There are quite a few people saying we should not speak ill of the dead. But as someone pointed out yesterday, yes someone has died, but Margaret Thatcher did also destroy so many people’s lives with her actions.
Read this article on mis-applied death etiquette from the Guardian which says amongst other things: ‘…The key point is this: those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren’t silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person’s death to create hagiography’.
And to those other people who are saying ‘let it go’, ‘let’s not discuss it any more’, ‘she hasn’t been in power for years’, ‘let’s not bemoan the past’, I say this: I think that actually there needs to be a certain amount of bemoaning of the past in order to advocate peaceful change for the future, doesn’t there? People either easily forget or do not even know in the first place the things that have happened otherwise. And – of course people are angry!
My perspective of Thatcherism and the eighties is as follows: I was born in 1980. We lived in North Wales until I was about two when my parents got divorced, then my mum and I moved to Sandbach and then Alsager while my mum (who was by now a single parent with me in tow) got herself through art college and achieved a BA Hons art degree while we lived in a student house on a farm and my mum did cleaning jobs, bar jobs and other jobs in her spare time (she even drove a mobile library for a while). In about 1985 we moved to London from Alsager. When we got to London, we were homeless. We stayed with my mum’s boyfriend in Hammersmith for a while, then we squatted for a while in my aunty’s old flat in Balham until we were thrown out one evening. The police literally came round and escorted us out of the building, in the process chucking half of our stuff away. Ironically, that flat was then empty for the next two years or so – I used to play out in the front porch there quite a lot – so yeh – was it really necessary to throw us out like that? The whole street saw it and everyone at school was talking about it the next day. Great.
So my mum, her boyfriend and I then stayed in my aunty and her girlfriend’s two-bedroom flat also in Balham (where they were trying to also run/set-up a small graphic design business from the living room). After this we moved into a room in my mum’s mates Charlie & Keith’s place in Tooting and then the council gave us a room in B&B in Victoria. I remember my mum decorating the room with twisted paper sculptures to make it more homely. Then finally after being on a waiting list for ages we were given a flat in Stockwell Park Estate, Brixton. The flat was grim/filthy when we moved in but we cleaned it up, painted it and made it nice. We got furniture from out on the street on our estate – stuff that other people had thrown away, cleaned it up and created a home. We were there for about three years and I spent half my time living with my aunties in their flat in Balham and half my time living with my mum in the flat in Brixton. My mum was working nights as a support worker by then and also trying to establish herself as an artist and couldn’t take me with her to work, etc. etc.
And with regards to finding somewhere to live or earning a living – it wasn’t for lack of trying either – believe you me – I am not one of those people who thinks the world owes them a favour and neither is my mum. Before we got the flat in Brixton, she was desperately trying to find work, but as it went without an address you could not get a job and without a job they wouldn’t give you somewhere to live. What the hell is someone supposed to do with that? How on earth can anyone help themselves that situation? Thatcher and her Tory government didn’t care about that. I don’t think that woman even really had a conscience.
[Don't get me wrong - I loved it in London, loved school and learning, had loads of mates and we used to tear round the streets playing forty forty after school every day and all through the summer holidays and I got to help make costumes for Carnival etc. etc. London is a fantastic place to live but this isn't about that.]
As a seven year old, watching everyone around me’s reaction and utter disappointment when Thatcher was re-elected for her third term in 1987, I find it really difficult to have many feelings of remorse for the fact that she is dead. That may sound cold-hearted but it’s true.
My nan said to me today that I shouldn’t be celebrating the death of anyone regardless of who they are and so while my initial reaction upon finding out she was dead the other day was to cheer and shout Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out (reminiscent of the 80’s protests I went on), I can also see things a little bit from my nan’s perspective.
My aunty Clare has the opposite perspective and was photographed the other day when Maggie died, in Brixton, celebrating with a banner that said ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’. Here is an article about it & here is a link with a video that was shown on BBC news where you can see her talking (1min 10sec in). And before everyone starts to say she is insulting witches or is anti-feminist and misogynistic by holding up this banner (which people already have done online), there is an article here which says: ‘If Glinda, the good witch, can allow the munchkins their song of triumph over the ruby-slippered menace that has oppressed them for so long, who am I to begrudge it?’
