Of Musings and Wonderings











{April 14, 2013}   Like Waving A Red Flag…

There’s something that has been playing on my mind for most of the last week. Something that has made me cringe when both sides have spoken. It’s…a very divisive issue, especially in the UK. Something that has had people sneering at others, had others acting kind of idiotically and just made you realise how passionately some people felt about this.

Let’s face it, whatever the right say, Thatcher was not popular. It doesn’t matter anymore how popular she was in the past, and it doesn’t matter what the reasons for her winning re-elections was. It doesn’t matter if milk had already been taken from over 12s before she took it from the under 12s. No matter what arguments you look at, a popular person would not have prompted parties upon their death.

I don’t agree with celebrating someone’s death. It’s…unBritish. And by that, I mean it’s not polite. It’s almost crude, in a way, but that’s not to say I can’t see why people were happy when she did die. There are people out there who, because of her, are unemployed, who struggle every day just to make ends meet. It’s a two-edged sword, really. And yes, it’s wrong to celebrate her death, but I don’t see any reason to criticise those people who may have been happy about it, or who maybe had a drink or two. The way I see it, people should have just been left to do what they wanted. They’re not actually hurting anyone, and those people who cried “Oh but her family!” aren’t seeing the point. Her family, if they have any sort of realism about them, should know what the reaction would be upon her death. And…okay, maybe people shouldn’t have had parties. But they sure as hell should be okay to ‘celebrate’ in private.

There was an interesting article on The Guardian (which I can’t find again because the search button hates me or something) regarding the whole ‘don’t speak ill of the dead’ phrase, and how it applies to Thatcher. Essentially, the point made was that it doesn’t apply. Not to someone who was in the public eye, and not when you have the right celebrating her and praising her at every corner. The point made was basically, there are two sides to the debate, and you can’t use that phrase to silence one side. Thatcher, even in death, has divided people right down the middle, and why shouldn’t the left get their say? Why shouldn’t the people who were affected by what she did, get their say?

One argument I’ve seen crop up about the criticism surrounding Thatcher is that it comes from people too young. As in, people who weren’t there. The right have been fond of saying “You can’t remember, so you can’t criticise.”
3ppydnIt’s bullshit for a variety of reasons. Saying someone cannot look at the past and form their own opinions, just because they weren’t there, is ridiculous. If it was true, why the hell do we study History? Secondly, just because someone my age, or slightly younger, wasn’t alive during Thatcher’s reign doesn’t mean they haven’t lived with the shadow of it.

The stupid thing is, the Conservative party are just dismissing the comments about Thatcher. Instead, they should be looking at why people feel this way. Especially now, with the current climate we’re in. People are unemployed. People who would have previous worked in mines or factories don’t have jobs in their local area. Whether or not that’s because of Thatcher is almost irrelevant; people feel that it’s because of her, and that’s why her death has produced the reactions she has. It’s all well and good to say “It’s disgraceful that people are happy over her death,” if you’ve been able to get a job, or have lived in a relatively well off area. And I count myself among them. I was able to go to University. I have been able to come out and get a job in an office. Yay for me.

But if you live in areas that largely relied on coal mining, in communities where mining sustained them, then you probably know someone who lost their job under Thatcher. Maybe they’ve never been able to get another long term. Maybe mining was something you would have gone into, if it was still a viable option.

And let’s face it, the strikes of that time have been prevalent in pop culture. I live in South Wales; mining is a part of my history, even if the town I live in was never a mining community. But there’s the valleys, not far away. And I studied in the North of England, where I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who really felt for the Swansea mining tragedy a few years ago. Mining communities feel for each other, even now. Even when they’re no longer mining communities. And the response to the Swansea tragedy in the North was…well, it was like an understanding. Even among those people who had never grown up with a mine nearby. Because our history shapes us. And part of that history was made more horrible under Thatcher, with the strikes and the effect it had not just on the people on strike, but on generations following.

The best way, I think, to sum up the point – not just about history, how it links us, but also about the strikes – is a music video, by a Welsh band.

The key lyric there? Your history is mine.

