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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Rites of Life and Death - The Symbolism of Thatcher's Funeral

Since the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher a little over ten days ago (is that really all it is), Britain seems to have existed in an almost no mans land, with some in mourning but plenty more it seems rejoicing. Rejoicing may in fact be the wrong word to use, for it is really more about turning their backs on what has been and looking forward to what is and what will be. What will be is as always down to us.

The funeral then being today brought Britons and foreigners out on to the streets in droves. While I was unable to attend myself and would not really have wanted to, I did feel it was important to view at least bits of it, and tune in to the energy field that was created. This was easier for me perhaps than most, being spiritually sensitive as I am. The environment in which I work also played a part, for as one would expect, many of the residents of the care home where I work wanted very much to view the procession and the service that followed. The Activities Organiser then duly went around the home, which is divided into five self contained units, switching on the televisions as she went, and spending time with various residents in turn who were affected by what they saw.

It was difficult then given these circumstances not to feel the energy field that was created, and which will I suspect remain in London if not the home where I work, for a while. The music echoed throughout the house, as did the televisions in various residents rooms, for some chose to remain in their own space rather than watching in the communal lounges on the big screen. These smaller televisions when combined in close range with a much larger one, created a strange echo effect whereby the sound could be heard in tandem, but with a slight time delay, almost like a faint echo. I guess that Maggie herself will also leave somewhat of an echo, a harking back for some to the "good old days", but a warning perhaps for more of what should not have been and should for them not transpire again.

Maggie was always going to a controversial figure and it would be fair to say that she created as much controversy in death as she did in life. While I have the greatest empathy with her family and those who were close to her (I have lost both of my own parents and so know exactly what it feels like), I also have empathy with those who suffered as a result of her policies. I know that there are plenty who benefited from what she did through the ability to buy their council houses and so on, but there were also plenty who suffered as a result of the other things that she did, closing the mines for example and taking power away from the unions, which has led to a gradual erosion of workers rights. In the final analysis though, what we have to look at is whether the numbers who suffered outweigh those that benefited. While it is impossible to say for sure, I suspect very much that the former does indeed outweigh the latter.

Of course what matters now is to look to the future rather than the past, and this for me is what the funeral was really about. I was aware from various forms of social media and of course the mainstream press that protesters planned to turn their backs to the coffin as it was paraded through the streets, which at first glance would seem a highly disrespectful thing to do, but when one looks at the symbolism of this one can see this act in an altogether different light. I feel that it was important to both face the coffin and turn our backs, for the front and back of the body represent both the past and the present. By facing the coffin we were symbolically paying our respects and acknowledging at the same time the grief which was felt by many. By turning our backs as well we were also acknowledging the suffering of those who bore the brunt of the dark side of her policies, but also saying that that is now behind us, and we no longer have to experience the shadow of this pain. It is time now to move forwards away from this pain and into a new era of light, where everything changes, and change of course it will, for in politics as in life, that is the nature of the beast. Politics is after all, if nothing else about life itself and our highest ideals as to what life should be and is about, in two words, equality and fairness. In order though to create that fairness, we first needed to experience its opposite - inequality and injustice. Thatcherism was thus the means through this will be achieved, a necessary part of our own evolution.

This is then not a time for complacency, and neither is it a time for silence, the communication around these issues needs though to be done in the right way, through peaceful protest and honest, reasoned and intelligent debate. The winds of change are blowing across Britain and there is nothing that those who choose to cling on to the old ways can do to stop that, no matter how much they try to convince themselves otherwise.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

An opportunity for change

As usual, several weeks have gone by since I last wrote this blog. I always start the New Year with good intentions of wanting to write more, but somehow life always seems to get in the way. In  my case though it is really more a question of laziness, for there has been in the way of news that I could have written about (the death of transsexual teacher Lucy Meadows - when will people stop hoisting their own views on their kids while pretending to call it something that it isn't), our atrocious weather, the welfare reforms and of course the death of Margaret Thatcher. These last two for me at least, are inextricably linked, for like it or not, it was Maggie and later Tony Blair, who sowed the seeds for all of this to happen.

No matter which way you look at it, Maggie was always going to be a controversial figure, that like marmite, you either loved or hated. There does and did not seem to be any middle ground. I am not though going to sit here and have a debate about the rights and wrongs of death parties or any of her policies, for it is not the past that matters, what matters as always is what is in front of us now, so what we have to concentrate is dealing with what we have now - which are arguably the results of at least some of those policies.

The anti Thatcher brigade are calling for a return to the left, but what do they mean by that and does it matter? Well I guess it matters to them. For me it is not a question of left or right, but more about what is right and beneficial for the majority of the populace. A world where 1 percent of the population hold 99 percent of the wealth cannot be considered to be in the interests of the majority of the populace. Don't get me wrong, I am not averse to the accumulation of wealth for those who work hard and use that wealth wisely, but from what I have seen very few people actually do that. Those who say that the benefit system needs reform and that work should pay are of course correct, but I can't help but feel they are missing the point. Cutting or freezing benefits in order to achieve this is not the answer, as those on benefits like everyone else, still deserve to maintain a basic standard of living. The answer is to introduce a proper living wage so that those in work no longer need to claim benefits in the first place. It is not rocket science but common sense. For me then it is not about returning to a specific state of living or even being, but about treating people with compassion and fairness.

The welfare reforms then are an opportunity for real change, in the long term. I realise that it is hard for most to see them in that light, particularly those who are directly affected, but we should not lose sight of the fact that they as guinea pigs volunteered for this role (on a soul level that is). In time, probably sooner than we think, it will become clear that these polices simply do not work, and instead of helping people out of poverty and back into better paid work, have created more poverty and more unrest. When this becomes clear then it will also become clear that a rethink is necessary, and that is when the real change will occur. Out of this, like a phoenix rising from the ashes will come the reforms that are so desperately needed - a simpler and fairer tax system, better pay and working conditions for all, and most importantly of all, the idea that everyone regardless of their lifestyle choices is entitled to at least a basic standard of living.