Sunday, 12 May 2013

Terrorism of the rich - A tale of two atrocities - from Solihull to Dhaka.

There should be two stories headlining the news in the UK today. This one I link below, yet another death as a result of far-right populist tabloid scapegoating masquerading as legitimate government policy. 

The other is the continuing nightmarish horror of the corporate mass murder of textile workers in Bangladesh. 

Now over one thousand confirmed killed, just so we can have cheap t-shirts. An act of capitalist terrorism against the working-class on a similar scale to 9/11. So why does it not receive the same coverage? Non-stop 24 hour rolling news for weeks? Hell, more than a decade on people still prattle on about 9/11 like it was the most terrible act of suffering ever experienced in the history of humanity.

But a thousand Bangladeshi workers die under the concrete of a collapsed corporate hell hole and its forgotten in days as an "and also in the news". Will the extended families of these people be made instant millionaires in compensation, as the 9/11 families were? Or will Primark, Benneton etc just throw a few pennies, wash the blood from their hands and carry on with business as usual?

From grannies committing suicide in the face of destitution in England, to young women and men crushed under concrete in Bangladesh, it is the same system, the same greed, the same class that pays the price. And it is the same class that is responsible, inflicting misery on the many for the luxury of their few. 

These are acts of terrorism. Acts of war on our people, whether in Birmingham or Dhaka, these are the chains that bind us in common suffering, but that also bond us in common cause.

Bedroom Tax victim commits suicide: Grandmother Stephanie Bottrill blames government in tragic note

Grandmother who had to pay extra £20 a week throws herself in front of motorway lorry
Stephanie Bottrill

Page One Photograph
Ten days ago Stephanie Bottrill sat in the redbrick terrace house which had been home for 18 years to write notes to her loved ones, the Sunday People reports.
She ripped the pages from a spiral-bound notebook and placed them neatly in little brown envelopes.
There was one for her son. Another for her daughter. Her mother. Friends. And a very special one for the year-old grandson she doted on.
Then in the early hours of last Saturday Stephanie, 53, left her home for the last time, leaving her cat Joey behind as the front-door clicked shut.
She crossed her road in Meriden Drive, Solihull, to drop one of her letters and her house keys through a neighbour’s letterbox. Then she walked 15 minutes through the sleeping estate to Junction 4 of the M6.
And at 6.15am she walked straight into the path of a northbound lorry and was killed instantly. Stephanie Bottrill had become the first known suicide victim of the hated Bedroom Tax.
In the letter to her son, Steven, 27, she had written: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”
Stephanie was tormented over having to find £20 a week to pay for the two under-occupied bedrooms she had been assessed for.
Days before her death she told neighbours: “I can’t afford to live any more.”
Solihull council Labour group leader David Jamieson, who knows the family well, said: “I’m absolutely appalled this poor lady has taken her own life because she was worried how she would pay the Bedroom Tax.
“I hope the Government will take notice and reconsider this policy.”
The police came to Steven’s door at 9.30 last Saturday morning. They were there with his sister Laura, 23, and he knew something terrible had happened. They told him his mum had taken her own life.
He said: “It was a shock at first. You just ask why? The policeman told me she had left notes. I was on my own, looking after my little boy.
“I just wanted to keep looking after him, to keep it all in. I told the police to keep the note. I was still getting my head round it.”
So it was not until Sunday that Steven was ready to read the note.
He said: “I couldn’t believe it. She said not to blame ourselves, it was the Government and what they were doing that caused her to do it.
“She was fine before this Bedroom Tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people in offices and big houses.
“They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”
On the Thursday before she died – when she wrote the farewell letters –  Stephanie had phoned her son to say she was struggling to cope.
He promised to get help and next day phoned her GP.
Stephanie came home from the GP’s surgery with sleeping tablets.
That Friday teatime, Steven came to see her after he finished work. He tried to reassure her, telling her everything would be OK. He says now he should have hugged her but he thought it might upset her.

Stephanie Bottrill suicide note
Part of Stephanie's note to her son

Page One Photography

On the way home he resolved to take her to A&E next day and stay there until she got the help she needed.
That evening a neighbour took Stephanie some dinner. Like Steven, she thought Stephanie would cope. But neither saw her again. 
In the early hours of Saturday, Stephanie headed downstairs, past boxes of her things packed up and ready to go.
Boxes marked “kitchen” and “bedroom”. Stephanie had nowhere to go. But she had packed anyway so when the council found her a smaller place she would be prepared.
Steven said: “She didn’t want to go but she knew she had to. She couldn’t afford to stay. It was too hard.
“She wasn’t eating properly. There wasn’t any proper food. There were about 30 tins of custard.”
Stephanie had lived in her £320-a-month home for 18 years, but couldn’t cope with the extra £80 she had to find every month.
She needed to downsize but nothing suitable was offered to her.
And she was upset she would have to leave the home in which she raised her two children as a single mother.
The well-kept back garden was Stephanie’s pride and joy. She had buried her favourite pet cats there and she liked to sit out there in the sun and remember them.
Steven remembers they didn’t have much as they grew up. His mum would struggle to afford clothes and food but they were happy and always well-turned out.
As a child Stephanie was diagnosed with the auto-immune system deficiency, Myasthenia gravis.

