April 09, 2013

Thatcher Is Gone: May We All Rest in Peace

I am a product of Margaret Thatcher’s United Kingdom. I served as guinea pig for every educational experiment she launched during her Premiership, and lived within sight of the pithead at Cadley Hill, which finally closed in 1988. I saw friends risk their liberty over the ill-fated Poll Tax and stood on the sidelines of a culture marked by the bleakness of strikes, the violence of football fans, race riots, class division, and the immanence of the IRA. My England of the 1980s was a grim, knee-capped, hopeless era in which Thatcher brandished a political crowbar. I have no fond affections for her, her ideology, or her political legacy.

 Cadley Hill, 1984

That being said, and with Glenn Greenwald’s important intervention in mind, I see no humanity in dancing on Thatcher’s grave, or on anyone else’s for that matter. I do not understand how so many characteristically reasonable people – people who spend their lives looking for intellectual angles on everything with an ever-refining insistence on nuance – can take pleasure, and I am discerning an abundance of genuine heartfelt glee, from the death of a person. This kind of people bemoaned the crass triumphalism of Joe Public in America on the death of Osama Bin Laden, but happily celebrate the enfeeblement and subsequent miserable demise of a compatriot. If Thatcher was criticised for commodifying the individual, de-humanising society in the process, then the vacuous danse macabre instigated by her death seems to testify to the depths to which that de-humanisation went.

Schadenfreude is, quite obviously, not typically a particularly English quality. At the moment, however, one wouldn’t know it. By all means speak ill of the dead, but in the name of humanity stop raising a glass to death. It is unbecoming of the dignity that so many people who detested Thatcher claimed to wish to uphold.
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