On Family Values
You often said that family values are what matter, that family is the core group, the core value, and by family you meant, of course, the traditional British unit, two good people, strong and true, leading the fray, a nuclear unit of 2:2 with children washed and scrubbed, and everything is in its proper place. The children, naturally are obedient and respectful of both Mummy and Daddy.
It was a naively beautiful vision, indeed Maggie, you were full of such visions, for you were a visionary leader.
You scorned the notion of utopia, and yet you readily illuminated a utopian vision of free-market capitalism. You spoke of practicality, of realism, and you said your concerns were pragmatic. You said you were concerned with security, with war, with economics.
You poo-pooed utopian ideals, and yet you imagined a perfect global economy, a world governed by the force of law, and benignly backed by that infamous dragon, the nuclear deterrent.
You allowed for an arsenal of deadly weapons, because you believed, fervently, that such was the only protection against the enemies of freedom, and the threat of aggression.
And this, of course, would be perfectly handled by our big brother overseas.
Oh Maggie, Maggie, who cannot feel a touch of tenderness towards you, for you meant well. Despite your contempt for working class Britain, you envisioned a world both free and prosperous.
As you defined it, we were to be a united nations of freedom loving (and free-trade loving) nations. A conglomeration bound by law, living in harmony, in armament, and ruled by stable governments, all divinely on message.
The whole planet was to be policed by a benevolent yet stern leadership, (and the mythical Ronald Reagan fell nicely into the role. His persona fitted the bill. What a nice man he was).
You foresaw the larger stars – by sheer force of gravity – pulling the lesser mortals into line, (that is to say the non-English speaking minority nations). You foresaw a Star Trek Federation of liberty-loving peoples, all living happily and obediently ever after, in a blissful state of democracy.
Oh Maggie. Who cannot forgive you for your mistakes, because underneath the plummy Oxbridge voice, and a life tainted with snobbery, there was a stout heart, and a sincere intellect.
You knew that the medicine you offered was harsh, but ultimately right. You felt certain that people would wish to strive, as you strove, to work hard, as you worked, to make sacrifices, as you made, to pay their debts to the society you refused to acknowledge.
You thought that by taking a wrecking ball to the unions, and thereby uprooting the false sense of security they offered, that you would liberate those hidebound communities, destroying their insane, socialist ideals.
No, Maggie, this was not the case.
Because unlike Mary Poppins, (perhaps she was a heroine of yours?) you forgot to add a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.
Why, Maggie, why?
Why did you think it normal and natural to destroy the livelihoods of workers dependent on coal, steel, and manufacturing? Just as you were dependent on your beloved no. 10?
Why ruin their way of life? Did you imagine it was tough love? Didn’t you realise that people need their props? Didn’t you know how important work is, and the security of a pay packet? Or didn’t you foresee that once you had killed off these lurching industries, you would need to reinstate the security of the the workforce, of the people? Instead of which you left a vacuum, a void.
Did you believe Maggie, that deprived, hard-working, (though non-educated) people would suddenly have the will to start ‘doing it for themselves’. You spoke with great anger, great passion about the tiny well-organised minority. Were you enacting revenge for the indignity suffered by your father the Alderman? Yes, he lost his crown, but whose fault was that? Was he perhaps as high-handed with the rights and principles of others as you yourself were?
As to the tiny, well organised minority – of which you spoke with such loathing – was this the group who ousted your father? Just as you yourself would be ousted by another secret cabal?
Perhaps you avenged your father’s name, but in doing so, you fell upon your sword.
Your great mistake Maggie, was not dismantling the unions, or doing away with manufacturing and coal, it was not the deregulation of finance. It was this: In your haste to destroy the tiny well organised minority, you forgot to erect a plan B.
All generals, all marshals, Maggie, must have a plan B. Did you never consider the aftermath of battle? With what did you and your government seek to replace the great monoliths of industry? When dismantling the unions, did you consider the tight-knit, hard-working communities that would be left in a vacuum?
Or were you content to ignore the ferment of anarchy, anger and resentment you were creating? Did you not see that socialism, stripped of integrity and power would eventually turn fetid? Did you never consider the affront to others’ dignity that would be caused by such a policy of dismemberment?
Yes, you broke the stultifying effect of the ‘closed shop’, and made positive changes in the society that you refused to believe in. The odious Arthur Scargill was slung out in favour of liberty, and rightly so. Who wouldn’t wish to be released from the tyranny of the chewed pencil tip; who wouldn’t prefer to live in a world un-shrunken and un-diminished by fear? Not I.
