This will tend to the declamatory, and I don’t care because I have been waiting for Thatcher to die my whole life.
Because I was raised by people who care, because I was raised by people who are informed, because I was raised by people who didn’t shield their children from the ugly/ beautiful moments in history. I don’t remember it all but I watched the Berlin Wall come down, watched Mandela get elected, watched Thatcher leave.
People keep saying “we don’t remember” and “it’s not our fight”, and we’ve no reason to be happy or to crow. But I’ve been angry for YEARS. So angry. And trained to run on empathy and compassion and finding that extending those principles as far as I could meant enountering walls raised to shut people out and keep people in, and that empathy and compassion and ideas of liberty and equality meant developing an increasingly systematic analysis of what was wrong in the world and getting this godawful rage and sadness in my gut that, really, does feel physical – and if it weren’t for the weight of all that education, it would probably be violent. It’s what Juliana Spahr called “That police feeling”: the feeling when you’re face to face against a line of cops, and they’re hitting you, and the people you love, because, usually, you went for a walk all together down public streets. The blind rage that wells up when things are unfair, when you are made impotent, when you are crushed without rationality.
So when I see pictures of the front lines at Orgreaves I’ve got at least some idea of what that felt like, albeit on a tiny scale – and my family’s home community is still visibly devastated by Thatcher’s industrial decisions: I’m not ignorant of the long-term effects either. Furthermore, don’t you DARE say I don’t remember something that is still going on. We can’t use our unions because of her. In fact, the NUS has just elected a leader who “doesn’t believe in universities”: it was Thatcher’s gutting and de-naturing of the unions that made this possible.
I’ve been celebrating since Monday, but I’ve also been battling the very unpleasant feelings that go with having to review everything that she did, and our failure to resist her and her successors – among whom of course I number Milliband and Blair. And I’m not violent. I’m too cerebral to raise my hand to another body – the impact would be puny anyway. I don’t believe that property damage is violence, but I’m not planning on committing that, either.
But she made me this angry. She was one of the major cultural forces in shaping the present British left, such as it is. She and those like her have put hurdle after hurdle after hurdle in our way and I understand the hate with which she acted in her lifetime and I understand the hate she endemicised and the legacy that she has left us with and I HATE HER RIGHT BACK. And I am glad she’s gone and I’m going to drink to it. I never wanted to be filled with rage at every turn but I believe it is the only morally appropriate way to feel – and to be joyful in victory, to love people and to celebrate with them, and to be critical and understand the system, and to be angry and angry and angry and to tramp the damned dirt down so she cannot get back out even if it turns out that she’s by some freak chance still breathing. We did not take revenge on her body the way that she acted against ours. We are not harming a human. But a death is a historical moment, and it transfroms an ongoing narrative into a history: Thatcher is gone, and we should treat her memory as it deserves to be treated: with anger, disgust and sadness.
Sadness that we couldn’t stop her in her tracks. Sadness that we didn’t beat her. And the anger and resolve to stand against the tide of her legacy now. If the assault would only stop long enough to let us recover a little and draw breath.