Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Irony Lady

I'm sick to the back teeth of the Thatcher retrospective, but there's one strange aspect to all of this that I haven't seen mentioned in the wall-to-wall commentary. You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss:
And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.
These words and their context have been endlessly argued about and analysed but, although the nuances may be blurry, the broad sentiment is as clear as gin. She's praising individuality, upholding the right of individuals and families to think and act for themselves, rather than being enslaved to groupthink and the pressure to conform.

Which is more or less the precise opposite of how the mainstream media/political complex has spun her passing. 'We are all Thatcherites now', 'Britain bids farewell to "Iron Lady"', 'We must show our respect on the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral', 'her policies may have divided us, but her memory unites us'. All of a sudden, there is such a thing as society, there's a collective identity called 'Britain', united by the inescapable presence of The Blessed Margaret and the things she has bequeathed to The Collective.

There's a particularly stupid form of words that sums up the officially-approved way of thinking about Thatcher. It goes something like this -  'You can say what you like about Margaret Thatcher, but, love her or hate her, you have to admit that [insert platitude here].'

Hang on a minute. I have to admit something? Really? So I don't get to think for myself? And if I don't admit it, what are you going to do about it? Does it involve electrodes, or maybe a spot of waterboarding? No? Just a gentle application of moral blackmail, combined with a spot of groupthink? Is that all you've got? No mate, I'm not admitting anything. I 'm an individual and I'm quite capable of thinking for myself, thank you very much.

Not only is there now such a thing as society, but that society is portrayed as possessing a collective hive mind that must think appropriate thoughts on a shared occasion. There are certain truths to which every member of the hive 'has to' assent - to do otherwise would be as unthinkable as a worker bee questioning the queen's place in the hive hierarchy.

There are individuals who loved Thatcher(ism), others who hated her/it and others who couldn't have cared less. How ironic that the epitaph of the high priestess of individualism is starting to sound like a party political broadcast on behalf of the Borg:
And, you know, there are no such things as individual men and women. There is only Britain, our shared hive, and The Collective, my brood. Like it or not, you are all my children now.