liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
I was bullied quite a lot at primary school. Not the kind of horrific abuse that's been in the news recently, but a few years of unpleasantness. Partly because I was intellectually precocious but emotionally immature, and partly because of class issues and a tinge of antisemitism, and partly because I had a form teacher when I was 8 who hated me. I mean viscerally hated and actively waged a campaign against me that only just stopped short of direct violence, not just someone who picked favourites and I wasn't one of them. One of the most common taunts during that time was that people called me "Maggie" or "MT"; said teacher discovered that this was an effective way to get a reaction out of me, because I'd already been primed by a few years of being tormented about my resemblance to a hated PM.

At the infant school I attended until the age of 8, I was just a tiny fraction of a degree higher on the social scale than most of my classmates. They called me "Maggie" because they thought I was posh, pretentious, stuck-up etc. Then I moved to a selective, fee-paying girls' school that was almost but not quite a Public school, and I was a tiny fraction of a degree lower on the social scale than the average pupil. There, partly under the influence of my form teacher, I was called "Maggie" because I was considered a social climber, someone who was making an effort to speak and act like the right sort of person, but of course anyone could see through it, it was patently obvious that I was nobody socially and was just putting on airs.

By the time I was ten I was starting to be politically aware at a level beyond "there's a red team and a blue team, and my parents support the blue team so I do too". I took an interest in this Mrs Thatcher, this figure I was compared to when people wanted to make me feel bad (this was happening much less often by this time, I had pretty much learned to fit in and had a teacher I got on well with and who set an example to the class of treating me with respect). I decided that I liked some of her politics and disagreed with others; I was somewhat influenced by accidentally reading Raymond Briggs' satires, because they came in the form of cartoons and I, along with librarians, assumed they must be meant for kids. But overall I felt I preferred Thatcher's Conservatism to the other options available at the time.

We went on a class trip to the Houses of Parliament, and I shook hands with Thatcher and exchanged some minimal pleasantries with her. This led to a slight resurgence in the teasing, but inwardly I was a little proud to have met a politician I admired, though not unreservedly.

So now, when the internet is full of people gloating about Thatcher being old and sick, and looking forward to dancing on her grave when she dies, I can't help feeling a lot like that bullied child again. I know that a lot of people are angry with Thatcher because her politics directly made their lives worse, and a lot more people are angry with her because it's a form of tribal identification, it's the done thing among generally intellectual, liberal circles to take a negative view of Thatcher. This expression of it makes me feel that the tribe in question excludes me, though. Like Thatcher, I'm a strident, socially inept female scientist who doesn't properly understand or fit into the class system or the gender system.

I'm not saying that, just because I was bullied as a child for my supposed resemblance to Thatcher, nobody should ever criticize her politics (or mine, for that matter). Criticize her politics all you like, goodness knows there's plenty to criticize. But this gloating about her suffering, this treating her as a target for regular two-minute hate sessions designed to provide a pleasant bonding experience, this is making me very uncomfortable. I think the sheer level of vitriol directed at Thatcher has a lot to do with prejudice against her for being uppity, for stepping outside her expected social role. Thatcher is female, and she doesn't come from the usual political class, so it's shocking and disgusting that she was politically ambitious, that she expressed unpopular opinions without being conciliating and feminine, in fact that she acquired and wielded power at all.

Personally, I feel much more angry with Blair, who lied to parliament and to the whole country in order to start an illegal war in Iraq which has plunged the UK into astronomical levels of debt and killed more than half a million civilians (among other things). Perhaps I care about Blairism more because it happened more recently and because I was older and more politically aware at the time, I don't know. But it seems to be possible to criticize Blair without portraying him as the ultimate Evil. His politics can be derided without mocking his appearance, his dress sense, his accent or his gender presentation, or claiming membership in the club of nice people by wishing for him to suffer and die in misery.

