Old-PM Maggy Thatcher - gone
PM Margaret Thatcher, still known in large parts of the world and still dividing people. I think those who opposed her should not celebrate her death with parties because it will convince more people she was right and they are mad, although it demonstrates the anger of those people. However, people should also not become hypocrites and praise her simply because she is dead, but they should argue why they think criticism is acceptable.So, for me, what is her legacy? Divisions, although her supporters claim she saved the country.
One of the first things she did when she became Minister of Education was to remove free milk from the school dinners, although the story may be more nuanced. Still, she gave an example of how she would be ones in the highest office. And probably many men felt for her decisiveness. This is how she felt a woman in a top position should be: the woman should be hard and should not demand that men become more gentle - no, a woman should become as a man: hard without remorse. It didn't do good to women and men as now many women think that to become an important person one shouldn't show kindness. Although I understand it was hard for a woman in a man's world, still she should not always have suggested she didn't like soft people; on the contrary she should have defended them when they worked hard and not have bullied them herself. That is also one reason why certainly in those days, many feminists considered her as "an enemy".
|Iron, Mrs Thatcher's favourite metal, can be beautiful in the right surroundings.|
Within her country she alienated so many people. She called people who were fighting for their jobs she was destroying the "enemy from within, more dangerous than the enemy from outside". She considered them lazy, workshy. It seems she even prevented that toys were delivered to the children of the miners, as if she decide that even children of her enemies were her enemies, without mercy. And she didn't mind buying coal from the external enemy (communist Poland) so the rest of the country would know the UK can survive without its own coal. I think she could close the mines if they were not profitable but at least she should have thought about creating new jobs. And for breaking the Unions, in general I am not in favour of Unions, but here I understand perfectly well that Unions supported the fight of the people to keep their job. Like the miners, she was also not amused when years later she lost the premiership and thus her job.
Also in Northern Ireland, she refused to speak with what she called terrorists who had to be destroyed. It was a period with quite a number of bombings, including one in Brighton that nearly killed her. A number of IRA terrorists died in prison because she refused any mercy. And indeed, terrorists who kill people should receive punishment, but at least she could have tried to understand why they were fighting. After she had to leave office, the number of bombings went down and almost completely disappeared under PM Blair after he agreed to talk and reach a peace deal (probably also because the most radical elements in the IRA were in prison or dead). One reason why the aggression decreased was because Northern Ireland was given its own government (and I don't mean that terrorists should always be given what they demand).
Europe, her hate for everything European she engraved in the hearts of many of her own people. She considered Europe was the enemy of the UK that she had to defeat. And often she defeated Europe using vetoes and as a result the EU moved slowly in the direction the UK wanted. Not that an open-market with competition is bad; on the contrary as long as governments control that everyone obeys the same minimal rules (e.g. you can't pay yourself a bonus when companies make losses). But because of her, deregulation started, foremost in the City of London. As a result, now restrictions for ordinary people and small businesses are coming into place because the EU is frustrated they can't control the big players who threaten to leave Europe if the EU refuses them something but also because the UK blocks many necessary changes. Still, Thatcher's legacy is now celebrated throughout Europe as the solution for the crisis, as if they never had difficulties with her. And although her opposition to Europe turned her into an icon for many in England, her hate towards Europe became so large that even people from her own party couldn't accept it any longer and caused her downfall.
Further away, the war of the Falkland Islands allowed her a second term in office. I ones saw an interview where the interviewer asked her whether, if it happened again, she would now do it differently as many soldiers died; without any doubt she answered she would do it all over again. She never doubted herself: she was right and the whole world was wrong. Indeed, she had to defend part of the UK as Argentina attacked, but she could have decided to negotiate a long lasting solution after the war. Today, the UK and Argentina are again quarrelling over those islands although I think Argentina should accept the will of the islanders.
Nelson Mandela, the terrorist. And because the way she reasoned, as he fought against suppression organised by the South African government, he was a terrorist. She simply couldn't understand people may have to fight their own government to stop suppression and apartheid if all other means were tried and failed. Later, ones Mr Mandela was President, she met him as she always liked meeting presidents.
Indeed, how good a friend the military leader Pinochet was. And how unbelievable that so many Chilean people opposed their dear leader and as a result he had to enforce order. Years later when Pinochet was in London for treatment of an illness and a Spanish judge ordered his arrest for the disappearance or killing of thousands of people during his reign, she called for the release of her dear old friend and even visited him. After his release, he returned to Chile where he enjoyed immunity against prosecution although at the end of his life he had to fear his immunity may be stopped. It seems she also supported the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (an organisation that orchestrated a genocide) to keep their seat in the UN after they were ousted from power.
As a good religious person, she supported the ban on "gay propaganda" (section 28) although it seems during her early political career she supported gay rights (and abortion). Even after her resignation, she continued opposing lifting section 28 as intended by PM Blair. During her reign, many people died of AIDS because proper educations was not allowed as that would also involve talking about gay people. Also teachers talking about gay people feared loosing their job while they couldn't help confused boys and girls. It seems she didn't dislike gay people but for the power she had to pretend she disliked them.
More in general, she didn't like individuality except when it benefited someones personal career. She didn't like it when people were different and preferred suits. However, as a reaction all kind of people emerged, such as openly gay people, goths, punks, ... . It was also the reason why so many artists rebelled against her as they felt she tried to control them even in their private life and thus there was an explosion of interesting British art and music. But today, as many artists have become very rich themselves and no longer remember their own struggle to be accepted, they love her while they threaten to go to court when young people use their work to start their own career, even when they mention the greater artist.
