Wicked witch and teen psyche

I wasn’t one of the people who’d been planning for years to dance on Thatcher’s grave and yet when the news hit, visceral glee was what I felt. After checking it was true – “What, really? Really this time?” – I grinned and skipped and hugged my partner tight and chortled deep in my belly for the next two days, every time I remembered she was dead (which was a lot, what with Twitter).

Of course Maggie’s legacy is still wrapped around us like a bloody, stinking animal skin. Of course getting drunk and singing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead doesn’t help us sort out the current mess. An old lady dying is pretty irrelevant (not a tragedy; she was 87 and had been ill for a long time, of course she was going to die and her time was nigh) but the sense of community that emerged in Brixton, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Bradford and many small towns in the North, in Wales and throughout Scotland on Monday was not irrelevant. People with shared histories and similar mindsets found each other in the streets and pubs of Britain in a spontaneous uprising of anger mixed with joy and it wasn’t sick, it was beautiful. And poignant, and sad.

We remembered the poll tax and the miners, the milk-snatching, 80’s dole queues, the battles of Orgreave and the Beanfield [1], the Falklands, the sell-off of what had been public assets. For many now in their forties and fifties, this is what politicised us. This is why we never believe the police are on our side, why our fury with the Labour party – who were supposed to be on our side – burns so fiercely. This is why Glaswegians ceilidhed in the square, activists in Leeds handed out “Thatcher’s dead cake” (and bedroom tax leaflets), anarchist social centres in Bradford and Brighton threw open their doors and invited allcomers to “grieve responsibly!”. This is why things kicked off in Brixton and Bristol. We all know which areas will ignite, come the revolution.

I was shocked that some ‘on the left’ wanted us to pipe down and behave with decorum. You what??!! Ah, you weren’t there in the eighties. You’re young, or you led a sheltered or privileged life. Or perhaps you’re a Buddhist – ok, I agree, it’s not very Buddhist, this visceral glee. But I don’t care! Even before I realised we have to counter the mainstream media and politicians’ guff if we don’t want to see this vital part of our history blatantly erased and rewritten – even before that, I didn’t care that what I feel isn’t respectful, or dignified.

I agree that Don’t Hate, Donate is a very positive thing, but believe it’s essential that the ‘gloaters’ are not silenced. Between the beers and the cheers we are sharing oral histories. Our blogs and tweets are rooted in memories and experiences that need telling and retelling. They give context to the present. If one teenager, on seeing youtube footage of the Thatcher’s Dead parties, is inspired to dig a little deeper into this country’s history and politics rather than believing the nauseating mainstream eulogies – that’s justification enough.

Just a couple of days earlier, my partner and a friend were merrily slagging off Thatcher when they were challenged by a young activist. She said Thatcher-bashing was generally sexist and that right-to-buy [2] had positive aspects. The two men were left spitting and spluttering. They were in their teens and early twenties in the Thatcher era and grew up in the north of England. The next morning I was harangued for going to bed early; why wasn’t I there to defend Thatcher-bashing from a feminist perspective?

When I saw the banner proclaiming “The Bitch is Dead” hanging from the Brixton Ritz, I better understood the young activist’s stance. “Thatcher’s Dead. Lol” was much more palatable. I also saw a banner – perhaps the same one – with the B covered over and replaced with a W. Good on whoever did that, I thought… but then some people were also upset by the use of “Witch”. I wasn’t. “Ding Dong” and “The witch is dead” resonate just fine with this witch [3]. Then, to help me out of my floundering-in-feminist-angst, came the blog from Emma Pooka of AWOL (Angry Women of Liverpool). It says everything I was feeling and more. HT @RileyDylan, who described it as “brilliant”. It is brilliant. Please read it: A Feminist’s Guide to Celebrating Thatcher’s Demise.

I can’t say I experienced the full impact of Thatcher’s reign, was just 21 when she  resigned, but the images of miners huddled around braziers and the demonisation and destruction of the Travellers’ way of life jumped out of the TV screen and lodged deep in my fourteen year old psyche. I went to school around the corner from where one of the Specials lived, graffitied The Beat on my pencil case and pogoed to The Jam’s Town Called Malice [4]. Then I fell in love with Morrissey [5]. I was grown up in time to resist the poll tax and experience jubilation when we beat it. I’d moved into an old Bedford ambulance by then. I think we drank a lot of cider the day Thatcher resigned (can’t quite remember) and when she died I drank cider in the bath.

Notes:

[1] Coppers morphed from bobbies on the beat to politicised instruments of the State against its citizens under Thatcher:

The Battle of Orgreave, 1984 – Police eventually paid half a million pounds to miners beaten and arrested at the Battle of Orgreave.

Battle of the Beanfield, 1985 – Police found guilty of wrongful arrest, assault and criminal damage. Travellers awarded £24k in damages… but the judge refused to award them legal costs, so the amount actually received was minimal. Few individual officers were disciplined as most were not wearing identifying numbers.

In both cases it took six years of court battles before a verdict was reached – not until after Thatcher had resigned was some kind of paltry justice done.

In the lists of Thatcher’s evil deeds, I haven’t yet seen anyone mentioning the Travellers (except me; I keep banging on about them). Don’t forget the Travellers.

[2] The Right to Buy was seen by many on the left to be A Good Thing. I can think of lots of reasons why it wasn’t. Primarily, because the money raised was not ploughed back into social housing for those who couldn’t afford, or didn’t want, this ‘right’ to be an ‘owner’ of bricks, mortar and land. More on this.

[3] A good explanation of why a cheeky, childish song is radically relevant, according to blogger Adam Jung. (Though I’d prefer not to put money in the coffers of Amazon or iTunes.)

[4] 13 anti-Thatcher songs  ;  UK artists against Thatcher

[5] Morrissey’s take on Thatcher’s death

A few days later, I found this Workingman’s Blues blog on the Thatcher ‘death parties’ and the power of Carnival. Well worth a read.

And this one, Fight for the Right to Party on the Red Pepper mag website.

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One thought on “Wicked witch and teen psyche

  1. I do know how you feel. I came of age just in time for the election of Ronald Reagan, and the similar effects of his eight years as U.S. president. When Reagan died, the exact same gushing of ahistorical nonsense and admonishments to not tell the truth out of “respect for the dead” overwhelmed the mass media.

    Reagan’s, and Thatcher’s, catalog of crimes surely are relevant anytime, especially as the enormous destruction wrought at their hands continues on after their deaths.

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