On becoming leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council a month after the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, Elizabeth Campbell promised change. In a brief speech to fellow councillors and victims of the fire in July, Campbell used the word ‘change’ eleven times. Considering Campbell’s own role in the council’s sustained asset strip of North Kensington, the words were never convincing. But they were rendered meaningless in January when the council tried to sell a vital community building to property developers to build flats for the rich. In failing to push through the sale, the Conservative council now looks weaker than ever.
Early this year K & C council were moving full steam ahead with their plans to sell Canalside House, home to numerous local charities, community groups, small businesses, and a hub of support for victims of the June 14th fire. Plans to sell the historic building on Ladbroke Grove and move its residents to a wholly unsuitable replacement on Latimer Road were put on hold following the fire, after resident organisations pointed out to the council that they had been filling in the gaps vacated by the local authority in providing emergency relief work and supporting the North Kensington community.
How do we know about the plans to sell? A council scrutiny committee meeting was filmed and posted online (the Canalside section starts after two hours). The details are in this Urban Dandy article.
An Executive Decision was issued by the council: Canalside was to be sold to developers to build flats, none of which would be social housing or realistically affordable for most people.
In addition, the move, which was instigated in 2016 by the sleight of hand of disgraced former deputy leader of the council, Rock Feilding-Mellen, was an existential threat to most of the Canalside residents as they would be unable to operate in an absurd hot-desking arrangement, in a small building, away from decent transport links.
The 2018 decision to sell Canalside represented a resumption of long-standing policies of asset-stripping community resources and properties in North Kensington. After a short post-fire hiatus, the council’s true agenda was back: a shock doctrine for a community reeling and traumatised.
At the January committee meeting, the council, represented by Deputy Leader Kim Taylor-Smith, Councillor Matthew Palmer and Director of Corporate Property, Richard Egan, told a series of lies to try to push the sale through. They lied about having consulted residents, they lied about the residents’ feedback, they lied about the state of the building. They closed ranks and derided the whimper of dissent from the Labour councillors present as “a banal conversation”. Drawing on vast reserves of conceit, they huffed at the tepid opposition, they puffed at the questions, but they could not blow Canalside House down…or strip it from the community and gift it to property developers. Behind the bluster, something was wrong, something had changed.
The three men at the council meeting displayed the presumption of divine right that Conservative Party toffs love to lord over their supposed inferiors. The bullying tactics they employed were as chilling to observers as the decision itself.
Following a tyrannical templete: they attempted to achieve something clearly against the interests of the population; behaved as if it was in the interests of the population; ridiculed any opposition to the plan; hung on to the last possible moment; then when the diabolical plan was no longer politically viable, abandoned it and stated that there was never any intention of doing it really, claiming that they are in fact wholehearted, community-minded folk just like you ‘n’ me.
How did these people survive, politically, the national disaster of the Grenfell Tower fire and their botched response? They were propped up by the desperate minority national government, no doubt. But these individuals, remarkable only in their unremarkableness, have clung to power in Kensington, despite being apparently responsible for a political agenda that wrapped Grenfell Tower in highly flammable material in pursuit of profit, threatened legal action against residents who warned of the fire risk, and then left the community itself to marshal the emergency response.
What makes these well-to-do politicians want to stay in what is, ostensibly at least, pubic service? The answer may be that they are broken people, empathy driven out of them first by the private education system, then by a fanatical belief in capital and wealth. Kensington became a goldmine, rather than a community. To retain a sense of self, and to maintain their positions of power, which come with lucrative spin-off careers, these politicians are required to tell lies to their constituents on behalf of the people they truly serve: the obscenely wealthy, often referred to as the one percent. The council of Kensington and Chelsea are the class enemies of most residents the borough, certainly those in North Kensington.
Before we are accused of descending in to a speculative polemic, let’s get back to what is not up for debate…
How the Sale was Stopped
The residents of Canalside House and the Kensington and Chelsea Social Council wrote to the councillors expressing their unanimous rejection of the plans to sell the building and relocate residents. On the evening of Thursday February 8th, Urban Dandy published the story, detailing the objections of the residents and exposing the deceit of the council. The article was soon disseminated by local activists and there was a furious online response from the local population.
