Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Balance, Mrs Thatcher and the Sex Pistols

Interesting comments on the death of Margaret Thatcher. Some commentators thinking through what UK would be like if she'd never been prime minister; others pointing out the paradoxes in her premiership (e.g. she hated feminism but did so much for female role-modelling; she espoused Victorian values such as thrift and passed the legislation that began the whole "casino banking" era, bringing huge wealth into London and...well, you know where we are now!) 

Naturally ex-miners and union leaders have little good to say, although some of her opponents seem now to be admitting that the power of trade unions did need to be contained and controlled. And I'd actually forgotten that Arthur Scargill brought the NUM out on strike without balloting them first.

And then there are the absolutists, the de-humanisers. George Galloway MP apparently says he hopes she burns in hell. An Irish cricketer says he hoped her final illness was long and painful; he has since "apologised." Don't use Twitter unthinkingly, it's PUBLIC, remember, idiot? Did you even think for half a second of her family?

There is the taboo on not speaking ill - well, not too ill - of the dead. A woman said to me that she wanted this line in her husband's funeral: "He was a grumpy old bugger, but he was my grumpy old bugger!" That's usually about as far as it gets, in private life.

So if someone had succeeded in blowing Hitler up in 1944, should people not have celebrated? H'mm. Obviously, there are limits to the taboo. 

But Thatcher wasn't Hitler. The absolutists, the bitter Thatcher-haters, should remember that for better or for worse, she was elected three times to the post of prime minister.

Which brings me to the Sex Pistols: "God Save the Queen, the fascist regime..." 

Each generation gets its turn to be nostalgic, and there's a lot of it around these days about punk. Well, I had my turn ref the 60s I guess, though my memory isn't so shot that I can't distinguish between nostalgia and reality. Drugs? I was told by an "insider" that by the time Hendrix died, he was dropping LSD, literally, into his eyes with an old-fashioned eye dropper.

Hurrumph. Here goes:
The Sex Pistols? Only a talentless adolescent with limited experience of life could possibly think that the UK was run by a fascist regime. If it had been, the first thing that would have happened when the authorities heard that song is that the band would have been squashed - an irony that was pointed out at the time. Presumably whoever "wrote" the song was a political infant as well as a generator of horrible noises (OK sorry that's just my prejudices!)

Later in the song he says the Queen isn't a human being. There we are - dehumanise. Polarise. I wonder if the Sex Pistols ever stood at the gates of Auschwitz and thought about how we need to dehumanise humans if we are going to destroy them?

Look for The Balance. Find a civilised way to criticise, to lament Mrs Thatcher's effect on the country, to express your dislike of everything she stood for. All you do if you hurl malevolence at her at present is display your own limited sense of humanity. Ironically, since she is so often blamed for the breakdown of consensual politics, you are prolonging that lack of consensus, feeding that divisiveness. You also prolong her influence over you.

The need for us to acknowledge that every human being is a human being is perhaps the only absolute value worth holding to. If we don't, we can never understand why people do as they do. If we don't, we make ourselves a little less human.

Next post will relate to this via Viktor Frankl and the camps he survived.


  1. I wince at the level of vitriol, and the distinct odour of a lynching, in the things I have seen some people (friends in fact) write about Mrs T.

    Personally I felt she was a catalyst for conflict and when she showed no fear she also lacked compassion. Her policies were devastating to many individuals and communities.

    So personally I'm really glad she is out of power, and has been for yonks. BUT I respect her as a human and I think it is diminishing of us to wish her pain or everlasting torture.

    I question what she stood for, and yet I recognise her, warts and all, as a human bean.

    As for punk; At the time I didn't like spit, but my son plays it's legacy.

  2. Nice to hear from you Arkers, and as I'd expect, you find The Balance. Thanks.
    I respect your son's musicological (or is it sociological?) interests. Seems to me punk had to be done - monster rock was getting simply absurd and the electric folk thing was getting wound all around someone's hat but I just couldn't and can't listen to most of it. The Buzzcocks played Cropredy a year or two back. I hid under my chair.
    Now Ian Dury, Dr Feelgood, people like that, the penumbra of punk, if you like, that really was something. Especially the mighty and generous genius that was ID.