Ozymaggias

Thatcher resignation, 1990
Steve Bell covers Thatcher’s resignation in 1990 (click to enlarge).

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

P.B. Shelley

I despaired this morning when I heard the news that Margaret Thatcher was dead at 87. Not because her passing upsets me. I’d already celebrated that in late 1990, when her party finally realized the old bat was potty, the wheels had long fallen off the Iron Lady, and she was growing even more unpopular than her historically record-breaking low approval ratings might have anticipated, and she needed to be removed from office for their own good before she took them down with her.

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I recall walking round the streets of Greenock that day, in something of a daze, overhearing a couple of old guys on a street corner in conversation: “She’s gone, then.” “Aye.” It had been a long, difficult era from her election in 1979, when as a politically inexperienced 19-year-old I barely realized what she was about to usher in, through the horrible early 1980s, protesting against the Falklands War and the UK and US’s saber-rattling in the face of the “Soviet threat,” then the Middle East adventures that were a pale prologue to those of the 2000s, and being subjected to none too subtle state surveillance for my troubles, to standing on my doorstep one morning faced with a court official who was threatening to send the bailiffs round to confiscate what little property I had.

That last event happened because Ms YAFB and I had had the audacity to do as we’d been encouraged by the government and set up a small business in the teeth of a recession, our industry—publishing—was being more than decimated, work had dried up, we’d submitted accounts the local council needed to decide whether we were eligible for some benefit to help pay our Council Tax (a.k.a. Poll Tax), and they’d somehow lost the papers we’d sent in (not for the first time). No court date for a hearing. A sheriff somewhere had heard our case among a slew of others some time earlier. We were never offered the opportunity to attend and put forward our side of the case. The first we knew was a lunatic demand in the post for immediate payment of an absurd amount of money we had no prospect of finding. And so I stood there as this besuited, rather shifty guy threatened me with sending round the heavies.

That was Thatcher’s Britain. Or a small series of snapshots of it. And we got off lightly compared to many. We survived. Survived to see Thatcher leave office in tears.

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Of course, her legacy—the massive capital flight immediately after she took office, the wilful ruination of our already ailing manufacturing industry, among others; the hateful, divisive rhetoric championing austerity (for a select some) that maintained “There is no alternative,” that victimized and Othered those who’d been trampled underfoot as bankers became the ultimate favored class and the rest of us were measured solely in terms of how much we could swell their coffers, and subjected to humiliation and treated like enemies of the state, abject scroungers, if we didn’t deliver; the idiotic middle-class pretend-housewifely insistence that a country’s financial affairs could be run like those of a home; the military adventurism that stirred and shamelessly exploited deeply unpleasant aspects of British jingoism; the spectacle of a woman disproving the inexplicable myth that a woman leader would be less warlike, more compassionate, more attuned to listening than male ones, spouting an anti-feminist insistence that because she’d climbed the greasy pole, there wasn’t any grease, enacting policies that did nothing for the women in society who most needed assistance, and presiding over a cabinet where women were even more underrepresented than in Parliament as a whole; the wholehearted befriending of tyrants and opposition to basic human rights; the whole mindset that obsessed about the cost of everything and valued nothing except the bottom line—that legacy endured, and we may never recover from it as a nation.

So no, I despaired this morning when I heard the news that Margaret Thatcher was dead at 87 because even in death, she is the most divisive political figure of my lifetime, and I’m going to be grinding my teeth to the gums as I try to dodge yet another self-serving tribute in the media to her memory and how she “reshaped” politics and the country, “did what had to be done,” or be forced to revisit just how much her too long reign overshadowed the early part of my life. I’d tried to get all that out of my system in 1990.

I think I’m going to raise a glass or a few. Not in celebration. Not in tribute. I just want to get hammered. I survived her. There were many times I didn’t think I would.

While I’m waiting for the alcohol to kick in, I may keep a bleary eye on the Talk page at her Wikipedia entry. I could do with a laugh. I’ll also be looking back through my old Steve Bell cartoon collection. As you can see, he was a great historiographer of her life and times.


Update: From the Department of Unintended Consequences

Rubina Madan Fillion
@rubinafillion

Confused Cher fans panicked after seeing #nowthatchersdead hashtag. My @WSJ roundup of the best tweets: http://on.wsj.com/16Ip8xv


More: Steve Bell’s tribute today:

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Posted by YAFB on 04/08/13 at 11:35 AM • Permalink

Categories: I Don't Know Much About Art, But I Know What I LikeImagesKnee SlappersNewsPoliticsOur Stupid Media

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commenter on BJuice today
“I have never wished anyone dead, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”

One of the reasons why my spouse came over to this side of the pond was that, after schooling and reading at university, her grandparents told her there was little to no chance of her being able to find work in the UK due to the way Thatcher tanked the economy, and helped her get into a college here in the US so she would have a chance.

To say that my spouse has a rather bitter view of Thatcher may be the understatement of a decade.

YAFB, thank you for your post.

Thanks for the much-needed perspective of someone who was there “on the ground” while Iron Peg was co-regent with Bess2: Britannic Boogaloo.  I was a little young and a little removed from her career, so my primary reaction to news of her death has been blasting Spirit of the Falklands at full volume.

Best comment yet (from wonkette):

They should bury her under the stage of the Royal Ballet Theatre.

I would happily contribute funds to establish the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Urinal.

Here’s something to drink to, YAFB.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id6Qwui8oHo

Comment by Jewish Steel on 04/08/13 at 03:56 PM

Here’s something to drink to, YAFB.

Heh thanks. I don’t need the encouragement. I might put up a post of some timely music later.

I lived in Newcastle upon Tyne the summer of 83 at the height of the coal miners strike, and the vitriol from her government towards the miners was unbelievable.  I was an American college student who loathed Reagan, but I would have been out of my mind if I were British.  The Thatcher years were a Randian nightmare.

Wag:
‘The Thatcher years were a Randian nightmare.’
Slight correction: ‘The Thatcher years were [the start of] a Randian nightmare.’

Are you familiar with this scathing bit of satire?

The only bad thing about her passing is the days of keening we’ll be subjected to from the usual suspects of wingerdom.  Good thing I can turn off the radio & TV when I feel like it.

Good thing I can turn off the radio & TV when I feel like it.

I hear ya, SOAS. It’s frikkin unavoidable here unless you go into total lockdown. I’d forgotten how her voice made me clench.

Are you familiar with this scathing bit of satire?

There’s a wealth of them, BBBB. It was just about our only growth industry:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReIAna459sg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyU8qmzGsEg

Hey YAFB you and I are the same age I too was 19 when she was elected but I was insulated from most of the bullsit because I was already secure in my relatively cushy job in the WRNS.  My family in theNorthwest suffered mightily due to her policies.

That was one of the main things, litlebrit—the massive increase in inequality, and during the miners’ strike, setting family member against family member in the age-old divide and rule tactic.

If you had a foot on the ladder, she’d look after you. Till you fell off. She’d even sell you our country’s commonly owned assets if you had some spare cash. Then you could flog them off for a modest profit, leaving those with serious money to make a serious killing in the longer term.

It’s so sad.  Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods now will never have her audience with her beloved Maggie.

I’d forgotten how her voice made me clench.

I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about if I hadn’t listened to her Desert Island Discs a couple of months ago. I’d never listened to her for a prolonged stretch. I found her to be calculating and sanctimonious. She must’ve really caught the zeitgeist of the day or something. Sounded like total hack to me.

period between ‘something’ and ‘sounded.’

that’s some pretty hacky commenting on my part!

that’s some pretty hacky commenting on my part!

Fixed by some equally hacky editing. ;O)

She must’ve really caught the zeitgeist of the day or something. Sounded like total hack to me.

She had very extensive voice and image coaching. They taught her to lower her voice pitch and speak more slowly for the dullards beneath her.

Earlier in her political career she sounded a lot less authoritative. Of course, she was from Grantham, so originally she’d have had a more northern English accent, but having been to Oxford University no doubt helped to rub it out.

A southern English RP accent was (and to some extent still is) widely considered necessary to get on in some sectors, not least politics. Labour’s Harold Wilson went through several transformations: he was from Huddersfield, so would again have had a northern accent originally; he then cultivated a cut-glass accent in his early political career that wouldn’t have shamed the Queen, before reverting back to something more like his native accent by the time he was Prime Minister, for greater working-class street cred.

Some respond positively to a southern accent like that. It obviously depends on the speaker’s other attributes, but for those not from the south of England, it can grate something chronic. We haven’t had an elected Prime Minister with an obvious non-southern regional accent since Wilson (Gordon Brown was never elected directly to the post, but inherited it).

Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods now will never have her audience with her beloved Maggie.

Fun fact I learned today: Among the many things McCain’s campaign had to teach Palin in 2008 was who the heck Maggie Thatcher was. Before that, she’d apparently never heard of her.

We haven’t had an elected Prime Minister with an obvious non-southern regional accent since Wilson

I just sampled some Ed Miliband on youtube. Sounds like you’re not going to get one any time soon.

She’s your Nixon.  This is just Phase 1, wait’ll they start the reclamation process and scrounge around for some rags of nobility to decorate her.  That’s when things get truly gag-worthy . . . .

I posted this on FB, where it’s already getting the appreciative readership it deserves.

She’s your Nixon.  This is just Phase 1, wait’ll they start the reclamation process and scrounge around for some rags of nobility to decorate her.  That’s when things get truly gag-worthy

It’s already begun… the worst part this hagiography is that it is connected to a resurgence of Reaganolatry in the meedja.

My sister has a menu from a dinner held at the Guildhall of London celebrating the end of the Falklands War signed by Maggie.  My dad got it.  He couldn’t stand her but capitalism!

Would it be uncouth of her to put it up at Sotheby’s ?

Would it be uncouth of her to put it up at Sotheby’s ?

Nope. Like you said: “capitalism!” If somebody’s crazy and loaded enough to buy it ...

eBay might be cheaper, though.

I read this as:

Would it be uncouth of her to put it her up at Sotheby’s ?

As long as the profits went to charity.

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