Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher @ The Fletcher Memorial Home

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Margaret Thatcher – "free" market extremist, neo-imperial authoritarian jingoist, and BFF to any number of right-wing military dictators – is dead.

I once admired her a great deal, back in the stupid haze of my youth, and, yes, I still think there are a few things to recommend her (e.g., her Euro-skepticism, even if it was overly cynical; her unabashed love of country, particularly early on in her premiership, at a time when the present was hopeless and the future looked bleak; her personal political determination as a woman struggling to succeed in what was (and in many ways remains) a male-dominated world), but for the most part I now consider her to have been, in politics at least, a vile and grotesque figure who did far more harm than good.

Oh, is it not polite to speak so ill of the dead? I suggest that you read Glenn Greenwald's piece at The Guardian on "misapplied death etiquete," which includes this:

This demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure's death is not just misguided but dangerous. That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power. "Respecting the grief" of Thatcher's family members is appropriate if one is friends with them or attends a wake they organize, but the protocols are fundamentally different when it comes to public discourse about the person's life and political acts.

And of course Glenn is right that her many admirers aren't keeping quiet but are rather bombarding us with their hyper-partisan praise. So why can't we push back a bit? Thatcher was a towering political figure. She is not above criticism, including today.

This doesn't mean celebrating her death, which is certainly inappropriate -- it's one thing to celebrate the death of a tyrant, quite another to celebrate the death of a democratically elected leader who had been out of politics, and very much out of the public eye, for nearly two decades. What it means is being honest about who she was and what she did -- and that requires acknowledging the bad along with whatever good there was.

Yes, there is impassioned disagreement with respect to how much good and bad, of course, but the point is that her critics must be as vocal as her admirers.

I will leave it at that for now. Suffice it to say that I agree for the most part with Glenn's comments about her record, as well as Charlie Pierce's brief remarks at Equire.

Thatcher was a right-wing ideologue. She did things that right-wing ideologues do, or want to do. The world of 1979, particularly in Britain, was ugly in many ways, but the world she left behind when she left Number 10 in 1990, while much nicer for the oligarchs who were her main beneficiaries, was even nastier and even more brutal, in large part because of what she did while in office.

Such is her legacy.

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And here she is – where she always belonged, with her own kind, among the "overgrown infants," "incurable tyrants," and "wasters of life and limb" who bloodied the 20th century, including her pal Ronald Reagan – at "The Fletcher Memorial Home" (from Pink Floyd's very much anti-Thatcher final album with Roger Waters, The Final Cut):

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3 Comments:

  • Not to be difficult, but Hugo Chavez was democratically elected. I don't say that to attack you but rather to defend myself. I do celebrate the death of Thatcher. Democratically elected doesn't really matter: she had a very bad effect on the world, including her own people. Garnering 50% + 1 of the vote does not make it acceptable to dump on 50% - 1. Of course, we are all culpable and above all, Thatcher was a symbol of how the western world went crazy 35 years ago. And it is as a symbol of that that I rejoice in her death. Otherwise, she's just another old lady I didn't know who died. But if that's all she were, we wouldn't be talking about her.

    By Anonymous Frank Moraes, at 1:00 AM  

  • I celebrated when Reagan died. I'll do the same for GWB and Cheney. I have nothing but contempt for these people---but really, it's no more extreme than the contempt they had for working-class people and trade unions.
    Great Pink Floyd song and video, by the way. I attended a laser show at a planetarium the day that album was released in 1983. Back then, I was heavily into The Clash and The Jam and I really enjoyed Floyd's new political direction. I wish it's something they could have developed over a few more albums.
    The video is quite daring (and would be absolutely unthinkable by the standards of U.S. pop acts). I can't imagine any U.S. band's video depicting someone with a gun walking up to, say, a GWB character. Most music these days has become cowardly and safe as milk and it seems the more "daring" any band gets is when they're singing some sexually explicit song (yawn).
    Corporate America and the gangsters on Wall Street couldn't be happier that musicians who once dissented on occasion are now putting out safe corporate product that has no other aim than to shift as many units as possible.

    By Blogger Marc McDonald, at 2:59 AM  

  • She was a tyrant, if you mean by tyrant a ruler of a cruel and oppressive character who is an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution, or one who has usurped sovereignty. Well seeing as she used a war to get re-elected and put soldiers in police uniforms during the miners strike, caused the death of nearly a thousand people just to get re-elected, murdered OAP's since they couldn't afford to heat their homes, caused the suicide of fathers hounded by totally inequitable child support agency, made thousands homeless due to housing benefits reforms !!! Twice !!! Decimated the social cohesion of the whole of working class society, decimated the country's industries and workers rights and selling off thousands of public corporations, bodies & authorities just to line the pockets of the ruling elite with revenues raised in the £billions, literally "selling the country down the swanny" then without a doubt she deserves that title. Thus it IS wholly appropriate to celebrate her passing since she herself can do no more damage to the ordinary working class people. Unfortunately the ruling elite are carrying on her evil deeds with gusto, & so her passing NEEDS to be used to show those too young to realise that the vast majority of the misery they have to put up with in their lives is a consequence of her govt, her policies, her ethos, her actions. How can any decent human being pay respect to anyone with that much blood on their hands, who has caused so much anguish, pain and suffering, dead or alive.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:34 PM  

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