Overnight, the council did a 360. High level meetings were cancelled; concerned people of power expressed their alarm to RBKC, and soon anybody involved was receiving emails like this:
I don’t know where they got my email address from, but the message was understood: stop telling people the truth. The propaganda I received came as a relief. Canalside was no longer being sold and the council publicly committed to its refurbishment. The building’s virtues were extolled by the same local government that had, so recently and so avariciously, written it off.
Dandies 1 Tories 0 So, the lies told to try to force the sale of a vital community asset were followed by lies so transparent as to lead concerned local residents to ask what is really going on. Why don’t they just state that they would love to sell off North Kensington’s community spaces but politically it is no longer viable? A whole community, seen as heroic by many after the response to the Grenfell fire, is being fobbed off with press releases and propaganda. They are trying to ‘manage’ us and our expectations. But we are not to be managed…
If Urban Dandy and a few committed community organisations can scare the Tory council into abandoning a multi-million pound property plan, think what North Kensington can achieve if it speaks with one voice. The council’s conceit was exposed: not only do they lack the talent and vision to run the borough, but they are also seriously wounded, politically, and now is the time to make demands and set an agenda for creating a thriving North Kensington for us and our children. Now is the time for vigilance and reckoning.
While the community has been forced to put in the hours to save Canalside, demand justice for Grenfell and hold the council to account, RBKC’s cabinet has continued to waste their lives in service to a rapacious agenda they probably cannot even identify, so profoundly internalised has it become. It is known to many as neo-liberalism, and it is deadly.
The local council and the Tory media want to “regain the trust” of the North Kensington population, but that is an unrealistic and ultimately meaningless goal. The issue is not trust, it is power. The Canalside capitulation tells us two things about the Conservatives in Kensington:
– They cannot be trusted – They are weak and scared of your power
Kensington and Chelsea council have repeatedly claimed to have changed tack following the Grenfell Tower disaster. The community has called their bluff, and we have our collective foot on their neck. They can be booted out of office at the local election on May 3rd if enough people register to vote.
Perhaps, in a desperate late attempt to cling to power, the council leader will invoke the concept of change another eleven times. For her it is an abstraction, a word to be used to manipulate and deceive. For the North Kensington community, change is something we need and it is now something we now hold in our hands.
‘Those who would give up Essential Liberty
to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.‘
If I were a little more ignorant, this writing would have been entitled Big Brother or something as clichéd as that but, I find ‘Big’ is too large a word to attribute to a mind so small that it would entertain the petty ambition of extracting information from those who are unaware of the consequences of giving it, under the guise of convenience. This sounds like the mischievous ‘Little Brother’, so called by the native Americans, who also duped them into giving up information for convenience in the 15th century. That didn’t end up going well at all.
I pick up MY phone to call a friend, I’m trying to tell him I’ll be late. Instinctively, I look for an envelope or some other icon on the phone menu showing a possible missed call, something or other. I see a caution sign, I’m thinking maybe the battery needs replacing or there’s a serious software issue. Naturally, I explore and the alert reads ‘Enable Google Play services.’ Really, I must? I thought I’d ignore it but it kept coming back. After spending precious time that I did not plan to spend, I still couldn’t disable it. Totally frustrated I eventually give in to the pressure as I realise, not that it won’t stop but it can’t stop, it’s an alert that’s not designed to be turned off. Does this sound like a typical event in your smart (er than you) phone life?
Nowadays this type of android-human master-slave interaction gets me more and more frustrated. When I think about the number of details I’m forced to provide just to open an online trading account: email verification, card details, text verification messages, addressed utility bill and passport scans, I often think about who’s collecting all this information. Behind the request, there is no face yet we have come to accept this. We send verified personal data to an unknown source.
