Thatcher is Dead

by Elias Blum

So, Margaret Thatcher has died.

I’m no fan of Thatcher. She caused terrible, long-term damage to the fabric of our society and to the lives of many people. I am convinced that Thatcher was wrong in her fundamental values and assumptions. A view of life which sees things mainly in terms of an economic struggle for individual gain, and which places mammon on the throne, is in my view wrong, perhaps to the point of being evil. It is certainly inferior to a view of life which sees economics in terms of the common good, prioritising ‘the least of these’, and encouraging us to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ in mutual love, service and edification, such that those who gather much share out of their abundance, and those who gather little have enough.

My first reaction on hearing of her death was to shout for joy. If that sounds bitter, callous and ungracious (and it is), I can excuse it only by noting that she was a hated figure, at least around here. But, excusable or not, my momentary lapse into hatred and anger was wrong.

Here is why. Although we may disagree profoundly about her policies, we must distinguish between our judgment of Thatcherism as a movement or ideology and our treatment of Thatcher as a person. The line between good and evil does not run between people, but right down the middle of every one of us. According to a Christian understanding, Thatcher, like you, me, and everyone else, was both a wretched sinner and a person of infinite worth, possessing an inherent and indestructible status as a deeply loved child of God. The gospel of universal reconciliation claims that God is love: we are accepted already because of God’s love; not because we are perfect, but because it is in God’s perfect nature to love. This includes everybody, even Margaret Thatcher. I can disagree and oppose, but how can I allow myself to hate anyone, if God loves all?

But it is so easy – too easy – to personalise anger and dehumanise people. What we despise in neo-liberalism is its inhumanity, its ability to see people only in the abstract, as ‘consumers’, ‘tax-payers’ or ‘human resources’, and not in the round, as people, parents, children, friends, colleagues, citizens, lovers, and, in short, ‘human beings’. We must not make the same mistake. Thatcher, as a public figure, as an abstract embodiment of an ideology that ripped apart lives, is easily demonised. But when she passed, was just an old and frail woman; she was not a monster, and no longer a threat.

The real, continuing threat is the on-going legacy of neo-liberalism, operating through the entrenched oligarchic power structures of the unreformed UK-state. The answer is not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. Not to fall into hatred and dance on Thatcher’s grave, but to work for the building of a renewed democratic politics which is ethically robust, socially just, and ecologically sustainable. As Patrick Harvie MSP (Scottish Green Party) put it:

“Our vision has at its core the need to put the common good back at the heart of our politics. We see independence as a means to that end, not an end in itself. As long as we remain tied to Westminster we risk those efforts being stymied. Margaret Thatcher famously declared society does not exist. It’s quite clear Scots value society highly and next year’s referendum is an unprecedented opportunity to start shaping the fairer society we want to live in.”