I'm posting this now because I think that when Thatcher eventually does die, I'm going to have to avoid the internet for a few weeks. I fully expect to catch plenty of criticism (and maybe even some unfriendings) for defending Thatcher at all, although I'm not really defending her so much as claiming that however many wrong political decisions she made (and I'm no way going to try to argue that every single one of her policies was unmitigatedly good!), she's not actually evil incarnate. When I was eight I was outside the pale of social acceptance because I didn't hate Thatcher enough, and somehow I'm hoping this is no longer true now I'm 32 and still don't hate her.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 10:49 am (UTC)
nanaya: Sarah Haskins as Rosie The Riveter, from Mother Jones (Default)
From: [personal profile] nanaya
Much as I dislike most of Thatcher's politics, I agree with most of what you have to say here. I get tired of her being this puppet figure of unmitigated evil, it makes it very difficult to have a serious consideration of political history on anything more than the most basic level.

I hate Blair far more than Thatcher, and think he gets off rather lightly; though, to be fair, did Thatcher ever have to cancel any of her memoir appearances because of protest threats?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 01:40 pm (UTC)
nanaya: Sarah Haskins as Rosie The Riveter, from Mother Jones (Default)
From: [personal profile] nanaya
Heh, not offended at all.

Blair creeps me out and always has done, even before the general election of '97. Thatcher at least stuck to her guns and knew what unpopular decisions entail; Blair wanted to be able to fuck us over while still pretending to be our best fwiend. Urgh.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 12:03 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] rho
Thatcher was a conviction politician. She did what she did because she genuinely believed them to be for the public good, she did what she said she was going to do, and she was was willing to accept that her decisions may not always be popular. Even when I strongly disagree with those policies, I greatly admire her for being willing to have the courage of her convictions and stand up for what she believed in. This is hardly something that can be said of the majority of the politicians of today.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 01:42 pm (UTC)
nanaya: Sarah Haskins as Rosie The Riveter, from Mother Jones (Default)
From: [personal profile] nanaya
To be fair, I think DCam and Gids actually *do* believe in their Friedmanite policies. And it really is belief, because history doesn't really bear out what happens to those free market convictions in the real world.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 02:29 pm (UTC)
emperor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperor
This is roughly my view on Thatcher. I disagree with almost all of her politics, loony lefty that I am, but I felt that you knew where you stood with her.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-23 12:28 am (UTC)
rysmiel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rysmiel
Is "having sincere convictions" a virtue independent of what the convictions constitute of ?

Possibly I'm not as nice a human being as might be ideal, but when Fred Phelps dies, I will cheer. When people who I know have abused people I care for die, I will cheer.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 12:40 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: Me, underwater. (sad)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
I agree with your sentiments, not because I have any particular affection for Margaret Thatcher, but because I find rejoicing over the suffering, illness, incapacity, or death of any person - however hideous and criminal (not that I put Thatcher into those categories) - to be utterly disgusting.
Edited Date: 2010-10-21 01:34 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 03:41 pm (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
At risk of this becoming a flood of me-too, this.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 12:46 pm (UTC)
sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
From: [personal profile] sarasvati
To be honest, I don't know much about her beyond the fact that she's generally hated. I once looked up some information on her politics and the effects, and some I could see sense in and agree with and others not, just as it is with most politicians.

But whether or not people agreed with her politics, I can't see any good reason for being gleeful that a person is old and sick and going through a hard time. Is she not a human being, just like the rest of us? And doesn't she deserve the same respect? I mean, I despise just about everything George Bush Jr. did when he was president of the US, but I won't be talking about dancing on his grave when he's near death! That's just appalling!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 01:21 pm (UTC)
forthwritten: (hand//sky)
From: [personal profile] forthwritten
Whatever I feel about Thatcher, her politics and her policies, I think there's something abhorrent about delighting in someone's old age, sickness and death.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 03:03 pm (UTC)
rochvelleth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rochvelleth
Thank you for writing this. I'm no Thatcher fan or apologist, but the way some people seem to be happy about her getting old and sick is something I find quite repulsive. It isn't clever, or funny, to revel in someone else's misfortune just because they happen to be high-profile, and to have made high-profile mistakes.