Equally as precluding, yet much more intrusive is the fact that my phones message bar has a yellow symbol that stops me in my tracks giving me yet another piece of vital information – ‘Try another level on Pacman.’ What? I quit that game last Wednesday. It was full of ads which I also couldn’t figure out how to disable. All because Google Play allows this activity to (by default) come out of their game area and run free into my personal phone space for a fee. I thought that those icons were for messages from friends, family and associates, silly me.
I started thinking about those Orwellian movies of the past and unfortunately, parallels began to form in my mind. Most of the early Sci-Fi movies portrayed the future as a plutocracy of amalgamated corporations that answered to nobody, placed its stamp on everything from food and clothing to cars and property, and existed mainly to squeeze the life force out of humans for what appeared to be economic profit.
Here’s my line of thought:
After reading yet another message on my phone ‘Would you like to sign in with Google?’ for the hundredth time, it dawned on me that incessant Google software will stop at nothing and is totally devoted to keeping and storing ALL of my passwords and will not tire of asking. It knows, better than I do, the combination of letters and digits that I’m afraid to forget and too lazy to write down on paper, let alone type in. For me, with my several writing pads, diaries, and pieces of uncategorised thoughts written on stickies around the house, noting down isn’t the best option. So they’re all safely stored in the browser. Did I say ‘safely’ and ‘browser’ in the same sentence?
Yes, the browser. I vaguely remember switching from the Safari browser to Google Chrome some years ago, Why? Well besides the fact that Safari only updates their browser once in a blue moon with Apple’s new operating system, Google suggested it (actually maybe more than suggested it). After consistently trying to persuade me with the efficiency of a machine, I finally gave in and, since I was on my back (injured) in a state of submission, I also agreed to its suggestions of making Google my homepage, search engine and father of my mac. Their software is dedicated to being a total pain until you submit to its will, with constant bullying and countless reasons to eventually make the first thing you see when you go online the G-word. You can feel an attitude of authority, it’s not asking you it’s telling you. Then again, it’s not dissimilar to the ‘Updates available’ messages from the App store abuse I suffer every other day on my MacBook, which, if you think about it, in both cases it’s a type of digital rape.
But I’m your friend.
I always found it odd that when a felon is caught, they are often supported by their peers, and even friends sometimes, who describe them as a quiet and fun-loving character and seem to want to stress that they could never have imagined them committing a crime. These innocent, fun looking brands are no different.
Oh! the price of convenience. As many would assume, all these different services are separate ones, but when you put it all together Google has many eyes and ears and is not your friend at all but the holder and keeper of your digital tattoo.
No matter how many times we are addressed with personalised greetings or how often they change and animate that logo, these are corporations with no feelings. But our senses take leave and are overtaken by emotions, especially when our heroes and the pioneers of our personal causes are constantly being honoured, pushing emotional buttons that turn us into little puppies rolling over to have our bellies tickled.
Whether it’s Marcus Garvey, Rosa Parks, Che Guevara or John Lennon, Google has all the intricate details of our lives, beliefs, and influences and will use them as needed. Meanwhile, we will be ignoring voluminous cookie policies and skimming through privacy updates to login to a page orquickly get the address of that shop, allowing these violations to continue.
Going further with this thought, I’m still shocked at the numerous amount of passwords Google browsers must hold worldwide, by any other subsidiary name, which leads me to think about the prompt on my their mobile phone, after opening almost any App, for me to get a Google account or log into one to access the full contents of the App that I sideloaded. Sometimes it wants to verify whether the download is considered ‘Safe’ before it resides on your phone. Thank you so much God-gle, you’re so considerate.
Sorry, did I say ‘Your Phone?‘
In reality, when you are forced to download, upload, allow or give up such personal details in order to get basic functionality on your device it is everything but your own, trust me. You are literally forced to comply. With this, we should really be aware that the intention never was about freedom on your device but simply to employ methods to extract, collect and then store your details somewhere (normally on a server overseas). Normally this is in order to further figure out who, why, and what you are doing, along with analysing your personal habits to further market to you. Do remember that the excuse for all this sensationalised security started with terrorism.
