GOODBYE, MAGGIE: CONSIDERING THE LEGACY OF MARGARET THATCHER

Not even on the day of her flamboyant funeral have the Spanish media managed to pronounce Margaret Thatcher’s surname correctly: it’s ‘zatcha’ (more or less), not ‘tacher’. I suppose that the visual similarities with the word ‘teacher’ to our boorish, monolingual Spanish eyes are responsible for the habitual mispronunciation but this is nonetheless annoying. It’s so easy to check the internet for the correct kind of pronunciation…

Having got this matter off my chest, I can now properly begin today’s entry. Maggie is dead and the song ‘Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead’ has topped the charts in Britain. She deserves that and much more in the way of hard-earned public contempt but, feminist me, I can’t help wondering whether a male politician would have elicited the same kind of open hatred and resentment. Then, writing also as a feminist, I must stress that I can by no means show respect for the deceased Iron Lady, a woman who was the quintessence of female complicity with patriarchy and who did absolutely nothing to empower other women. No wonder she was represented as a ruthless, rude man in the once famous puppet show Spitting Image.

Thatcher pulled Britain out of the deep recession of the 1970s with methods that, on the whole, put her country back in the front line, where it still totters. She almost failed at the beginning, which is why she needed the big media push that the pathetic Falkland War gave her. Then she managed to sell to many working-class people (not up in Scotland) the idea that the UK could be like the USA, a land of opportunities in which social mobility would increase enormously and everyone would have properties and money. Many bought this, to their later regret; many others were pushed aside by the opening up of an impassable gulf between poor and rich as she sold most public services. Now it’s hard to believe that she could take in so many, but I was in London in 1986-87 (as an au pair girl), at her prime, and you could breath in the streets this dream of affluence for all, that soon turned into a nightmare. Today certain neighbourhoods of London boast a poverty rate I have never seen in Spain; others, riches that are hard to imagine in Madrid or Barcelona.

They say now that we must remember Thatcher for her contribution to the end of the Cold War, eased by her close friendship with American President Ronald Reagan –another victim of Alzheimer’s disease– and the first and last President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Perhaps, but tell that to the people who saw a great deal of the impeccable British welfare state dismantled by this woman in the name of political liberalism, decades before this doctrine hit us with the 2007 crisis. I can’t remember who said this (was it Martin Amis?) but possibly Thatcher’s main contribution in the end was her providing the dispossessed with a common, recognizable enemy and, particularly, the more progressive elements in the intellectual establishment. Literature, cinema and other arts flourished under Thatcher as suddenly many found themselves with a socio-political message to preach against her cruel economic laissez faire.

Possibly Angela Merkel is as harmful a politician as Maggie Thatcher was, and yet another example of how right-wing women who reach power are more patriarchal than the vast majority of men. It’s hard to say which one of these two women is causing more personal suffering, as Merkel’s hard-hearted economic policies are affecting practically all of Europe while Thatcher’s influence was limited to Britain. Yet, it’s easy to see that Merkel runs much better her PR. Thatcher’s helmet hairdo, her outdated body language, bad dress sense, masculinised voice and harsh manners did not endear her to many. Merkel’s more down-to-earth personal appearance and conduct have managed not to generate the animosity that old Maggie inspired, though, again, I’d insist she might be the more dangerous of the two.

The witch is dead, long live the witch…

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3 Responses to “GOODBYE, MAGGIE: CONSIDERING THE LEGACY OF MARGARET THATCHER

  1. JoseAngel says:

    I quite disagree with many of your views on Thatcher, as I tend to view her heritage as much more mixed, yours reads as the socialist view of Thatcher as, indeed, “the witch”. One might have expected at least some recognition or respect for her as an achiever in her own terms, and not in the least as the submissive woman who leaves the public sphere for men, as your account of her as a patriarchal puppet would lead us to assume. Whatever one’s view of her politics, Thatcher strikes one first of all as a strong influential political figure who provided a role-model for women in many respects and set up a higher standard for women in politics. That is, I think, the least one should grant her. As to her politics, maybe you think the situation in the British economy before Thatcher might have been sustained. Well perhaps it might have been, but then Britain would be today something like Argentina, perhaps, or maybe Greece. It is a path that one may be understood for not taking, especially from the point of view of the British establishment. Within the capitalist system she chose to be an achiever. Well, you can also scrap the system, but no one has done that yet—and the alternative, which Thatcher helped to scrap in Eastern Europe, was not all that enviable (to say the least) nor so alien to the workings of capitalism as is usually thought. And so I could go on and on questioning all of the views here… at least to provide a more balanced view of her actions. Take for instance the Falklands war, which you call “pathetic”. I take it to mean that Thatcher’s defense of her territory and its inhabitants was “pathetic”, not that the Argentinian invasion was “pathetic”—which is the way I would put it. The Argentinian defeat brought along the downfall of the dictatorship in Argentina, btw. But, do you think letting the Argentinian show of force go along and giving them the islands would have been less “pathetic”? I’ll only say that is a view which may be held by a cultural critic or a professor of literature, but international politics does not work that way, and Thatcher had to deal with the actual realities and responsibilities of a politician. Who do you think will look pathetic both to their countrymen or to historians—Galtieri or Thatcher?

  2. Well, the Falkland War was pathetic on both sides. You’re entitled to your opinion about Thatcher but this won’t make me change mine…
    Sara

  3. JoseAngel says:

    Perhaps so. But anyway, let me point out, that the more one gets to know and learn about a person, one’s opinions about them are bound to change… for better or worse. Try this for a different take: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10021336/Charles-Moores-biography-of-Margaret-Thatcher-Review-by-Anne-Applebaum.html

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