime contributor to Reason magazine, from which he took his motto: “Free minds and free markets.” Having fled the partition of East Pakistan as a child, Mr. Sarkar grew up in India in the shadow of the Cold War and migrated to North America. With the view that democratic freedom brings with it responsibility, he chose to pursue that responsibility as a journalist, holding politicians to account and keeping a spotlight on the risks to liberty in the world at large. After immigrating to Canada with his family, he founded The Global Intelligence with the vision of presenting a balanced and international perspective on global affairs for the leaders and decision-makers of the world. Over the past six years, I worked closely with Mr. Sarkar on The Global Intelligence, and I know that he dedicated himself to providing our readers with a timely and practical analysis of world events that managed to combine a respect for free markets, human rights, and the democratic process.

The Global Intelligence represents not only the culmination of Mr. Sarkar’s life’s work, but also a dream that he carried with him for a long time. His dream was that, through engagement and discussion, investigation and analysis, the world could be better informed to face the decisions of its future and avoid the horrors of its past. It is in the spirit of this vision that The Global Intelligence will continue on now with this Autumn 2017 edition.

In the penultimate Editor’s Comment that Mr. Sarkar penned for The Global Intelligence, he wrote the following: … We march on under the banner of truth, supported not by clicks, advertising, government, or big business … critical of every government when it falters and every political ideology when it oversteps realities … we renew our pledge to be a pioneer of truth and humanity.

As the globe navigates uncertain waters, The Global Intelligence will hold steady to that pledge. This issue is dedicated to the memory of Probir Kumar Sarkar, a champion of the value of truth and thought, and we hereby rededicate The Global Intelligence to the values that he established and that are so crucial in our present era.

If you have a moment to hold in memory of a visionary journalist, please reflect on the value and importance of Mr. Sarkar’s dream in the world today.

— Benjamin Bruce Hayward
Acting Editor