Upon reflection, the reaction I had earlier when someone I know shared Russell Brand’s article in The Guardian is probably a better way to look at things. Essentially after talking to my nan and reading that, my thoughts were: I guess it is better to come at things and try to change things from a place of love and peace than from one of hatred or with a vitriolic reaction no matter how tempting it is or how angry you get.
And don’t get me wrong that’s not me having a hippyish/bohemian, yeh man, let’s all sit round, getting stoned, love and peace reaction where we pretend we care but don’t actually do anything, but more of a – what can we do to try to make changes in society without causing unnecessary grief, pain and destruction.
I.e. don’t go robbing/setting fire/driving a car into your local newsagents ‘cos you think you’re big, clever and hard. Don’t loot just because you want to nick a few bags of Haribos or trainers. Your local newsagents aren’t the establishment. They are not MacDonalds or Tesco. They are more than likely your neighbours’ business that they have probably spent years trying to build up and run. These are the people you should be supporting.
Pauline Pearce had it spot on as far as I am concerned when she shouted at everyone who was causing destruction in Hackney in August 2011. There’s a YouTube video here if you have not seen it or need a little reminder.
Destroying local businesses and rioting for rioting’s sake doesn’t solve anything – I certainly don’t advocate that – but we do need to be allowed the freedom to protest the insane amount of money being spent on Thatcher’s funeral if we want to. It is excessive, completely unnecessary, ostentatious, pomp and ceremony for a woman who does not deserve it. The money could be so well spent on – oh let’s see now – The NHS? People who genuinely need it? Not this farcical rubbish.
And we also have that right without fear of preemptive arrest from the police as highlighted in the Independent here, as far as I am concerned. (The words thought-police and dystopia spring immediately to mind). And yes I know the argument that the police are only looking out for the general public and are only arresting those who have threatened violence but it (especially the preemptive part) doesn’t sit-well with me.
Anyway, instead of rioting for rioting’s sake, try instead in taking an interest in politics and in what the people who have been elected to run the country are saying and doing and don’t allow them to get away with the things you disagree with. If you can (and I don’t do this enough myself) go to protests, sign petitions, talk to other people about your views, try to educate other people if they do not know things, ask questions, vote in elections, talk, discuss, write songs, create artwork that questions things, photograph what you see going on, write comedy, get involved with your local community and local projects, volunteer, support local businesses, don’t buy into everything that the media and TV spoon feeds us – read a few different articles and get your own perspective on things, laugh at satire, and for fuck sake whatever you do, don’t buy The Sun or The Daily Mail!
While I grew up I was taken on many protest marches against Thatcher & her Tory government. I.e. a protest march to ban Section 28 (AKA Clause 28): Here is a photo which was also featured on the front cover of Gay Times in 1990. My aunties also helped to organise London Pride. For anyone who doesn’t know what Section 28 is here is a little summary: ‘Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 caused the controversial addition of Section 2A to the Local Government Act 1986… The amendment stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.’
I also come from a large family of Northerners (mostly Scousers) as well as having a several family members from London. In the eighties, Thatcher was closing down mines, she was eradicating industry and more and more people ended up unemployed reaching an all time high of three million while she was in power. Benefits were cut. She privatised the world and his dog – or tried to. She stole our milk. She helped to cover up the police’s involvement in the Hillsborough disaster – According to this article: ‘Margaret Thatcher encouraged the South Yorkshire police to be a “partisan force” operating under a “culture of impunity”.’ She introduced Poll Tax. She supported Apartheid. Need I go on?
Not convinced by me? Take a look here at Glenda Jackson talking during the tribute debate in Parliament to add to your perspective.
I don’t claim to know much about politics at all – I would say I am probably quite ignorant and that I need to do a lot more reading/watching of the news. I am basically a left-wing, council-estate, scally-child child of the Thatcher era but I am also fairly well-educated: I worked really hard at school because I loved it and wanted more and I also had the privilege of being able to go to university to do a degree.
Anyway, to end, here is a little song that I also think needs sharing: So Long (Farewell to Margaret Thatcher) by Chumbawamba.