“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Milk Snatcher

Britain in the early eighties was like a bombed out war zone after a few years of the Thatcher government. I'm returning twice this year and I expect to see similar things after a few years of the current conservative administration.

It was extremely personal, Thatcher's regime. I was on the sharp end of all the cuts to social security ("welfare," vomit), as both my parents (separated at that point) lived below the poverty line. Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher, that was the rhyme from the 70s when she was education secretary. But it got an awful lot worse. There was a horrible, small minded meanness in vogue, and the contrast between Britain the 70s and in the 80s was really violent: I'm sure it was a lot more violent than the USA between Carter and Reagan.

Watching the humiliation of Arthur Scargill (the miners' union) was extremely hard to tolerate. Coming home from a school at which I was by implication a "scrounger" (the language has just been revived, in part by people in the current administration--Vaizey, Osborne--who were in my class).

My examiner in 1992, Marilyn Butler, was physically shunned by Thatcher at a function. She was introduced, and Thatcher literally turned her back.

The current fiscal crisis in Europe is a direct consequence of Thatcher's unwillingness to forge a greater union in the later eighties, fearing socialism. To give my US readers some perspective as to what is happening: can you imagine Massachusetts, let's say, having for some reason a rather larger amount of money, telling Texas that every Texan's bank account will be sucked clean of a few hundred to pay for their debt? Can you imagine the revolution that would occur? Would it even be thinkable, let alone doable, in the United States with its federalism?

It pains me to say this, but Thatcher was actually ideologically ahead of the current lot. She at least had heard of Bentham. The current lot, however, are determined to revive the dream of protecting the British from democracy tout court. Thatcher was from the era of Malthus and "Victorian Values." The current lot are from about 1759.

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