Let’s not be too overly concerned with being hijacked by foreign forces; our home security has already taken custody of our information, we just haven’t noticed. In 2017, Forbes named Google the # 2 most valuable brand in the world which means that it’s value: your data, is of great interest to those seeking you out for whatever reason, corporate or legal. It’s also Google that asks for your location every time you want to find a shop, travel locally or abroad and sometimes even to download a simple App. It asks you to trust it on judging an Apps worthiness to be on your/it’s phone. So let’s not get mesmerised by the bouncing letters and the cool Hip Hopness of the corporate data collecting machine, it has a very serious job and you’re it.
Speaking of Jobs, it’s not just Google. Apple has its own subtle intrusions too, especially since Steve Jobs’ departure in 2011 (RIP).
In 2017, Forbes called out Apple and named them the most profitable company in the world. With this kind of money, it seems obvious that their interests will be strongly geared towards collating data to secure more bespoke sales and increase their profits. If you happen to have a logo of an Apple on any of your hardware your updates, downloads and purchases will come with conditions, constantly prompting updates they may take a little more freedom away each time you do, again in the name of security. Aren’t you even slightly suspicious of going into a store and having to log in to be served?
Saying that, it also must be said that Apple are a little less intrusive than some others, mainly because the real estate on their computer is owned by and for them and not leased out, so the experience may be considered a little more of a personal one. On the other hand, most other PC’s (Windows) lease out space for Antiviruses, maps and a host of other software nuisances on their computers, straight out of the box. All these are provided by third-party’s to annoy you with warnings of being infected and spied on, once again, in the name of security. Digital terrorism, no?
Facebook has it’s bullyboy methods too. Yes, you can log in to Facebook on a mobile phone but just try to reply or even view a message and you will be occluded and held on a screen that insists you download their App before you can continue. They even entice you with the names of your friends that have succumbed to their digital seduction.
But then they do make it clear in their user agreement that they own ‘EVERYTHING’ that you place on their platform. I have no idea on earth why they would benefit from owning pictures of your children, friends, holidays and gossip conversations, but even more baffling is why we allow it.
I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s because in the very likely event of their server being hacked and pictures of your loved ones turn up on some disfavourable platform they can cede liability and avoid class action lawsuits of an unbearably large geographical scale. FYI, at the time of this writing, Apple phones allow you to use the full functionality of Facebook, including messaging, without having to download the Facebook Messenger App.
Ok, who’s idea was it…I mean who decided that because I have Adblocker on my browser, every time I try to log into my email a big intrusive **** off pop up will ask me to switch it off, EVERY SINGLE TIME! There’s no thought that we may not want to have a relentless bully reminding us that they can make it inconvenient for us if we decide to resist their ads with an Ad blocker because we don’t want their programming in our heads.
Why not login with your thumbprint, it’s safer?
From 2010 to 2011, Google acquired one company per week. That’s 52 companies in that year. It’s now seven years on and they have not gotten any smaller, go figure. Google has now been re-organized into a subsidiary of a larger holding company under the name Alphabet. Their stated acquisitions total over 400 companies including Motorola mobile technology as well as Pitt Patt and Viewdle, facial recognition systems. Why?
When I think about Motorola I think about the traditional US police communication systems since the 70’s (maybe earlier). It’s as American as the Statue Of Liberty (no, maybe French fries…Apple pie?) and seems a very totalitarian move. That along with two other face recognition companies has to at least form a question mark over the mind.
Every splinter company of Google, from phone to browser to translation software, is another eye peeping into our private lives and sending it to its central brain somewhere forever. Now I know some will say ‘So what, I have nothing to hide.’ But just think, if the Google empire happened to disagree with something you wrote, bought or even thought. Forty billion dollars would easily make it possible for you, your family, friends acquaintances and the entire block you live on to disappear if need be, with added legal muscle just so it doesn’t surface in the News.
