Death becomes her

I first saw the news via facebook.  'Maggie's finally fallen off the twig'.   Even sitting here in Australia there was really only one person this statement could be about.  Margaret Thatcher dying has unleashed quite an interesting discussion about death and etiquette.  In the following 24 hours, I saw all manner of reactions via my telly.  Politicians remarking on her legacy and how she put the 'great' back into 'great britain'.  But I also saw people dancing in the streets and young people saying 'she destroyed my town and I'm glad she's dead'.

She stepped down as Prime Minister in 1990.  That's 23 years ago and people's hatred still runs deep. But apart from her supporters and detractors, there have been people saying it's a bit tough to sink the boot into an 87 year old widow with dementia, and that it's wrong to speak ill of the dead.

I'm afraid I disagree.  People suddenly don't become saints as they shuffle off this mortal coil.  We all grow up learning the valuable lesson that life has consequences.  We are responsible for our actions and the impact they have on others.  Anyone reading along in the last few posts will know that I'm an atheist.  But interestingly, many religions suggest that at the time of death you will be judged by the life you have lead.  So as a society are we not entitled to judge a persons impact on our life?

I don't for a moment pretend to understand the history of british politics.  I was too busy reading Smash Hits to follow what was going on overseas.  But in the last few days some interesting facts have been shared via social media.  She supported Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet, and called Nelson Mandela and the ANC terrorists.  But also, in what would horrify many conservatives past and present, she spoke up about climate change in the 1980s.  I guess this shows that people are never one dimensional, no matter how we like to paint them.

As a lover of music, I was interested to see the response from people who lived through the Thatcher years.  Morrissey makes an great point about what Thatcher has done for feminists:

She hated feminists even though it was largely due to the progression of the women's movement that the British people allowed themselves to accept that a Prime Minister could actually be female. But because of Thatcher, there will never again be another woman in power in British politics, and rather than opening that particular door for other women, she closed it.

His full response to her death is well worth a read.  As is Billy Bragg's, but here's a snippet:

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!
Billy credits his reaction to her politics for making his a socialist.

I just watched Glenda Jackson in the House of Commons making the most passionate speech about the impact of Margaret Thatcher on english society.  I had a tear in my eye, for the england she spoke of sounds very much like the Australia of today.  I implore you to watch.

Party politics aside, I bet if you asked most people how they think taxes should be spent I'm pretty sure education, hospitals and healthcare, and looking after the vulnerable in society would be on the top of everyone's list.  I am reminded of the quote "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members" ~ Mahatma Ghandi.  Now Maggie was widowed and had dementia.  But she was also living in the Ritz hotel in London being cared for by her family.  She didn't see out her days alone  in a grubby bedsit.  Perhaps this is the great irony, as it points out that we all need someone to help us occasionally.   Society should be there to care for the infirmed and vulnerable.  Not just those with the financial means to afford it.  What a shame it's not a legacy of caring she will leave behind.



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