Thursday, April 11, 2013

Send not to ask for whom the Ding Dong tolls...

There's a thoughtful piece from Dan Martin on the NME site right now which explains why he won't be buying Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead, which is right... up to a point.

Martin's view is that it makes "us" as bad as "them":

On the most very basic level, Thatcher’s ideologies are repulsive, because their basis is mean-spirited and nasty.

And it’s according to those very basic principles that I would identify myself as a member of the left.

Cut through the rhetoric and the politics of the right are those of selfishness. Selfishness in turn is inherently mean.

I’ll tell you what else is mean: celebrating somebody’s death with a tedious chart-hyping Facebook campaign.
Well, yes. As I said on Twitter on Monday, there's nothing to celebrate in the death of a frail, lonely old lady; nor is there anything to celebrate in what she did to the nation.

But this doesn't make Martin totally right.

First of all, it doesn't make any attempt to understand why people may - all these years on - still be so angry as to do actually make good on those threats to tramp the dirt down.

Dan tries to suggest he gets it:
I was born three days before she came to power and grew up in a Merseyside community that she decimated. It was impossible not to be politicised; I remember singing ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ to myself on the day she was deposed. Nobody had died, and I was 11.
Dan, are you sure that you can compare being an eight year-old kid on the Wirral (a place which has so made its peace with the past that it often has a Tory council these days) with, say, the experience of people who were born into a mining village and now live in something that isn't even quite a village?

Aren't you falling into the trap of that other Tory PM, the one who wanted us to condemn a little more, and understand a little less?

More importantly, though, is the very premise of the piece:
Margaret Thatcher ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ Campaign Is An Embarrassment for the Left
Well, no. No it isn't, unless you believe that there are only two sides in politics; that there's a wobbly line down the middle of the world, somewhere off to the left of Nick Clegg, and that everybody on that side is one team - Thatcher, Cameron, Clegg, Williams, Hitler, Attila The Hun; and everybody on the other is the rest - hopefully Miliband, Benn, Stalin, people downloading Ding Dong and Attila The Stockbroker.

This 'you're either with us or against us', this 'them and us' - that's one of the brittle legacies of the Thatcher era. Billy Bragg had a song called 'Which Side Are You On', but that fell into a false dichotomy; that was Thatcher's trap.

You still see it today - The Sun's stock in trade is to suggest that everyone on the left is involved in some sort of group-think, that welcoming the renationalisation of the East Coast Line means you also want to liquidate the Kulaks.

Louise Mensch is so firmly convinced that there are only two options she made a fool of herself on Twitter claiming that because Tony Benn was able to say something positive about Maggie, he therefore "loved" her.

And this... well, this is the same. Some people are truly, truly happy that Thatcher is dead. Some people find it amusing to sing a song that celebrates that death, although they might feel ashamed of themselves if they realised they were glorying in death much as Thatcher gloried in slaughter. Some may even have a party while they watch the funeral.

These people may all be to the left of Thatcher. But they are not "The Left", and they are not even "the left".

Because politics that is just two choices isn't politics, it's screeching.

And that's part of the world Thatcher tried to create. You're fighting a battle in a playground she defined.

Be disgusted if you wish; condemn if you must. But don't suggest that anyone who opposes Thatcher represents everyone who opposes Thatcher. Because there are, actually, many alternatives.


Rick said...

Thing is, when you've never met someone, when you've only seen them on the telly or in the paper, when those sightings were 20 years ago, they're not a person. They're an idea, a symbol. It's their thoughts, ideology and public image that you know. You don't think of them as a human being, except in the abstract sense. Just like I can think that right now, there are children sleeping under the stars in villages in Africa, but I have no real sense of them as people.

I loathe Fearne Cotton with every fibre of my being. Except I bet if she was in the room and said hello, I'd find her rather sweet and nice. I don't hate her, I hate her public avatar.

So, those celebrating aren't people celebrating the slow demise and death of a living, breathing, loving, hating, crying, feeling human being. If they'd been at her bedside, they would not be laughing now. They're celebrating the death of an avatar. They're celebrating the IDEA of Thatcher's death, no the death of a person called Margaret Thatcher.

I actually think the Ding Dong thing is pretty funny. It's a much better protest than street parties or the rather unsavoury thought of protesting a funeral. It's funny because it's silently building, a shadow over those who celebrate Thatcher and Thatcherism. It'll slip into the chart shows on Sunday, and none of the presenters will be able to say why it's there.

People want to stand up and say "Thatcherism was wrong. There IS a society, and lots of us still care about it". So why not do it through the rather subversive charting of a song?

PeterD said...

Excellent original piece Simon and great comment Rick.

Robin Carmody said...

Some good points but a) it's "protesting *against* a funeral" and b) I still think a better point would be made if it were "Shipbuilding".

Rick said...

No, I didn't mean protesting against the funeral being paid for with public money.

I meant people physically turning up in London on Wednesday to protest, which many will undoubtedly do. That would be protesting a funeral.

SteveTD said...

is it true that the a l webber is getting all the royalties?

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