Thatcher is a politician, and she was in a job for a long time where she had to make a lot of difficult decisions and implement a lot of unpopular policies. With hindsight we can see that her legacy is not necessarily a good one (though at the time she remained very popular, which is easy to forget now) - but to paint her as some sort of evil dictator figure seems quite nonsensical to me. Even if she were in some sense 'evil' at a personal level, in government she only acted within a democratic system and was not without backing. There are figures in history whose actions make me shudder, but Thatcher isn't one of them. In some ways it seems to devalue one's moral compass to put someone like Thatcher on the same level as those who have e.g. set up totalitarian regimes or committed genocide.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 06:44 pm (UTC)
tig_b: cartoon from nMC set (Default)
From: [personal profile] tig_b
I didn't like a lot about her politics, or her behaviour in the latter years of her time as Prime Minister.

But I could not imagine taking delight in her current state. She is still a human being, and so are her family and friends.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 06:54 pm (UTC)
karen2205: Me with proper sized mug of coffee (Default)
From: [personal profile] karen2205
I'm posting this now because I think that when Thatcher eventually does die, I'm going to have to avoid the internet for a few weeks.

*nods* - either this or I'm going to be very rude to a large number of people I otherwise like. I've not yet decided what's the better course of action; I consider celebrating someone's death to be disgraceful behaviour and that otherwise legitimate criticism of someone's politics is hugely discourteous in the immediate aftermath of their death.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-21 07:41 pm (UTC)
pensnest: bright-eyed baby me (Default)
From: [personal profile] pensnest
I'm quite sure Margaret Thatcher is the target of a lot more vitriol than she'd ever have received were she a man. It's true that a lot of people hated/still hate her for what she *did*, but we haven't escaped the misogyny aspect. And rejoicing now she's old, ill and *powerless* is disgusting.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-22 08:35 am (UTC)
ewx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ewx
+1 to all the objections to gloating over her suffering and eventual death. But I’m not convinced that it’s caused by prejudice: on the whole I think the gloaters genuinely hate what she did that much. You can see deep vitriol directed at Blair and Bush too, the clichés involved just differ. I expect the same will be true of the current lot, given time.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-10-22 02:05 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I still have cognitive dissonance with the idea that some people don't like you, short-sighted people :)

I feel uncomfortable commenting. If I didn't know you so well, I would probably leave it to someone else, but I feel you care about whatever I think, even if it clashes in some ways with what you just explained. I agree the implacable hate and rejoicing-in-death is a bad idea (regardless of who aimed at, even to genuinely evil people) and that Thatcher gets much more of it than most other people, more than recent prime ministers, perhaps even more than people like George Bush!

But also, I was raised with very much the left-wing "Thatcher is the worst thing to happen to Britain" idea, and having met people who DON'T think that, been able to let go of the instinctive denigration, and respected her for great achievement whether or not everything she did as prime minister was awful or good.

But I feel very uncomfortable harboring an opinion which is the same as the one that expressed by many people makes you feel awful. Of course, I can not DWELL on it. And yet, I feel I always need to form an opinion one way or the other, and can't adopt a more charitable view of Thatcher unless I can actually justify it to intelligent left-wing friends in the Carlton, or to the only other people I love as much as you, my parents.

And no doubt you're right that many people have a very misogynistic objection to her. And yet, I think I don't. And yet, obviously I WOULD think that, and I certainly can't prove it either way. I don't think any of the unsupported stereotypes in my brain come from that direction, even though I can't be sure. And I _hope_ none in my parents' brains do. But maybe some of the people who influenced THEM 40 years ago do. And I feel bad for that by association. And yet, without closer knowledge, uncertain: undoubtedly, there was some of that, and also, many people heavily disliked her for specific non-gender reasons, and I don't know for sure which if either was prevalent in general, even though I know what you experienced.

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