Why I celebrated Thatcher’s death

The death of Margaret Thatcher has caused me to do some soul-searching. I have to admit that I felt happy at the news of her death.

This was – and is – a strange feeling. I don’t remember feeling happy at the news of anyone’s death before. I don’t like violent films. I don’t even enjoy seeing the baddies in films being killed. I practice Buddhism. But it would be wrong for me to claim I did not feel happy to hear of Thatcher’s death.

I wouldn’t have felt the same if she’d had an untimely death. I wouldn’t want to celebrate her suffering. So why did I have these feelings, these thoughts that have provoked so much division and controversy in the last week?

One person I discussed this with reminded me of the quote that “resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die”. However I don’t feel as if I’ve been resenting Thatcher or Thatcherism. Far from it. I have rarely thought about the 1980s over the years. It was certainly not my favourite decade, and I’m not someone who spends a lot of time reminiscing about the old days anyway. There were good times in the 80s, but I generally prefer to focus on the present and look to the future.

When I heard the news of Thatcher’s death, a lot of the negative feelings I hadn’t thought about for decades came flooding back, and I felt a sense of relief that those days had gone, that a powerful and iconic figure of that era had passed on. I can’t deny this. I felt gleeful. I was surprised at the strength of my feelings. I even tried to imagine what it would be like if I died, was buried, and then lots of people decided to have a party on my grave. I’m pretty certain that if I still had consciousness my attitude would be: “Let them have their fun. I’m dead now.”

So what has provoked all this grim celebration, much of it from people who were not even alive when Thatcher was in power? I believe there is one overwhelming reason for this. It’s not because she was Britain’s most unpopular leader. It’s not because she was a woman who achieved power. It’s not because young people today are exceptionally callous.

This upsurge of celebration around Thatcher’s death has been provoked by the proposals to give her a state funeral. The ceremonial funeral she will have on Wednesday will effectively be a state funeral in all but name.

The state funeral proposals were first discussed in 2006. They immediately provoked controversy. Thatcher herself said she did not want a state funeral.

Thatcher was a very divisive leader. Her government never had a majority in Scotland. But her funeral will be a major event, mainly financed by the taxpayer. It is a provocative event. It has been provocative since 2006. This, I believe, is why so many people are so angry and are demonstrating such strong feelings against Thatcher.

Many of these people have very valid reasons for their anger. They do indeed feel impotent, and cut off from the political process. To glibly dismiss them as “lefty scum” is to ignore searing and disturbing divisions in British society. If the funeral had been planned on a smaller scale, I think those who loved Thatcher would have lined the streets, while those who did not like her government would have barely noticed it.

Certainly in my own case it’s the grandiosity of the planned funeral that has ignited, or re-ignited old feelings of anger towards a leader I never voted for. Recognising this has made me feel a lot more detached about the whole thing.

We are living in a time of increased cynicism, when many authority figures are being knocked off their pedestals. It is a time of austerity, not a time for showy displays of excess. I hope people who disagree with the nature of Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday will try to ignore it, as I will, rather than reacting with anger.

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