I’m having one of my ‘Howard Beale from Network’ style rants again …
Margaret Thatcher’s funeral was on April 17, 2013, but people I know are continuing to discuss it, and discuss it in depth. Not just the funeral – but her entire term in office, it’s ramifications for the population of the day, and the miserable legacy left behind. This subject always evokes a walk down a particularly unhappy avenue in memory lane.
Now ‘they’ are telling us that we should show respect. The simple answer to that is: to get respect, you first have to respect others.
‘They’ also say that we should just not talk about the bad things that happened during the 1980s. I disagree. The past is prologue that should be studied. To ignore it, to have a selective memory, is to risk the bad things happening again. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that a little like ‘censorship’? We live in a democracy, yes? Freedom of speech, and all that?
‘They’ who sing MT’s praises are those who did well because of her administration, but what about everyone else? She divided the nation. Some prospered, but the majority suffered. My sympathies are with those who lost their businesses, jobs and futures. The generations whose future and hopes of opportunity were written-off as a poverty-trap system was imposed on them.
MT’s critics have been criticized as being ‘bitter’, but considering what happened and the communities that were shut down, left in poverty and still have not recovered to this day – don’t they have every right to feel bitter, cheated and angry? Is it no wonder that the banners were raised and the song: ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!’ became an anthem for a disenchanted and ignored generation?
Here’s what I remember:
· MT stopped the supply of free school milk. For many young children, it was the only source of milk they had, which earned MT the title of ‘Margaret Thatcher The Milk Snatcher’. Thanks, MT! School menus continued to decline in quality. I remember processed junk food being the only option at my school!
· Inflation soared.
· Millions became unemployed.
· YOP [Youth Opportunity Programme], later renamed YTS [Youth Training Scheme] – because it sounded nicer, even though it fooled no one! What it amounted to was 16-year-old school-leavers, green as grass, being forced onto a ‘scheme’ for £25.00 a week, while they did the same work as the other employees. I did a year on one of these ‘schemes’. My bosses at the company were sneering tyrants and the ‘scheme’ was thinly-veiled slave labor.
· The 1984-85 Coal Miners’ Strike. I am a conservationist so I understand that part of the reason coal mines were closed was because of the negative impact on the environment, but my retort is that no other form of industry was brought in to replace coal mining, thus those mining towns were left without an alternative form of employment, and the people were left redundant and poor.
· Unions destroyed.
· Public service cuts.
· Poverty trap – the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.
· Rising homelessness – for all ages.
· The Poll Tax.
· Class warfare.
· The North-South divide.
· So-called ‘Care in the Community’.
· Riots and civil unrest.
· Rising crime rates that go hand-in-hand with poverty.
And this is just scratching the surface.
Does anyone get the chilling feeling that history is repeating itself, that old policies have just been rejigged, polished up, renamed, and put back into operation?
Being deliberately divisive, MT divided the nation … so it stands to reason that opinion on her has stayed divisive.
I was 15-years-old in 1983, less than a year from leaving school. I sat in a classroom listening to a careers lecture from a disillusioned, despondent and demoralized teacher. The lecture was meant to inform us of our options; it turned into a doom-and-gloom rant about how we’d had our future written-off, the system was screwed and most of us would struggle through our working life.
MT was known as a ‘strong woman’, a fighter. However, is being haughty, pompous and uncompromising something to be applauded? And who was she really fighting? To many of us living and suffering under her policies, her enemy was the working class.
George Orwell wrote:
The English electoral system... is an all-but open fraud. In a dozen obvious ways it is gerrymandered in the interest of the moneyed class.
The following three passages are from Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell, originally published in 1949, adapted into the movie of the same title, starring John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton and Cyril Cusack.
Orwell’s writing has never been more prophetic and apt for both the year 1984 and the present day situation:
Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two equals four. If that is granted all else follows.
April the 4th, 1984 … I think. To the past, or to the future. To an age when thought is free. From the Age of Big Brother, from the Age of the Thought Police, from a dead man … greetings.
In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance …
The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.
MT saw out the twilight of her life living in the Ritz hotel. How many of us could even afford a night in the Ritz – let alone move in and live there?
‘We’re all Thatcherites now’, declared Mr C, at the funeral.
I’ll end by letting the people speak and these pictures speak for themselves and remembering MT, her administration, its consequences and legacy, I’ll quote Winston Smith again, from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:
I understand how, but I don’t understand why.