A representative from the relevant branch of its hundreds of subsidiary companies would find it quite easy to locate your front door, knowing your ETA with accuracy beyond belief. What they’d want to do – I have no idea, but you’ve logged your address, friends, family, habits, interests, frequent travel locations, purchases, favourite websites, attractions, medical/psychological conditions, your diet, politics, concerns, wish lists and so on, on their huge database. Put it this way, if Hitler had this type of machine way back then, we would all be German subjects. It’s just too much power for anything besides God to hold. But I’m sure it wouldn’t happen, would it?
In reality, very few of us make a business of crime or choose to engage in pointless threats towards our own humankind, it seems that today those who do, tend to do this by pushing free social media platforms online to eventually steal personal information to sell on the black market. Our only crime is that some of us don’t always want to be made a study of and we like to choose who and when we want to share our sensitive and personal data and maybe want to be able to physically face those that require it without having to lose functionality on our devices. By being bullied into giving up our information to an anonymous corporation brings us back to the harsh reality of how close we are to a totalitarian system, especially when you realise that you will probably never ever see those that are utilising it.
Mundus Vult Decipi, Ergo Decipiatur
The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived (Maxim at Law).
In 2012 Regina Dugan, inventor and technology developer left her government role for an executive role at Google. She had previously served as the 19th Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). She joined Facebook in 2016 as head of their secretive hardware lab called Building 8 in 2015 (secretive).
Before she made a decision to leave Facebook after only 18 months she made a very worrying pitch at the Facebook F8 developer conference in 2017. One particular statement served as a peep into the strange mind of the Google and government android. “What if you could type just using your brain”. She said with not a hint of satire. She was being literal. The shocking thing for me wasn’t the nonsense that was being said but who was saying it.
Many abstract questions are asked in asylums and institutions where people are nursed back to health with intentions of getting back in touch with reality, but when a woman (Mother Nature) with strong working ties to Google, Facebook and NASA with the money and ability to literally place this chip in your head makes such statements, we’re f*****.
But even more worrying is the fact that most are so conditioned to accept convenience at any cost because they too have lost their grip on reality and what organic life was meant to be that they will entertain this absurdity. Or maybe they have seen Minority Report and know it’s a step closer to predictive policing. Can’t we just pretend there’s a God, maybe just as a template, then throw it out when we remember the point of life again? Maybe Mother Nature has a jealous rival that wants to be known as father nature at any cost who many women represent.
So to recap, the science fiction plutocratic dictators that you were hoping never existed were sitting there on your browser all along. And the only reason you didn’t identify them was because of the shiny stuff and their fun, bright and friendly looking, goofy name. And the motive? = Information.
I hope you feel a lack of agenda here and just a small desire to share and possibly encourage us to be a little less trusting of these major corporations online and possibly get you to leave the phone at home sometimes. And for God’s sake stop walking while you’re texting on the phone.
We hate to end on a down so we’ll leave it to you to decide on the authenticity of the story from the longest/best selling book of all time.
In the final hours of the character they called Jesus’s life, Pontius Pilate – the Roman governor – cunningly asked an ignorant people to choose between Barabbus the thief and Jesus the saviour to decide who was more worthy of freedom. The decision that followed was made by the mass misinformed. Thier disillusioned state appeared obvious to the informed (government and the few awake). Pontius Pilate got his way and the people went down in history as the authors of the most colossal Fup in the history of time. And by that, we don’t mean Fair usage policy.
We are at the dawn of another ignorance that keeps our focus on technology as a thing of wonder and turns us away from this wonderful revival of spirit and the waking of our inner tuition. Today, more than ever ethereal messages are being sent out and picked up by connected individuals through the same ether that has always existed but on a higher crest. The irony is that the non-tangible realm that science has convinced us doesn’t exist is being exploited by science. It’s used as a model to replicate natures communication channels with waves and frequencies that you cannot touch, see or even perceive for the most part, yet you accept it as is. I guess the point is that if we are true to ourselves everyone believes in a God, they just haven’t been brave enough to call it by its name: Technology.
For Ted Gunderson
S: Recode.net – Wikipedia Regina Dugan – Pht: Brad Barket/Getty Images for Fast Company
With the ever increasing take over of North Kensington real estate by the socially detached, we’ve seen learning facilities invade our community that are not even close to home-grown.
