“The eyes of the mad king upon the branch are upturned, whiter eyeballs in a white face, upturned in fear and supplication. His mind is but a shell.”
Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds
They’ve been falling all over themselves to emphasize Baroness Thatcher’s “accomplishments,” haven’t they? It is awfully considerate of putative leftists like Labour leader Ed Miliband to put aside their convictions and praise the cooling corpse that “broke the mould” of British leadership. Yes, she was sui generis - Britain never before nor ever since has had an arch-capitalist premier with a penchant for killing swarthy peoples – but as “Brilliantine Eddie” noted, it was Margaret Thatcher’s “ability to overcome every obstacle in her path” that has secured her place in history.
It’s a more revealing comment than would appear at first glance, submerged as it was in the lukewarm water sloshing around inside Miliband’s skull. That is the way we live now: to overcome every obstacle in your path is to be great, especially for a grasping non-entity like Ed, lusting after power like a monster Maggie spent her wasted life hoarding. Yes, in this desperately infantile endnote of an era, of “Leaning In” and “Yes We Can,” the obstacle itself matters little, and the weaker the better –whether they’re beggared coal miners, brutalized Irish Catholics, or tin-pot Argentine sailors. To praise the principle of Thatcher’s ruthlessness, without regard for the blood-spattered fine print, is to praise Buffalo Bill’s sewing skills without noticing the fabric.
Thatcher was a woman. How wonderful; it was a woman that broke the glass ceiling on drowning the poor and toasting the rich before slamming the hatch shut on any other grocers’ daughters trying to “have it all.” It’s as much a comfort to her many victims as Obama’s skin color is to the latest Yemenis roasted by his drones, or as meaningful as the sexual orientation of our infantrymen to the Afghans they brutalize. Never before has a broader array of humanity been more contaminated by the power of nightmares.
“Iron Lady?” The striking miners at Orgreave made their own stainless steel, battling for something more than “modernization” and profit margins. “This lady’s not for turning?” Don’t make me laugh. Ten Irish martyrs starved themselves to death in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh rather than wear the prison uniforms of Margaret Thatcher’s government. A scant four years after Bobby Sands had reenergized the IRA, Margaret had turned into a moderate – signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement, her tail tucked between her legs. “The Leaderene?” Sure. Tell that to the African National Congress’s Pallo Jordan:
"In the end I sat with her in her office with Nelson Mandela in 1991. She knew she had no choice. Although she called us a terrorist organization, she had to shake hands with a terrorist and sit down with a terrorist. So who won?"
I’ll concede nothing to this warthog from Hell – not her “accomplishments,” borne off the impoverishment of working women who won’t get a ceremonial funeral, not her “determination” in propping up Pinochet’s sultanate of rape rooms and mass murder, nor her “fortitude” in shaking whiphands with every apartheid premier she could drag in front of a camera. Margaret Thatcher, always sure of herself, never in doubt, can exit this world sure of the one great achievement I will grant: she was instrumental in making the world a much worse place.
The vulgarest tool that Tyranny could want,
With just enough of talent, and no more,
To lengthen fetters by another fixed,
And offer poison long already mixed.
Thatcher did not exist in a vacuum. She won elections. Enough Britons supported her, the same way enough Americans supported Reagan, Clinton and Bush in their effort to turn our economy into a casino. She bugged the cars of labor leaders and sank the Belgrano and shoved her own soldiers into the Northern Irish meat grinder – she kept winning, only felled when a turncoat toppled her.
But she was praised, supported, by a disgusting class of nouveau riche, bottoming out in the City of London and on Rupert Murdoch’s Fleet Street, combinations of genetic mistakes reconfiguring themselves into a ruling elite. And there were not enough Tony Benns or Glenda Jacksons or Arthur Scargills or Diana Goulds to stop not just her, but the rotten impulses she spoke to in the human heart. Thatcherism was not just the moral depravity of one person; it was a social failure. More, more, more. This was the depth of her deranged philosophy.
How moving it was to see all walks of political life unite to condemn those unseemly, spontaneous celebrations that spread like prairie fire across the U.K. the moment Van Helsing signed the death certificate. What will be said of this class of politicians when they die – their legacies those of the Thatcherite, which is to say, economic terrorism, amorality, and war?
Oh well. There is no Hell for them to go to, only the Hell she left behind. But it can at least comfort us to know that while the tumor she called her heart only stopped beating this week, her brain had deteriorated into sponge cake years ago. She’ll get no cosmic judgment, no eternal punishment, and so it is that the revelation that her “blotter paper” mind had congealed into glue must suffice.
I suppose her heinous children were trying to appeal to the public’s sympathy, disclosing that Maggie kept forgetting her husband was dead, how she’d bawl and gnash her teeth with each retelling, as if it was the first she’d heard of the news.
And it’s a heartwarming story. Maggie Thatcher usually forgot easily about the people she killed. So nice to hear she spent her retirement repeating the stages of grief enough times for all her victims.