I know a great many of my friends will be celebrating the death of a tyrant tonight, and frankly – I don’t blame them. I don’t need to go into detail the damage and despair Margaret Thatcher caused in people’s lives in this country. There are few examples in history of a leader so committed to the ruin of that nation’s own citizens.
However, I don’t share their relief and I can’t participate in their joy. Not just because I wasn’t living here at the time of her reign or because I didn’t really experience the effects. Trust me when I say that the architects of financial policy in New Zealand were in thrall to Thatcherism, and it took its toll there too.
But that’s the problem: Thatcher may be dead, but Thatcherism does not require Thatcher.
Today, a frail, old human being died. But honestly, I don’t give a shit about not speaking ill of the dead – and certainly not in this particular instance. This Comment Is Free article by Glenn Greenwald sums up my perspective on that way more eloquently than I ever could. Britain suffers from a surplus of politeness and a deficit of kindness and care, and no more than right now.
Thatcher can go to hell. She personally and wilfully caused massive social harm and divided a nation through greed and soulless enslavement to an ideology of selfishness. She enabled and supported despotic regimes. She started and campaigned for unjust wars. She directly caused poverty, violence, death, hatred, suicide and despair. She was not simply a tyrannical leader, but she was the architect, the vessel and enactor of that particular flavour of evil.
But that evil is alive and well and living in Westminster.
I understand the closure and sense of justice that will be felt by those who welcome Margaret Thatcher’s disappearance from our world – though many of the people I know have simply waited too long. They’re tired and they’ve been ground down by the relentless persistence in our culture of everything she stood for.
This is not about being heartless that an elderly woman has passed away. Thatcher was and is rightly despised. This is about the fact that nothing concrete is changed by her death. It’s purely symbolic at this point. And while symbolism is important in people’s lives – it’s not real and lasting change.
If anything needs to die, it’s the Thatcher project. The idea that people are less important than highly localised prosperity. That public services and social support for those who need it are a drain on society, and corporate tax evasion and high-risk speculative banking practices, fiddled expense accounts and multi-million dollar bonuses are the merely the cost of doing business.
We waited for Thatcher to die. We need to actively kill Thatcherism. We need to punch it in its stupid, selfish, spoiled and smug face, then hit it with hammers and stab it with screwdrivers until it’s truly, properly dead with no chance of returning.
THEN let’s party.
In the meantime, I can think of no better collection of words to mark this occasion, than these spoken by Pete Postlethwaite in the film Brassed Off.
I wish it had been this kind of unnecessary and tragic despair that had died today. But her cruelty endures in the corridors of power and Britain is sick with her legacy. Whether the woman is breathing or not is, I think, almost entirely immaterial at this point.