Monday, 8 April 2013

The lady's not for mourning

One of my earliest memories is playing a game with my sister in our kitchen where we tried to put bats up Saddam Hussein and Margaret Thatcher's nighties. It was the late 80s and in our house those figures were the ultimate baddies- bogeymen whom the media and our parents had taught us to hate.

Later as an adult I asked my dad if he felt bad indoctrinating us to hate Thatcher that much. "Absolutely not!" was the response. As far as he was concerned it was the same as teaching your children right and wrong. Tories were and are to be despised. My dad also taught me the difference between right and left wing "right wing cares about money, left wing cares about people". Simplistic it may be but as I've grown up I've found very little evidence to the contrary. Fundamentally, I believe, this difference of priorities what sits at the heart of political ideologies.

Growing up in a post Thatcher world I find it hard to conjure the same hatred my parents feel but I've grown up with the legacy she left. The "greed is good" culture and deregulation that brought about the banking crisis, the huge inequality between rich and poor, the lack of housing stock, the horrendous privatised rail system. I've also, it must be said, benefited from a general increase in wealth that the country has seen in the last 30 years. But overall from everything I read about her and modern Tories there is a lack of compassion and a stigmatising of those in situations of disadvantage that makes me furious. I don't agree that "there is no such thing as society" that there are "skivers and strivers" that people have children just to get more benefit money. For all Labour's faults they worked to get children out of poverty, to introduce a national minimum wage, to give more people a better shot at education. And the backward steps we're taking in these areas fill me with rage.

I disagree with the whole argument that we shouldn't celebrate someone's death because they have friends and family. So does Nick Griffin and so did Saddam Hussein, but I don't see any need to crow or gloat. As a political actor Thatcher lost power a long time ago. As a political ideology her legacy goes on and on. I don't want to celebrate but I don't want to mourn. I want to take this opportunity to remember that compassion is better than greed and that society does exist and it is vital. I want to make sure I'm doing all I can in my everyday life to believe in people not money and work to make things better. Putting bats up tories' nighties is probably not the most efficient strategy but I hope continuing to support and care for people and not buying into their rhetoric means I won't let them win.

Billy Bragg said it all so much better-

"This is not a time for celebration. The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today. Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society.

"Raising a glass to the death of an infirm old lady changes none of this. The only real antidote to cynicism is activism. Don't celebrate -- organise!"

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