Thatcher was my Vietnam

Flag of former North Vietnam (from 1955 until ...
Flag of former North Vietnam (from 1955 until reunification with South Vietnam in 1976) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night, they blew up his house too…

Springsteen used to do one of his talks, on the Born in the USA tour, about what it was like to grow up in the 60s, with the Vietnam war on TV every night. America’s defeat in Vietnam was a deep psychic scar, a shattering of the illusion of American invincibility, and it led directly to the election of Reagan and thence the slow but steady erosion of middle class incomes which culminated in the financial collapse of 2008: the shattering of another illusion.

Thatcher and her government blighted my youth. You shouldn’t have to pay forever because you had an unhappy childhood, but I have. Leaving home at 18 because I had to, I experienced 18 months of unemployment – the summer of the 1981 riots – and, right then, my life chances were blighted.

The voodoo economics of the neo-liberals destroyed our industries, our fuel security, but also sucked the life out of whole regions of the country. I live in Buckingham now, a small market town which is steadily expanding as more and more housing estates are built around it. Why do we need all these houses? Because too many people want to live down here in the South, because that’s where (they think) all the jobs are. But there aren’t any real jobs in Buckingham, bar a few anonymous warehouses on the so-called industrial estate and a couple of supermarkets. There are a lot of charity shops staffed by volunteers and Britain’s first private university, fact that makes me feel physically sick. So all these people have to own cars so they can drive somewhere else to work. And why do they have to drive? Because Thatcher and her minions destroyed our public transport system in their rush to privatise anything that wasn’t nailed down.

We live with it every day, the consequences of all that privatisation. Public services being provided by people who are motivated by profit. What do we get? We get mis-selling of gas and electricity, we get continual flooding and water shortages because the infrastructure is so poorly maintained. We get people making profits from the infrastructure we built and paid for. You build all those extra houses and funnel all that waste water into the same sewers: work it out, genius.

I could go on, and have, for ten years on this and other blogs.

When she died I smiled a little because I really did hate the old witch. But I hated Hestleslime and Poortillo and the rest of them, too, and I’m insulted every time I see Poortillo on a train on the television. And I hated Blegh and his Thatcher-lite policies, and I hate Govegrind and the Bullington bully boys. And the spineless so-called Labour party under Milibland. That’s her legacy, and a continual reminder of everything I lost.

When she died, I spent a lot of time avoiding the media chatter, because I didn’t want to hear the tributes, and I don’t need, in the manner of preaching to the choir, to have my own views reinforced. And I muted a lot of stuff on the Twitter, mainly because I don’t want a diet of the same thing over and over again. But also because I wanted time to think about this. It wasn’t that I wanted to censor other people as I wanted the space and silence to think. Because Thatcher was my Vietnam.

Every day, I’m reminded of all that I lost. I won’t say “we” because that’s the point, isn’t it. There is no “we”. We’re all lonely monads, who wait until after the fact to defend have a little moan about the rights of those who have them taken away. I’m surrounded by colleagues who take so much shit so much of the time but feel they have no power, even though they have a union. Thatcher did that, by the simple expedience of introducing compulsory postal ballots. Seventy-five percent of those white envelopes with the ballots inside end up in recycling bins. So the unions lost their power to oppose, and the bankers opened their big fat mouths under the money taps and started to slurp it up. And everybody got worse off, and because they didn’t like thinking about that, they kept extending lines of credit in order to keep funding their illusory lifestyles. Barbecue Britain, with all the little Nigels and Nigellas.

We should all be poorer. We should have fewer cars, we should have slightly crap but publicly owned utilities, and we shouldn’t have companies with shareholders sniffing around our hospitals and schools. I live in an occupied country. I see them everywhere: Tories. White haired Telegraph readers, sharp-elbowed Daily Mail readers, young people drowning in trivia, because Thatcher was my Vietnam, and I live with that defeat every day.

%d bloggers like this: