In light of the entirely predictable, spineless, tow-the-line reaction of many politicians and commentators to “Lady” Thatcher’s death, and of the media reaction to those celebrating her death, I feel it is time to pause writing about travelling in Indonesia in favour of a rant on this subject.
Barack Obama is of the opinion that the “world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty”
Nick Clegg thinks the fact that he “can shun the tenets of Thatcherism and yet still respect Margaret Thatcher is part of what was so remarkable about her”.
Short memory Barack? Still respect her Nick? Isn’t there a line somewhere that, once crossed, loses one the respect they may otherwise have earned, regardless of one’s subsequent death? Gary Glitter crossed that line and lost the respect that his music – not that I liked it anyway – had earned him. While not personally interested in seeing this as a time to party unlike some, it must be said that supporting the Apartheid regime in South Africa and providing political and military support to mass murdering dictators such as Chile’s General Pinochet, Indonesia’s General Suharto and Cambodia’s Pol Pot to name just a few constitutes stepping so far over said line that respect cannot be afforded to this horrible woman in death any more than in life, nor can she be remembered as “a champion of freedom and liberty”. A more honest quote from those representing opposing political parties would be appreciated, such as this from my sister:
|A wicked woman|
“Margaret Thatcher is dead. She was Prime Minister from age 4 to 15 for me, so I spent my years growing up to loathe this woman. I know opinions are divided, mostly depending on where you grew up geographically and economically. Those born in the south east with a silver spoon no doubt saw boom and prosperity. But I grew up in the north east surrounded by poverty and saw the fallout from her actions. Families and communities were torn apart and many took decades to recover, if they did at all. For the good of the economy, eh? She taught me that the economy is more important than people to Conservatives. I've invested and expended so much mental energy in my adult life in loathing this woman and now she is gone forever. I don't quite know how I feel, but this is certainly momentous.”
Society has a bad habit of ignoring reality where a dead person is concerned. Sure, families must grieve, but that doesn’t mean the history of the deceased person should be rewritten in a more positive light. Why should someone be paid more respect in death than in life? Should we hide the fact that we loathe everything they stood for and firmly believe they caused a staggering amount of human suffering? Led by our mass media, our society really can show appalling double standards. Remember Jade Goody, the reality TV star loved and hated for essentially being stupid? The UK media and many of our citizens turned on her after she made racist remarks to a co contestant in an episode of Big Brother. I was more of the opinion that she was ignorant than racist. While not excusing racism, I hope most will agree that there is a big difference between a wealthy, educated racist such as BNP leader Nick Griffin inciting hatred, and a fool used to political incorrectness who puts her foot in it and whose main crime is that of ignorance. What she said was unnecessary and offensive and her career was all but over because of it. Not long after this, with her popularity at an all time low, she was diagnosed with cancer. All of a sudden she was brave Jade. Her popularity then skyrocketed as her health deteriorated culminating in her death not long after, the nation feeling guilty for ever having said a bad word about her. While not passing judgement on this, it does serve to highlight the point that our perception of individuals, often encouraged by our tabloids and televisions, changes if that person dies. While tolerable it may be with regards to relatively harmless loudmouths like Jade Goody, this is lunacy when it comes to political leaders, especially those who were responsible for overwhelming human suffering as opposed to an ignorant racial slur. While any civilized person will have sympathy for a deceased politician’s family, surely one shouldn’t forget how they truly behaved in life and in the Houses of Parliament.
So it is infuriating to see publications and politicians across the world amplifying this woman’s qualities (maybe I shouldn’t use a plural as the only quality I can think of is that she was strong willed), while brushing under the carpet the not insignificant evils of destroying communities, slashing funding of hospitals, redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich, providing economic and political support to a who’s who of twentieth century dictators and arming Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s terrifying regime, responsible for the death of two million people – around a fifth of its population – as it tried to regain power after being ousted in an operation led by neighbouring Vietnam. That’s right. Her government armed and provided military training to a regime which rivaled that of Hitler’s Nazi Party when it came to murdering innocent people. And this was after the mass slaughter. Maggie couldn’t claim to have armed them while being ignorant of their intentions. No, they had already murdered 2 million people and she still did what she could to help them regain power. Imagine if after Hitler had been ousted from power, the Nazis had retreated into the mountains and our government’s leader had provided arms and expertise to assist them in trying to take back power of Germany. Would such glowing tributes be offered on their deathbed if they had been guilty of this, and would those fiercely critical of such a person be derided for speaking up? Well that’s what Thatcher did for a similar regime on the other side of the world, and yet she is going out in style, with a multi million pound funeral paid for with money from the not so deep pockets of many of those from communities which she destroyed.
I am originally from Bishop Auckland, a small town in the north east of England situated near many coal mining communities whom Thatcher went to war on. One tactic was to shut a mine, on which the livelihoods of those living close to it depended, and then kick them out of their homes. It had to be done so the reasoning went because there weren’t any jobs. No longer could they live in the close-knit countryside community they had grown up in, with their shared history, extended families, local football teams and small businesses supporting one another. Many would have to move to Newton Aycliffe, a sparsely populated vast area comprising a large industrial estate and a town of scattered streets, often with many hundreds of metres of featureless grass and concrete between each cluster of houses where few people knew their neighbours as well as one did in the small towns and villages immediately to the north. It didn’t cross her mind to provide a bus service for her citizens to travel the ten to fifteen miles from the pit villages into Aycliffe so they could keep their homes. Or rather, it did, but she was bent on destroying human solidarity as well as the mines. So people were forcibly evicted and scattered throughout factories in the new industrial estate, if they were lucky to even get another job.
I'm not interested in partying because of anyone’s death but considering her impact on the lives of so many people I am not surprised that many have chosen to do so. It is a travesty that criticism of such celebration seems to deserve column inches in our newspapers more than criticism of Thatcher’s past policies. What is the bigger evil? People partying because a politician has died or a politician’s acts contributing to the death or misery of thousands, if not millions of people across the world? I would like to challenge those who think such high spirits are in bad taste to ask themselves if they would condemn those who celebrated the death of Thatcher’s old friends General Pinochet and Saddam Hussein, and if not, why exactly should the goalposts be moved in this instance? I have never celebrated the death of anyone and am not starting here, but I don’t think anyone should show restraint in shouting from the rooftops about what a callous failure of a human being this woman was, in order that history doesn’t allow us to look back with rose tinted spectacles and subsequently make the mistake of welcoming another one of her ilk into office again, if we haven’t already done so in David Cameron.