There is a very good reason people hated Thatcher. And I’ve tried to lay this out diplomatically up until now, simply because I know it’s a hard subject. Because I know I don’t have enough specialised knowledge to say this happened directly because of that. (Not because I’m too young, but because I haven’t looked into it, okay?) But…well, the images in that video are images I have grown up with. How many times have the strikes come up in popular culture? And what’s betting that when they have, it’s the people living in South Wales and the North of England who are hit hardest by it?

*deep breath*

Okay, so, now, getting to the reason for the title of this piece. And as a warning…there is going to be some swearing here.

There are cuts left right and centre, for everything you can think of. Education, health, benefits. Libraries closing, people unable to find a job. ‘Focus’ on getting youth employment up has been nothing more than getting people between the ages of 18 – 25 working for periods of time, unpaid.

And yet we’re spending TEN FUCKING MILLION on a funeral??

Seriously. That’s just…it’s messed up. Totally and unbelievably messed up. And they’re expecting people to just sit back and twiddle their thumbs, to remain quiet about this when there are people who don’t know if they’re going to have a job in a month?

Thatcher’s legacy is a broken, divided country, and not just because of her actions as PM. It’s her death that’s causing it now, and whatever blame you place or don’t place on her, the Conservatives deserve any protest thrown at them. I am not an advocate of violence. But if there are any disruptions during the funeral, who is really going to be surprised? We have a government determined to let the have’s keep having while the have not’s slowly lose everything. And this funeral is just going to make things worse.

Her death has caused a huge divide in this country. And it’s only going to get worse. We’re supposed to have free speech, but God forbid you say anything against her. And how can anyone act surprised that Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead has risen in the charts? The charts are the people’s new way of getting their voices heard, and they’re still trying to squash it.

Okay. Right. Rant over. And if you have read this far…thank you for indulging me. Thanks for letting me rant, and – to everyone who has liked, commented or followed in the past – thank you (massively) for making me feel that this little blog is the place where I can do this.

And if you do have anything to say about this whole thing, please feel free to comment. I am always open to discussions – and debates – about everything I post here.

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I think that was very measured, for someone from South Wales 🙂 I like a lot of your points – the main two are, people are still suffering as a direct result of her policies and people have the right to say whatever they like. Trying to quash dissent on the grounds of taste is censorship.
I personally believe a riot at her funeral would be quite fitting considering the damage she has, and is still doing through the sycophants in power now. Although, like you I do not advocate violence, apart for self defence. Peaceful direct action is the way to show our disgust. We should all turn up outside and turn our backs in shame, en masse.

My great granddad and my granddad were miners, from around your neck of the woods – Treherbet, up in the Rhondda. They came down to Kent to work in the pits there, where my dad, for a time, also became a miner. So, mining is in my blood*, although the closest I ever got to the colliery was to picket with my friends, who were on strike at Betteshanger pit. They were both banned from entering an exclusion zone around the pit, for striking, although neither did anything illegal. There were also some solid reports of the government using undercover troops, to infiltrate the picket lines. I still believe this undemocratic act happened, as Thatcher would do anything to win. (Don’t even mention the Falklands war in which my brother would have died, if he hadn’t been thrown into jail as the boats sailed! That’s another story for another book!)

So I do have very strong feelings about Mrs T, even after all these years. If I had to say one good thing that came out of her reign, it was that a whole generation of people became politically aware. This country is not a mess just because of Mrs T. but she did open the door to unbridled, US-style capitalism, with it’s Ronal Reagan inspired trickle-down economics. From the 80’s on, if you wanted to see what our country was going to become, all you had to do is look west across the Atlantic. And I’m afraid, it just getting worse. That’s cool if you like no health or social care, guns, corruption, etc etc… (They make some good movies though, because the Americans shamelessly eulogise their own culture and export it around the world as the ‘gold standard’).

