Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Dawn Of The New Iron Age

After I posted yesterday's comments on the passing of Thatcher, I found the topic still weighed on my mind quite a bit.  Once again, not so much the actual event, as the media storm surrounding it.  I spent some time on the drive to work this morning pushing things around in my head, but ultimately I think Glenn Greenwald and djw have pretty much nailed what I wanted to say.  Even leaving aside the breathtaking hypocrisy on show - there is zero chance, none, that Louise Mensch won't be an intolerable dribbling arse on the day someone she hates dies - the problem with all this ink spilled in condemnation of people spitting on Thatcher's legacy is that it's effectively ring-fencing hagiography and propaganda.  As the links above say, there are real-world consequences to the veneration of public figures - if a Roman citizen were transported to contemporary Washington DC, he would quickly conclude that Reagan were a local god - and asking those with philosophical and moral reasons to want to avoid such a occurrence to hold off for few days so the hacks can get a head start isn't something we should feel compelled to agree too.

There is, of course, a difference between criticising Thatcher's legacy and breaking out a hornpipe before her gravestone.  Even so, the idea that those celebrating a woman's death should be repeatedly criticised whilst those whitewashing the history of so divisive and destructive a figure be given a pass because we shouldn't speak ill of the dead strikes me as far more insulting than any number of poor-taste jokes.

And as for the idea that we should all be playing nicely in our various sandpits because we should feel bad for Thatcher's family: bullshit.  Margaret Thatcher's family have suffered the kind of horrible loss that sooner or later every family feels.  That is undeniably real, and horrible.  But whilst they suffer following the death of a loved one, they do it from the exceptionally fortunate position of having no kind of problematic financial repercussions to work through, and they do it from the immensely rare position of being surrounded on all sides by media voices telling the world that they're loss is shared by millions around the world, who will be keeping them in their prayers.

When my mother dies, maybe a few hundred people will give a shit.  My mother, who has dedicated her life to helping her family and her community, who writes books about the importance of coming together as a town and as a church to help others, will if she's supremely lucky get a couple of lines in our local paper.  Many of the people who would be not just bereaved but financially imperilled by the loss of a love one because of Thatcher's actions will get still less than that.

Greenwald quotes David Wearing's satirical comment from yesterday: "People praising Thatcher's legacy should show some respect for her victims. Tasteless."  It's not just a nice reversal, it's the very heart of the matter.  Hundreds of thousands of people are worse off in this country today as a direct result of Thatcher's policies.  Some of them, in fact, will be bereaved right now, as lives lived under the crushing weight of economic ruin and social disinterest wink out like any other light.  Today, we're told, is not for those losses.  Those losses don't matter.  No-one knew who they were.  Those are not the families we are to spend the next few days sympathising with.

The idea I shouldn't point this out because a bunch of very well-off people directly benefited by the exact same political moves that laid waste to an entire quadrant of England and God alone knows how much of Scotland might feel bad about it is one of the most offensive ideas I've heard in quite some time.  Fuck, as they say, that.


Tomsk said...

I don't agree that Thatcher's legacy can't be criticised in polite society. I have heard the points you make in your penultimate paragraph being made in any number of discussions of her legacy in the media. It's quite easy to do that without being disrespectful to those who are grieving.

On the other hand I totally agree that people who dig around to find more distasteful reactions just so they can get angry about them are pretty distasteful themselves.

SpaceSquid said...

It's more than possible that I wasn't thinking/writing coherently enough. It's not so much that I think society in general has deemed such comments off limits, as there are people out there arguing they should be off-limits. I'm extrapolating what their position would logically result in.

Tomsk said...

Ah, fair enough.

Plus it's becoming increasingly clear that if anyone is playing politics with her death, it's the Tories.

SpaceSquid said...

Which of course is completely predictable. I'm trying to think back to how Labour reacted in the days after John Smith's death, but I find too much of it lost to memory.