Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Thatcher death celebration a grave mistake - pathetic, undignified and pointless

By Fionola Meredith

Published 18/04/2013 | 08:00

Celebrations in Derry's Bogside on Wednesday night following the burial of Margaret Thatcher
Celebrations in Derry's Bogside on Wednesday night following the burial of Margaret Thatcher
Derry Republicans hold a protest in the Bogside area on Wednesday, on the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral
Derry Republicans hold a protest in the Bogside area on Wednesday, on the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral
Derry Republicans hold a protest in the Bogside area on Wednesday, on the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral
Derry Republicans hold a protest in the Bogside area on Wednesday, on the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral
Derry Republicans hold a protest in the Bogside area on Wednesday, on the day of Margaret Thatcher's funeral
Derry Republicans show off a cake as they hold a protest in the Bogside area of Wednesday on the day of the funeral of Margaret Thatcher
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: An Military band march past during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on Fleet Street on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Residents from mining communities near Barnsley put out banners on the day of the funeral service of Baroness Thatcher.
The coffin bearing the body of Baroness Thatcher is moved from the Palace of Westminster, where it rested overnight in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft, as it makes it's way to her funeral service, at St Paul's Cathedral, central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 17, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Thatcher. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: The coffin of the Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is brought down The Strand in a hearse on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minster Baroness Thatcher with a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Protester display slogans and banners during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Actress Joan Collins attends the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The coffin is transferred to the hearse during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: An Military band march past during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on Fleet Street on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: An Military band march past St Clement Dane's Church during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Residents from mining communities at Goldthorpe near Barnsley suspend an effigy of Margaret Thatcher on the end of a rope on the day of the funeral service of Baroness Thatcher. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 17, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Thatcher. Photo credit should read: John Giles/PA Wire
A hearse carrying the coffin of Baroness Thatcher passes the gates of Downing Street ahead of her funeral service at St Paul's Cathedral, central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 17, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Thatcher. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Residents from mining communities at Goldthorpe near Barnsley suspend an effigy of Margaret Thatcher on the end of a rope on the day of the funeral service of Baroness Thatcher. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 17, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Thatcher. Photo credit should read: John Giles/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) attends the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990 (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: The coffin is transferred to the hearse during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: The coffin is transferred to the hearse during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Protesters outside the Courts of Justice in the Strand prior to the funeral service of Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral, central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 17, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Thatcher. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Courts of Justice in the Strand prior to the funeral service of Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral, central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 17, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Thatcher. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Mayor of London Boris Johnson attends the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: The hearse makes its way during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell arrives prior to the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990 (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer attends the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990 (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: The hearse heads towards the Cenotaph during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 17: Police on motorbike ride up the Strand ahead of the funeral of Baroness Margaret Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Fred Duval/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Police inspect a drain on the route to St Paul's Cathedral prior to the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on Fleet Street on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: The coffin is transferred to the hearse during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Former Prime Ministers John Major (C) and Tony Blair with their wives Norma Major and Cherie Blair (L) attend the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York attends the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: A protester holds a banner during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at Clement Dane's Church on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Wellwishers hang flags during the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Former Cabinet minister Leon Brittan attends the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990 (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Guests arrive prior to the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 17: Daily Telegraph Vendor at the Strand on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Fred Duval/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 17: A well-wisher holds up a banner ahead of the funeral of Baroness Margaret Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown with his wife Sarah Brown attend the Ceremonial funeral of former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at St Paul's Cathedral on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher during a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Protester Mary MacMillan holds a sign of protest at Trafalgar Square ahead of the funeral procession for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on April 17, 2013 in London, England. Dignitaries from around the world today join Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh as the United Kingdom pays tribute to former Prime Minster Baroness Thatcher with a Ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral. Lady Thatcher, who died last week, was the first British female Prime Minister and served from 1979 to 1990. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
A lady burns the front page of a newspaper displaying an image of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as she and others celebrate her death
Margaret Thatcher

Is there any more futile gesture than dancing on someone's grave?

The despised person has gone. They are beyond all reproach or redemption now and to celebrate their passing achieves absolutely nothing. Nothing could be more pathetic, undignified and pointless.

That's why I'm dismayed at these absurd Thatcher 'death parties', the stupid T-shirts with devil horns, the sudden popularity of Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead.

Not because I'm in any way an admirer of the deceased woman. I'm not morphing into Major Buffington-Tuffington of Tunbridge Wells here, raising a shaky glass of G and T to the dear, departed heroine; I do not have a single word to say in her defence.

But I'm disturbed because the public response to Thatcher's death underlines two of the things which trouble me most about contemporary society.

First, a frightening lack of compassion and humanity, a terrible kind of smug heartlessness, which often hides behind a front of ostentatious open-mindedness and social tolerance.

We're all cool with gay marriage and free love these days, but don't you dare try to stop us from tramping the dirt down on the corpse of a dementia-addled old woman.

The second, just as dangerous and damaging, is the widespread public disconnection from politics and the way that politics itself is increasingly becoming dumbed-down and infantilised, all in the name of inclusivity and 'connecting with people'.

While the Thatcher 'death parties' may look like the radical acts of a highly politicised society, the truth is that they're anything but.

All right, a handful of people may be motivated by authentic political principle, even if they're choosing to express it in a childish, ineffectual way.

But the majority of those letting off the party-poppers were not even born when Thatcher was in power and are simply looking for a new form of mindless entertainment, because the new series of Celebrity Big Brother hasn't started yet.

Ironically enough, such parties are highly conservative and conformist, because they challenge – let alone change – precisely nothing.

Some commentators, such as the popular media philosopher A C Grayling, say that the parties are a beneficial phenomenon, because they demonstrate a new honesty, unhampered by false ideas of respect and deference.

Grayling says that "an outburst of pleasure at the departure of someone who was deeply polarising and gave expression to callous attitudes is both perfectly understandable and justifiable".

Really? An outburst of pleasure because someone old and sick has finally died? If that's how you get your kicks, AC, I feel bad for you, son.

Celebrating Thatcher's death is not a manifestation of openness, democracy and political fervour. It is the opposite: a display of political apathy, of a bored, disengaged and politically immature electorate, whose idea of direct action is waving a sparkler and raising a mug of beer with 'I Still Hate Thatcher' written on the side.

Disappointingly, these are no true revolutionaries, just passive, politically impotent people looking for a hate-figure that they can all safely despise – and all the better if she's a woman. This is the sort of thing that happens when the ruling classes treat voters as though they are bored, demanding children; they must be flattered and placated at all costs, fed soundbites and nursed along with tasty little platitudes.

Of course, if you treat people like spoilt kids, that's exactly how they will behave. Meanwhile, political debate becomes ever more reductive and impoverished: less and less about thought-through ideas and considered philosophical values, more and more about short-term goals and shallow management-speak.

The anti-Thatcher revels are also symptomatic of a society where emotion is consistently prioritised over reason. They are little more than the latest repository for the thwarted rage and petty frustrations of an infantilised electorate, who want to blame an evil mummy for all their troubles.

Thatcher herself famously said: "Don't ask me how I feel. Ask me what I think." She was right on that one, if nothing else.

Once emotional experiences starts trumping rational thought processes, and 'I think' becomes 'I feel' (or – my own favourite, beloved of a certain class of gormless, eyelash-fluttering women – "I personally feel". Oh, boke), public debate becomes a sentimental farce, where legitimacy is derived not from knowledge, or logic, but from strength of feeling.

The truth is, none of this – the empty posturing, the bitter recriminations, the self-satisfied moral righteousness – is about Margaret Thatcher. She's gone.

It's all about us. And we're performing for ourselves.

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