Owen Jones has written a decent article here, but it doesn’t go far enough, in This Writer’s opinion.
Take this practice of “othering”. We know that it still happens today – the most obvious example being the way people are encouraged to view people on long-term sickness and/or disability benefits as scroungers, skivers and so on.
Result: Crimes against the sick and disabled have increased – including offences that are not currently listed as crimes, but which may be viewed as criminal just the same.
I mean the way the Conservative Government treats the same sick and disabled people, with an inhuman assessment regime, ever-diminishing payments and sanctions.
These are justified by arguments that are, in effect, “the stripping away of humanity from a group of people”.
We see further evidence for this in the way the Conservative Government has treated the police.
Uniformed law officers were useful political tools in the 1980s. The argument was that they were simply keeping the peace, but the evidence shows clearly that they went far beyond this – on orders from the Home Office.
Now, police are no longer needed in the same way. They were useful for a while, but times have moved on. So they are starved of resources, their numbers cut, along with their pay and perks.
With so many people on benefits – many in-work – the Tories have a new stick with which to beat them – and a new army to carry out that work, based at Job Centre Plus.
You see what this means?
You were told the police were there to keep law and order. You are told that workers for the Department for Work and Pensions are there to provide the correct state benefits. Neither is accurate.
Under a Conservative government, both the police and the civil service exist to suppress the population.
You are made to live in fear because of the way the Tories use them against you – and they are allowed to believe they can do anything they like without repercussions, because that’s what the Tories promise them: Unaccountability.
Until they stop being useful, of course.
And then who gets the blame? The police. The civil servants.
Never the Tories.
You see how this works?
Yes, there will be a noisy consensus that the unlawful deaths of 96 Liverpool fans was a terrible tragedy, but it will be treated as a throwback to a bygone era: we’ve moved on; lessons have been learned; the families have truth and justice; let prosecutions follow; let no more be said.
That is dangerous. Hillsborough was a story of two things: unaccountable power colliding with “othering”: the stripping away of humanity from a group of people. Both continue to scar our society, and both cause injustice.
A Hillsborough-style tragedy certainly does seem a lot less likely. Health and safety at football stadiums has been dramatically improved, and football has been upgraded to a “respectable” sport (alongside ticket price rises that leave the game unaffordable for too many).
Today, with the trade union movement no longer deemed a threat by government, the police are not as indispensable as they once were. The Tories have reduced their number, frozen their pay, and undermined their terms and conditions: basically, what they have done to other workers, but once did not dare when it came to the police.
And yet. Take the “othering”. If officers at Hillsborough had seen their families – or even well-to-do football fans from the home counties – pressed against those fences, their response would undoubtedly have been different. As humans, we have a huge potential capacity for empathy; but when we dehumanise a group of people, we can accept (or indeed inflict) cruelty.
A proper response to the Hillsborough inquest isn’t a complacent sigh of relief, a sense of putting injustice behind us. Instead it must surely mean a renewed determination to challenge unaccountable power and dehumanisation. If we fail to do so, many more families will be forced to spend years of their lives fighting for truth and justice.
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