One of the small wonders of my iPhone is it’s ability to flash up world headlines as they happen- like a tiny little Associated Press representative in my pocket. Being an information junkie, it allows me to work long hours at work and not be blindfolded from the world.
Only recently, I had discussed this with my Dad, and the conversation had led to the day it flashed up with the news of Thatcher’s death. To the outsider, this may seem callous and ghoulish, but my Dad was one of the 1,200 workers who went on strike at the Reckitt’s factory in Hull, on the only day Thatcher ever visited the city. This action led her to to re-arrange her plans and visit the Smith And Nephew factory instead, where a further 1,000 workers walked out in protest.
Regardless of my own feelings towards Thatcher, the conversation primarily arose from the knowledge that my Dad would be satisfied (and note that word) that she was finally gone. There is a huge difference in being satisfied that someone you saw as not just an opponent, but the enemy, was no longer inhabiting the same Earth as you, rather than holding an all night rave at their child’s home in celebration.
The immediate reaction of some people, to anyone under the age of 35, greeting news of her death with anything but remorse was a simple “you weren’t even there”. Yet, Thatcher hung over my childhood from day one. My Dad likes to spin the tale that I was “conceived on strike”. The Sun newspaper was banned from our household. My Mum once kept a Conservative election poster, leading to an angry reaction from my Dad as to why it was even in the four walls, rather than placed straight in the bin? One of my earliest childhood memories is of waking up the morning of Thatcher’s final election victory, asking my Mum if “we” had won, and giving her a hug upon hearing Kinnock had again failed to deliver.
There is, of course, an inherited belief system at such an age, much like taking a small child to watch your favourite football team. However, I like to think there is an intuitiveness at such an age about what matters to your parents, and what affects their daily happiness. They are your whole world up until your teen years, and a sadness, or anger, that a foe inspires in their voice sows the seeds on how you view the consequences of their actions against them.
That is not to say that we cannot change those inherited world views over time. If that were the case, the country would view half of Europe as the enemy, women and ethnic groups as inferior human beings and homosexuality as an illegal act to be kept hidden being closed curtains. With maturity comes education, and the ability to form one’s own opinion.
I was one of the people who took satisfaction in Thatcher passing away on Monday. Not because of my Dad’s opinion, or my political allegiances, nor indeed of the time I had taken to read about her before her death. I took satisfaction because I could not bear to afford her the respect in death that I felt she failed to afford so many she was elected to serve in life.
The immediate reaction of many to that was disgust, which I could understand. Yet, if you admire Thatcher for her political fortitude of not caring if her policies meant whether she was loved or hated, do not expect she would want anything less in death. I read that Nelson Mandela forgave her for her views on apartheid, I think it is fair to say I am not half the human being that he is.
How many deaths of certifiably insane killers, driven by madness to commit acts of horror, have been celebrated within the national press or widespread public? Evil is much a harder thing to quantify than insanity, yet it is often justification for spitting on the graves of those recently departed. Whilst Thatcher was certainly not a serial killer, have a conversation with a family member of a Belgrano, Pinochet or Pol Pot victim, then tell them they should not delight in her death. The opinion of others, and the consequences of all our actions, are a hugely difficult thing to gauge, perhaps only when we are finally gone?
My political beliefs are mainly based on, like many people, the wish for all in the world to live an equally rich standard of life. If the people of Britain did not believe that, Red Nose Day would be defunct and unnecessary. The vast majority of my anger and frustrations at politics, and indeed the wider world, is that this does not exist. My blood boils at the thought that a child requires charity funding to allow them a fragment of a childhood, due them being a full time carer of a sick parent. I fear to tread into a political career due to the weight of responsibility that would hang heavy on my shoulders. If I left office having failed to improve the lives of an electorate, hated and despised, I could not sleep at night, nor live with myself.
Here is where my deep rooted disdain for Thatcher stems. She did not strike me as an individual who carried such weight on her shoulders.There is being ideological, there is having the admirable strength of mind to stick to your political goal, and then there is having little time nor thought for the collateral damage of your actions.
On a human level, I despair at whole communities and families destroyed for political ideology. I despair at men driven to suicide or alcoholism, when they can longer take the shame of not being able to provide for their family, their lifelong trade deemed irrelevant.
Government, by nature, requires tough decisions. I often think of the Conservatives as Tony Montana in Scarface. We need them around, so we can point the finger and say “that’s the bad guy”. However, tough decisions should not come with a human cost, and certainly not so widespread that they cannot be ignored, nor guilt felt for them.
Thatcher was unrepentant in the human costs of her decisions. “The medicine is harsh, but the patient requires it to live”. That is where my quarrel with her lies. Not a misguided wish to improve the world that backfired. Not a hope to unite society, so that future generations may reap the rewards, that never surfaced. Just an ideology based on division and finally conquering those who had been in your path.
Perhaps the real satisfaction was just that she was finally gone? That she had no longer inhabited the world a day more than men and women taken far too early, who had seemingly done much more to enrich the very society that she believed did not exist?
I feel no guilt for not being moved by her death (or any of the above), and maybe my soul is a little poorer for that, but it is also diminished by every day I do not weep nor take action for the children killed by Assad’s regime in Syria, instead choosing to sit and watch Geordie Shore on my TV.
However, please don’t mistake the reaction of many to be the celebration that “the witch has gone”. The wounds are deeper and more intricate than that, and run through generations in vastly different forms.
It is for future generations to judge equally divisive figures as Blair and Bush, and for not one second will I chastise anyone who delights in their deaths if I am still around. The minds broadened, lives affected and wounds inflicted by such public figures, deserve far more respect than that of their mere beating hearts. For surely, that is truly how the measure of their life’s achievements should be gauged.
Paul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff