Friday, 12 April 2013

On Margaret Thatcher and empathy

Margaret Thatcher would have been delighted at the way her death is being treated by the left.  What better compliment could there be for the woman who did as much as she could to dismantle society into a collection of individual men and women than to treat her death as so important?

The neo-liberal project was and is all about shifting our thinking from empathy, from community well-being, from collective action and compassion for others to self-interest, to individual motivation, to all too often, greed.

So dismantling the collective provision of free health care, education, affordable and adequate housing, pensions, provisions for people who are caring for others – all of those mantras of Thatcher and co – while they open up opportunities for profit, also teach us not to care for other people.  Smashing unions, undermining collective employment rights and reducing unemployment protections  – while they keep those seeking and in work desperate to find and keep employment and vulnerable to exploitation, also create competition and antagonism between workers.  To say nothing of the othering of people on benefits which is an ongoing necessity to justify continued cuts to the most vulnerable people in society.

Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher would have revelled in the importance her individual death has been granted because it continues that placing of the individual above society, that privileging of individual agency over the importance of social structures, that she held so dear, that she championed so fiercely.

And she would have loved the lack of empathy on display.  Loved it.  Is there any clearer indication that the values of those seeking to destroy the social contract, seeking to promote selfishness and complete lack of collective responsibility, than the revelling in the death of an old, sick woman that’s been on display over the last few days?

Let’s tell the truth of Margaret Thatcher and other neo-liberals.  Let’s pay attention to her deliberate smashing of dissent by treating the British Police force as her own private army, criminalising protest activities and public gatherings.  Let’s notice that in Thatcher’s case her neo-liberalism was mixed in with social conservatism and nationalism with devastating results for the rights of all minority groups.  Let’s note the woman who hated beneficiaries was herself a beneficiary of the feminist movement, even while she trampled all over women’s rights.

By all means, let’s hate the neo-liberal project and the ways it has unleashed the disgusting, obscene gaps between rich and poor all over the western world by shifting our thinking from care, solidarity and collective responsibility to individual selfishness and greed.  Let’s keep organising, keep showing solidarity, keep championing compassion, equity and justice as guiding values for our society.

But I for one don’t want to celebrate her death, though I understand many, many others seem to feel that need.  She was just an individual, in a society.  And much as I detest her policies, I want to live in a world where empathy rules, not hatred.

15 comments:

anthea said...

I see your point, but (as you probably expect:) ) I disagree. I have my own post coming up when I'm grounded enough to write it, but I will say that my experience of the past few days has been anything but individualist. Over longer than I've been alive, this event has built up great symbolic and cultural importance. It's been a shared joke and catharsis amongst many, many people who have suffered and fought together. Yes, of course it's symbolic, yes, though she was terribly evil she was of course the product of an evil system which she perpetuated. The issue is what we do with that symbolism. And in the experience of myself and - I believe - many others, it's been coming together, sharing stories of survival, celebrating and looking to fight back against her legacy.

LudditeJourno said...

Look forward to reading your post Anthea. I know this post is unlikely to be agreed with by many, many people who I usually do agree with - that's ok - felt driven to write it nonetheless.

Tatjna said...

For what it's worth, I agree with you LJ.

LudditeJourno said...

It's worth plenty Tatjna, thanks for saying.

Brett Dale said...

Not really old enough to understand her impact, I find it strange that people though are comparing her to Saddam, (she didnt have gas/torture chambers did she?)

Maybe Bush is a better comparison.

I certainly wouldn't call her evil.

Psycho Milt said...

There's certainly nothing to celebrate about the fact that she died at a ripe old age after a lengthy retirement funded to a high state of luxury by the society she claimed didn't exist. To that extent, we're in agreement.

Brett Dale said...

Didnt she have dementia for the last years of her life?

Blair said...

I might be able to understand the jubilation over a leader who died in office, or died while still having the potential to do "damage". But celebrating the demise of a senile old woman who could barely remember the start of her sentences by the time she finished them is pretty cowardly. You don't win anything just for outliving her, sorry. The battle has long since moved on.

I also find myself bothered that many feminists have completely erased from their memories the fact that she was one of the few Conservatives to vote for the Abortion Act of 1967. Surely some credit is due?

Fahad Naseer said...
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Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, I agree entirely.

L

Mark Hubbard said...

Thank you LudditeJourno for redressing some small part of Maia's awful postings on Thatcher's death(and some commenters on here). And kudos to stargazer's thoughtful post also.

Albeit, and heaven knows you're not obliged to read it, but crediting you with intellectual curiosity, I have rebutted one of your points, vis a vis individualism, in a longer post too big to post under comments here. If you would like to read it, you'll find it posted here:

http://lifebehindtheirondrape.blogspot.co.nz/2013/04/paean-to-individualism-maggie-thatchers.html

Yvie said...

A lesson in EMPATHY from the luddite?? The glaring hypocrisy smacks one round the ear (with a handful of glitter of course).

LudditeJourno said...

No lessons Yvie, just my take on it. Though empathy is a key theme for me always - I think it's the strengths based part of dismantling power over.
As for calling me a hypocrite, you'll have to be a bit clearer - I don't understand what you mean?

Anwar Fazil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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