Wednesday, April 10, 2013

De mortuis

What does someone of mature years who tries to live under/up to a belief-system that encourages compassion say about the passing of Margaret Thatcher? If she's wise, perhaps she says nothing. But if she's not as wise as she might be, is not as Christian as she ought to be and in addition is a blogger, what then? Blog as catharsis has always been a reason to keep writing, and despite my best intentions to think of something else, it keeps coming back to this ... this toothache of an internal dialogue. Besides, the media - social and professional - keep banging on about it; I hear politicians mouthing blandly political platitudes while others leap to condemn any outbursts of unseemly celebration.

So, for what it's worth, my take. I've just caught up on what Russell Brand had to say, and found myself sympathising. But he was a child of the Thatcher years, and I was an adult. I had somehow avoided any interest in politics in my student days, then I'd had a family and stopped thinking at all for a bit (you did that, in these days - your job wasn't kept open for you when you had a baby) - and then Thatcher came along and suddenly I was involved in the single-issue politics of CND and the US Navy Nuclear Submarine base, Site One, in the Holy Loch. We had a Tory MP in Argyll, the hectoring tones of Thatcher were omnipresent, and I have never felt so alienated or disenfranchised in my life as I felt in these days. I met miners at demonstrations, chanted "Maggie Maggie Maggie! Out Out Out!" at EIS rallies, met more veggie anarchists than I knew existed, gave evidence at the trials of Greenham women and was suddenly no longer welcome in the only church I knew.*

She came to Dunoon one day - must have been in 1976, I think - and was outside the baker's as I walked past (no, I didn't shake her hand). Her car passed as I and #1 son were waiting for a bus; she waved, and son treacherously waved back - and yet then I only knew she was a Tory. Presumably she was supporting the local candidate - but I didn't really know, then, what I came to know in the early 80s. And the strange thing is that hearing that voice on the radio the last couple of days brings it all back - even the genius who voiced her Spitting Image puppet evoked the same sick feeling. Not rational, really - gut feelings of the most basic sort. Not arguable, not at all.

So where on earth am I going? The thoughts that crowd in include this: We shall all die. Some of us will grow old first, and some of us will be frail or demented or both. But we shall still be the people we are now, and the people we were before. And, you know, I think I want people to think of me in some putative future as they do now. I've always believed in not patronising old people, just as I don't believe in patronising the young.

Thatcher's last word on her eviction from office by her party was that she would never forgive them. Fine. She was a politician who chose her job and stuck to it ruthlessly, and in the end her fellow-Tories were ruthless in getting rid of her. She set back the cause of women in high office by years - and I can think of other women in politics whom I admire and have admired far in excess of any reluctant admiration Meryl Streep's film might have engendered.

So I can't face even thinking about what the proposed funeral arrangements imply in terms of divisiveness, the reopening of old sores, the effect on people struggling through their lives under the current Tory economies, the cost of policing and the threat to public order. I shall do my best to avoid the media coverage. And I shall try to say as little as possible.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum? Aye, right.

*Everything changes. That too, I'm glad to say.


  1. Speak no ill of the dead (unless they were on the Belgrano as she did) - one of the few ships to survive Pearl Harbour

  2. I share a lot of your feelings, Christine, having been on CND marches in the early 80s and watched with horror at the damage that her policies were inflicting. I have no problem with expressing my opposition to all that she stood for and did after her death as before it, but I refuse to rejoice at the death of an old, confused woman. I'm with John Donne on this.

  3. Perpetua, you may well be a better person than I am. There are some dark depths I still have to deal with.