Not so with The Lloyd Williamson Schools. It’s probably the most local private school in the area with most students living within a mile or two of the school. On observation, it seems to express more of an interest in the teaching of ethics, cultural diversity and also, equipping the students to tackle the changing world, with an entrepreneurial spirit of open-mindedness.
I find their strict mobile phone rule fascinating. As insignificant as it may sound, I can say with confidence that you will never see anybody neglecting one and other distracted by a mobile phone, neither staff, parent or student. I don’t think the reason needs an explanation. For those who realise the distraction that devices have been on children and adults, you will be thankful for this little policy in your child’s surroundings, rest assured. The unique way that kids of all ages gender and race interact is very Montessori-ish, though it is not a Montessorri school.
Lloyd Williamson open days Wednesday the 14th March (10am to 7pm) and Friday the 16th March (10am -3pm).
Urban Dandy Meditation #1 was on 15th February 2018.
A new venture, aimed at people from our community and further afield to engage in the practice of transcendental meditation and to stimulate discussion and creativity.
A theme of ‘Who are we, really?’ guided us through the hour – the class were told:
Urban Dandy’s writers look at context, we explain things, point out pertinent detail, tell the truth and discern. But, Urban Dandy is for the whole human, which means we’re interested in looking beyond context. If we let go of this role of journalist, poet, or whatever label we could pin to ourselves, what remains?
Discomfort might be one thing…
The class was led into the first few minutes of meditation practice,
The brief instruction: Sit, feet flat on the floor, an upright spine, ‘when the body is still, the mind is more likely to follow’, focus ahead – still eyes,
“When we sit down to meditate it is as if an old friend sits down with us, a life-long friend, a friend who accompanies us everywhere and who is so close to us as to be practically indistinguishable from the ‘me’ or the ‘I’ that we habitually call ourselves. That friend is the moving mind, which in Sanskrit goes by the name of manas”.
“Manas is our friend and can help us in all sorts of ways but it has one abiding fault: it never knows when to stop talking and so makes it difficult for us to hear anything else. We spend most of our waking hours listening to the chatter of manas ceaselessly commenting and judging – judging not only our own actions but the actions of others as well”.[i]
Then a discussion: How was the practice? ‘It went quickly’ – ‘it went slowly’. Who are we? We cannot be manas – our thoughts.
The second practice
Suggestion: Do not worry about the wandering mind, that is what the mind does, there is no failure. The mantra is the hand rail when you want to come back.
What is a mantra? A sound, repeated silently, inwardly, preferably not in one’s mother tongue. What is meditation? Different participants had different ways, but the class was in transcendental meditation, in which the practitioner transcends their physical, mental and intellectual selves and touches pure being. Here, the meditator begins to open up to the question ‘Who am I really?’
“Every single time we return to the practice, we are overcoming ancient innate tendencies of the mind to flow outward. Every time we come back, we are reminding ourselves where to look, and it gets deeper each time. This is why it’s said that what matters isn’t how many times we go away, but how many times we come back…”[ii]
(To become who we truly are we first have to come out of being what we are not).
Naturally, because of life and its demands and preoccupations, context came in to the conversation – the heaviness of life, this was a gathering of people with heavyweight life experiences and no little wisdom, but the question was worth coming back to, to taste that bliss, to lighten the burden: Who are we, really? Glimpsing some light and following it, discovering that I am indeed part of that light and it is part of me… Good night everyone, thanks for coming, and we leave.
But the truth remains and will be touched again, always available.
Urban Dandy Meditation #2 will take place on Maundy Thursday, 29th March, same venue same time – The Library, Downstairs, Essex Unitarian Church, Notting Hill Gate, 7:30-8:30pm
By Tom Charles
For Brian – ‘it is always there’
[i] From the booklet ‘Beginning to Meditate’, The School of Meditation
[ii] Krishna Das, ‘Chants of a Lifetime’, Hay House, 2010, p.54