But you failed to rid old England of ‘creeping socialism’. Instead, you and your party made it ten times worse. Abandoning the humanitarian vision of Nye Bevan, and the compassionate consciousness of the post-war period, English socialism became an altogether more virulent affair.
You yourself have admitted that our problems are now very severe. Post Thatcherism, we have Islamic militarism, central European chaos, Russian mafia, and deadly weapons now openly for sale on the free-trade marketplace that you so adored.
The commonplace Marxists you scorned were less threatening than the embittered ‘intellectuals’ who took their place. These twisted souls have invited the militant locusts to come and destroy our freedoms. You knew very well Maggie that the mediocre purveyors of tuppence ha’penny ideologies would rather see us dead than free. You kicked them in the nuts, Maggie, and rightly so. Yet, our world is more dangerous since the collapse of the Berlin wall.
Did old age teach you anything? Did you finally consider the importance of community as you lived your last days in the Ritz hotel? No doubt served hand and foot. Did your dependency enlighten you, Maggie?
But I digress; I wanted to tackle your notion of family, for I am at odds with that notion. It strikes me, Maggie, that you were not totally convinced by your own argument. You said ‘home is a place to go to when there is no more work to be done.’ You slept no more than three or four hours a night. You were up with the lark, doing your ‘boxes’. You thrived on work, not on family. Much of the time, (if the biographers are honest), you left your own family in the sidelines, out of necessity perhaps, but still.
Your prodigious energy, intense focus, amazing drive and ambition were admirable. You knew that laying claim to core ‘family values’ (a myth you exploded even as you uttered it) would have men in suits flocking to your leadership. I suspect they saw you as an alpha male, albeit in women’s clothing.
Perhaps your greatest contribution to democracy, and the principles you avowed, was the very powerful symbol of freedom that you represented in person. A woman realising her truest and fullest potential, irrespective of gender, or marital status; this was a spectacle of liberty that words alone could never achieve. For this I revere your gigantic spirit, Maggie.
Who else but freedom loving old England could have produced such a one?
Yet you were old-fashioned, you insisted that women be women, and men be men. You poured scorn on feminists, yet challenged the status quo. Not content with being a mere Prime Minister, you strode boldly out upon the world stage and wielded your influence in America, in Russia.
If only you had permitted such uniqueness in others. Instead you enacted that vile piece of legislation, clause 28. (What was your problem, Maggie? Why the hatred of gays?)
Though marvellous abroad, you proved less able at home. Was this because you never truly understood your own political philosophy? Where there is division, there cannot be harmony, and you were certainly divided, at home.
No Maggie, it was not the ordinary, grubby business of politics that broke you in the end. Nor was it the sneak thief in the night who stole your crown. (Although John Major snatched your seat with unseemly haste).
No, it was your own fatal flaw that caused the tumble from grace. Your achilles heel was your unconscious rejection of family, of community, of society.
“There is no such thing as society”, you said. Hence the war of aggression enacted on Britain. Though manufacturing was already in decline, you sped the process along, ignoring what was at stake for the weak ‘dependents’, those who were suddenly on the lay by, with no where to go.
Not everyone had your great intellect, your will, or your drive. You famously said that there is always going to be inequality, but that everyone has the right to a decent life, even while living within a community of ‘unequals’.
Yet you despised the ordinary Briton, the people who depended on their ‘unequal’ jobs for survival; contemptuous as that may have seemed to you, dear Maggie.
So, in conclusion, (and let this be a warning to all great future leaders, both men and women), there is such a thing as society, there is such a thing as community, of our very natures we are community. We do not exist in a vacuum, we are not content living in isolation. Isolation breeds inhumanity, and that makes us dangerous to one another.
We do not trample lightly upon another’s rights, and fundamental of these is the right to work. Everyone has the right to survive, and survive well on this glorious and varied planet. Whatever the economics of any given nation, selfishness, prejudice and aggression are in constant supply. To struggle is our human inheritance, and fear is the shadow that follows in our wake. Human nature is a dangerous game.
You said that the lady was not for turning, but unless we turn and face our demons the shadow must always win out in the end, as yours did Maggie.
Rest in peace Margaret Thatcher, great warrior, visionary leader, and flawed politician.