I’ll cut to the chase. I want to argue against the idea that it is wrong for people to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher, that thou shalt speak no ill of the dead. One might follow the example of Ed Milliband: ‘we can disagree [with what she did] and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength’.
Undoubtedly, many people celebrated the death of the Baroness on the sole basis that many other people told them that she was an awful woman. Truth be told, it’s easy to get swept up in popular culture, especially when there’s the promise of a party. I am not defending these types of people. Nor am I defending those who say that she deserved death because of her policies. Nobody really deserves death, or indeed suffering. Instead, I am defending those people who, all things considered, celebrated the death of Margaret Thatcher on the basis that they believe the world is a better place without her.
If Joseph Kony was to die of a stroke now, I would be quite pleased. I would be quite pleased because I judge him to have been, and to continue to be, a pernicious influence on international society. Indeed I doubt that, were Kony to cop it, many individuals would be of a different opinion. Ed Milliband would not turn around and say something along the lines of ‘we can disagree [with what he did] and also greatly respect his political achievements and his personal strength’. Unless, that is, it transpires that the leader of the Opposition is a clandestine member of Kony’s militia. I’m sceptical that this is the case.
Most people in the UK are agreed that the world is in fact a better place without Kony. On such grounds, his death might even compel celebratory remarks, and a pint down the local drip, at least for those who know who he actually is (cheers, Kony2012). Would it be bad for us to celebrate Kony’s death? Doing so would not be tantamount to saying that he deserved it. It is merely stems from a judgement on his net contribution to world society, or indeed our own personal lives, and whether we think we are better or worse for it.
Truth be told, Kony has done much worse things than snatching away free school milk from the over 7s. But there is no doubting that many people’s lives would have been a lot better without Thatcher. The wounds from her policies – certainly psychological – are still red raw for many families. Partially on that basis, many other people, not personally affected, judge that the world would be a better place for Thatcher’s absence. We wouldn’t have the consequences of her ideology or her policy. Such is the basis on which many people may celebrate the fact that she’s gone.
Is there a good reason why the open expression of such sentiments should be suppressed because of Thatcher’s death? Unless you can imagine people tipping their hats in unison to Kony’s coffin, perhaps complimenting him for the tireless zeal he exhibited in his work of raping and pillaging, then no. And it makes bugger all difference whether or not he thought he was acting with the best interests of his victims at heart, the horrors inflicted being horrors nonetheless.
Sympathy, respect and compliments for the dead ought to depend on your assessment of the person who previously inhabited the corpse. It is not an entitlement. Where’s the barbarity in a lack of sympathy for Thatcher, on the occurrence of her death, among those who hold the considered opinion that she was a force for evil? In any case, it’s slightly paradoxical that those who criticized Maggie Thatcher all her life should only be expected to emphasise her admirable qualities now that she’s dead. I don’t think she cares. And if I were a member of her family I don’t think I would derive much comfort from faux-sympathetic comments made by former critics, as they nurse the splinters in their fingers sustained from desperately scratching at the bottom of the barrel for something vaguely positive to say. Perhaps something like ‘oh, I admired her great personal strength’. The absence of comment on what they thought of what she actually turned this personal strength towards realizing in the public sphere would be an enormous, stinking elephant in the room. Not the best of mourning partners, I can imagine.
Now, as ever, is an appropriate time to pass a judgement on the nature of Thatcher’s impact. And if that leads you to celebrate the fact that she’s gone, then so be it. It doesn’t make you a barbarian. In any case, nobody likes a party-pooper.