I don’t hate anyone. I believe in personal responsibility. Be the change you wish to see. My hope for your generation, and the one to come, is that they’ll learn from our mistakes – one of them was ‘there is no society,only the individual’. That is so dumb. You’ve only got to look at nature to see the interdependence of all life. We are no different as a human society. It’s just that too much money makes people feel they can live any way they want, and are exceptions to the rule. That is what needs to end. Mrs T was the champion of such short-sightedness. Tony Blair was and is the same.

Nuff said.
Peace.

*My great Granddad died in the awful Senghenydd pit disaster in 1913. I share his name. And why did the disaster happen? Read up on it, if you don’t already know. The short version is that the bloody coal baron who owned the mine wouldn’t spend money on the safety improvements, even when he was obliged to by law. Indirectly, it cost the lives of many of the 439 miners… but so what? There were plenty more willing poor folk to take their place. It’s another shameful page in the history of global capitalism. My granddad, whose own dad had been killed when he was 10yrs old, went back down the same mine at 13, just before it was closed again. The miners families got about shilling and a few pennies compensation each. And where was most of the coal heading? For the british Navy, for their ships to enforce the empire,and make us a rich country.

Sigh.



Ok, so I did write a long reply to this last week but then it deleted itself randomly. Very annoying. Anyway.
Thanks. Despite my personal feelings, I think it’s always important to try to see things from both sides. It’s the only way to really understand – and get to grips with – a situation. But yeah, people are still suffering and that’s something I don’t think a lot of people understand. A riot…would have been interesting, but I think the heavy police force stopped there. If there were forms of protest, the media didn’t seem to cover it. I did hear of people planning to turn their backs, and like you say, peaceful direct action is the best route. I was kind of worried there would be people who just took the opportunity to create violence, without any aim or goal. But looks like that was stopped, anyway.

I don’t know enough about the mines to say either way if they would have closed without Thatcher, but the impression I get is, well, she escalated any problems that might have existed anyway. And it’s all well and good the Conservatives now moaning about people on Jobseekers, but the fact is, there isn’t enough jobs out there for people who may not be suited to an office. I know how lucky I am to have a job, but we can’t just keeping pumping money into companies that open offices or call centres. We need more…hands on jobs, too. Things like mining.

A generation may have become politically aware, but I feel like that’s slipping away from my generation. We’re too apathetic. In University, the people I saw joining political clubs or societies, who tried to stand up for decent issues, were doing it for the wrong reasons. I feel like there’s no urge in my generation to actually fight for the greater good; even among groups like feminists there’s constant infighting. And with any other group you get people judging each other and fighting with each other and acting like “Oh, I care for the cause more than you” when they’re doing it because they want to be seen to be doing it, rather than because they believe in it. I saw it with the whole tuition fee rises thing; people were taking part as an excuse to miss lectures or seminars. And it’s like…well, surely you should be making the most of the lectures and seminars that we actually have a chance to do, when many people after us won’t get to experience it because it’ll be too expensive.
We need someone to stand out and unite us, for something! Personally, I think we’ve had it too lucky. We haven’t had anything affecting us directly. We haven’t experienced anything on the scale of what’s come before. (Vietnam. Cold War. Thatcher) It’s made us complacent, and I feel like things are going to have a get a whole of a lot worse in this country, under Cameron, before my generation actually realize how screwed we are and try to do something about it. And Hollywood may make some good films, but us Brits can do some excellent films, too.

Basically, we need Labour to actually stand up. We need them to become a party the people can actually believe in again. At the moment, all they seem to be doing is sitting back and letting the coalition do whatever they want to do. They don’t seem to care. Not as much as they should, anyway. They need to be the part of the left – not the party a little to the left of the Conservatives.

Most people around here know about the Senghenydd disaster. Well, of a certain age. I don’t think many people my age would know about it. But my parents took us to Big Pit & Rhondda Heritage Mine growing up, and things like that…well, all you have to do is look at things like Sengheydd and Aberfan to see how little human life meant when it came to making money, especially from things like coal. (And I highly recommend either Big Pit or Rhondda to visit if you’re interested in the history of mining. Brilliant places, well worth a trip. Big Pit is free as far as I remember, but you have to pay for Rhondda. I just hope that if I ever have kids, those places are still going.)



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