For her children, family and friends, I understand very well why they mourn a person they loved very much. But they should understand not everyone was a supporter, certainly not those she hurt. Still, I think people should disagree with her in a civilised manner.
Of course, she did good things such as stimulation of private entrepreneurship, making sure people could start their own business by simplifying the processes and reducing competition with state companies. Because governments should not compete with the private sector when the private sector behaves. The job of governments is to control society so everyone obeys the same rules while Mrs Thatcher allowed too much deregulation. E.g. bankers should behave responsible and if not they are sentenced. Governments should control whether competition between companies is fair and thus prevent companies go bankrupt because some companies break the rules. Governments should control whether everyone pays taxes and as a result taxes can be reduced for everyone. But the government should also provide things, to some extend, that the private sector doesn't want to do when it is too unprofitable. Indeed, public transport to lesser populated areas should be provided by governments if the private sector doesn't want to do so, or governments should be honest and tell the people the area has no future anymore. Another example is that when manufacturers leave countries, governments should be able to take over if they find it necessary and thus manufacturers are less likely to leave unless when really necessary. Her problem was that she mainly considered entrepreneurship as important while she forgot that every business also needs employers.
But I also think some foreign policies were correct: she agreed the US could use some British military bases for the bombing of Libya in retaliation for the alleged Libyan bombing of a Berlin dancing (of course, when there was enough evidence Libya was behind the bombing) while the majority of British people disagreed. She was also a strong supporter of the defence of Kuwait after the invasion by its neighbour Iraq. Indeed, it is not acceptable one country attacks another country. She was also in favour of independence for Croatia and Slovenia during the Yugoslavian war as the people demanded (but maybe she was in favour because she preferred small European countries except her own country as she also opposed the will of the German people to re-unite their country).
In conclusion, she divided while she hardly ever tried to unite. She was right and thus if you disagreed you were wrong. You bowed for her and followed whatever she wanted or you were an enemy and bullied into what she wanted. Women in power started to become hard, the financial sector started to behave irresponsible, people started to loose sympathy for others. For those who have little or no mercy, she became a god as she did whatever they demanded, and she did it even more merciless than they themselves dared doing. But she opened the gates for men to become even harsher as they can now use the excuse that even women do as they do.
However, those who resisted her made friends with people they never thought they would before Mrs Thatcher became PM because they wanted to learn to know the people their PM disliked. Today, most people tasted a little of her legacy and have friends with all sorts of people because her successors allowed them (e.g. gay people were allowed to be openly themselves) and thus people agree she was a great PM while they forget how unforgiving she could be.
And the Tory party, some hope to gain from her dead although many admire her. And thus a large amount of money is spent on her funeral. But in order to continue her legacy, they should accept a little more regulation is needed to prevent excesses, certainly during a crisis. Although of course, they can think that being as determined as she was may save the economy.
Comparison with another divisive person in his own country: old-President Mikhail Gorbachev.Indeed, President Gorbachev also divided opinion in his country and it even resulted in the end of the USSR. Many Westerners claim they caused the collapse of the USSR but should acknowledge that it was mainly from within: a kind man allowed it to happen (compare with China's Mao who also wanted to change his country, resulting in the death of tens of millions of Chinese although the Chinese population doubled). And because many old-style politicians lost their position and the collapse of the economy and thus poverty amongst people, people were unhappy with their president. Because of revolts in the Baltic Republics whereby people died but that may lead to the collapse of the USSR, in 1991 the army thought people were so unhappy with Gorbachev that they tried a coup. Although Gorbachev didn't get much support from the people, people didn't want a return to the time before Gorbachev and thus didn't support the military while some politicians took the opportunity to boost their own career such as Mr Boris Yeltsin who became president of Russia. After Yeltsin became president, Russia moved back because he allowed that some people became very wealthy while the lives of the majority didn't improve much and he appointed Mr Putin as his successor, a man who will probably never accept that his country falls apart. Still, many Russians consider Mr Gorbachev was weak although he had to fight many opposing forces.
But the people from the ex-USSR should celebrate him. The economy collapsed because bad decisions were made by previous leaders and lack of investments. In addition, while everyone feared total chaos after the collapse of the USSR, because the people of the USSR tasted some freedom during Gorbachev, the transition happened quite peacefully. I am sure other leaders would have responded very differently as they proved in the past, even invading foreign countries to extend their influence. Also the world became safer because he allowed the reduction in numbers of nuclear weapons.
But also individual freedom was allowed such as gay and woman rights, free travel and shops full of food and clothes because free enterprise was possible although too uncontrolled so that the poor, many in number due to decisions made by previous bad leaders, didn't had the financial means to start a business. Indeed, in the past, because of "strong" leaders, people had much less and were even killed if they had another opinion than their leader.
And thus, although Mikhail Gorbachev is not very celebrated in his home country and probably not many Russians will mourn his dead, he will be mourned in many other parts of the world as a person who made the world much safer while he liberated his people. Although he divided at home, he united the world and although the Russians don't realise this, they still benefit from his rule as they can still travel and speak their mind. But, if they are not careful, then at this moment a "strong" leader is returning, reducing individual freedoms. Indeed, the Duma (Russia's parliament) already voted for laws that make it easier to arrest people when they protest against politicians and the Russian Orthodox Church, as we have seen with the arrest of Pussy Riot girls, simply because they protested in a cathedral against the link between the president and the church (although I think here many people would also not agree with such actions, even when they behaved in a similar way as Jesus in the Temple when he accused the religious leaders of his time of hypocrisy).