The M6 motorway in Birmingham where Stephanie commited suicide

The illness made her weak and she had to take constant medication.
Steven said she wanted to work, but there was no way she could.
Doctors had told her she was too ill to hold down a job, but she had never been registered as disabled, so she lived without disability benefit. After splitting with the children’s father, Stephanie raised Laura and Steven on her own.
Steven, an HGV driver, said: “Even though it was difficult for Mum bringing us up on her own, we were really happy here.”
Eventually, Steven left to set up in his own place with his own family.
It was close enough to visit his mum and he came round whenever he could.
Then two months ago Laura also moved out and into a flat with her long-term partner. It happened quickly and Stephanie struggled at first.
It also meant that instead of losing 14 per cent of her housing benefit for one spare bedroom she would now lose 25 per cent for two rooms.
But friends and family rallied round and she began to adjust on her own.
She took the decision to tell the council she was living in a three-bedroomed house on her own.
The £80 per month extra she would have to pay was too much for her. She would have to leave her home.
Steven said: “She was sad about Laura going but she had got over that and was coping. Being asked for the extra Bedroom Tax money was just too much for her.”
Stephanie told her next-door neighbour Tracey Hurley: “I cannot afford to live any more.”
She was visited by officials, who told her she would be charged for any repairs to her property.
That would whittle away the £2,000 she had been offered by the council to move home. It meant Stephanie had to strip wallpaper and lift carpets herself. She also had to mend her back fence.
And they failed to find a suitable property for her – the bungalow they offered was a 30-minute walk from a bus stop and miles from her family and friends.
So Stephanie was trapped in a house she couldn’t afford.
And neighbours did their best to help as she faced losing her home.
Neighbour Tracey, 49, said: “Her garden meant so much to her.
“She called it her special place and the one place she felt at peace.
“But they were going to take that from her. She just couldn’t stand it.” Tracey did her best to care for her friend and saw her on the Friday before she died. She said: “Stephanie hadn’t eaten for three days. She was desperate.
“We were having a barbecue and she popped her head over the fence to say hello. She didn’t want to socialise so I took her some dinner.
“When I went round I hugged her and told her to just come and knock on the door if she needed me.
“I told her not to do anything stupid. The council would have to help her. She asked me for another hug. Then in the morning the police came. I couldn’t believe it.”
Other neighbours on the estate are being hit with the Bedroom Tax.
Tracey said: “They are making me pay it and it’s going to be tough but people don’t have any choice.
“This is not just politics, this is people’s lives.”
Next Friday, Tracey will be among friends and family at the funeral.
The family were struggling to pay so the Sunday People has made a contribution.
Stephanie’s death didn’t make headlines locally. But her friends know exactly what happened to her.
And they believe the shock of her death will be felt far outside her community.
Tracey added: “There’s no way Stephanie is going to be the last to die because of this Bedroom Tax. She’s not going to be the only one.”

  • Haunting Dhaka disaster picture: A last embrace after clothes factory collapse that killed 950

    Photographer Taslima Akhter captured the image of the so-far ­unidentified pair in the rubble of the collapsed building.

    Taslima Akhter
    This picture of a couple cuddled together in their last moments, illustrates the full human tragedy of the Dhaka factory disaster.
    Photographer Taslima Akhter captured the image of the so-far ­unidentified pair in the rubble of the collapsed building.
    Taslima, who was working alongside rescue teams in Bangladesh, said: “When I saw them, I felt I knew them.
    "They felt very close to me. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘We are not a number – not only cheap labour and cheap lives. We are human beings like you’.
    “Every time I look back to this photo, I feel uncomfortable — it haunts me.”
    Student Taslima hopes her harrowing image will aid her campaign to improve working conditions in her native city.
    Yesterday 94 more bodies were found as the death toll hit 950 and another 2,500 were injured.

    Bangladeshi rescuers work at the site of a building that collapsed building
    Mass tragedy: Bangladeshi rescuers work at the site of a building that collapsed


    Today the two-week search for survivors and bodies ends.
    Bulldozers will move in at the site where workers earned £25 a month making clothes for Western firms including Primark which has said it will pay compensation.
    Several people, including the building owner, have been charged with negligence over the disaster on April 24.
    But Taslima will not rest until she has identified her unknown couple.
    She said: “I don’t know who they are or what their relationship is. We found them buried in rubble.
    "The blood from the eye of the man ran like tear.”

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