In case you had not heard, Monday saw the death of one of Britain’s most recognizable and infamous prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher.
Someone I will always associate with what became the truly ghastly decade of the 1980s, the decade that went backwards socially, and feral economically, in a way which we have by no means yet escaped from.
When I heard the news I initially felt a certain lightening of the spirit, as I’m sure many did. It wasn’t personal, and it didn’t make any sense, but there was just a sense of something being over. Many, many people suffered bitterly under Thatcher. I’m not even going to begin cataloging the malign influence of the governments which she led, but lead them with relish and a great sense of personal identification she did seem to do. To this day I’m astonished by people who say “but you have to admit, she was extraordinary”. Words I’ve heard quite often. It’s like someone saying of Charles Manson: “but you have to admit, he was charismatic”. Umm, yes.
But I’m not inclined to demonize her. Horrible as her mock reign was, and delightful as her political undoing at the hands of her own party was to behold, in the deliverance year of 1990, yet it was the voting British public who put her in power. And if she was ruthless, socially backward, economically destructive, and a reveler in a philosophy of selfishness that the Tea Party could marvel at, she was doing it in an elected role because she reflected accurately a mean, ugly and failed aspect of the British public. The same aspect which has more recently led to an increase in hate crimes against disabled people, because they are seen as “scroungers”, or useless liabilities.
Margaret Thatcher was a down market caricature of British Class, and in an age which should have been shedding the associations of dead Empire and stifling tradition, in favour of something with a future, she embodied a parody of those very things, paid for at the expense of the most vulnerable. It’s like someone looked at the morality tales of Dickens and got it all perversely backwards. And she was actually almost Victorian in reverse, destroying any sense of developing social conscience, destroying industry, science and art. She was also the antithesis of the post-war period, with her concerted attacks upon welfare and the National Health Service. She was like a pyromaniac, burning, burning, burning. And a lot of people lapped it up. Not all, and not all areas of the UK by any means. But many supported her. Election after election, bewilderingly.
And I do think it’s important, especially as her legacy is very much alive, though transmuted into a cross party worshiping of “austerity” and deluded management culture, to remember that it was a large enough section of the British public who chose her.
I recently saw Thatcher’s astrological birth chart for the first time, and it is surprising how much is there. The fight picking Libra Mars. The ruthless Scorpio Saturn rising. The grand trine of Pluto, Saturn and Uranus in water, with its feel for how social structures could be changed and demolished, how resources could be extracted from those structures and set alight. The T squares unlightened by a hobbled Jupiter in stoney Capricorn. You can probably hear how much I like this chart, but of course untold people have that chart and didn’t do what Thatcher did.
Most of all though, what I notice is the Moon conjunct Neptune in Leo. There it is. High up in the chart, in the 9th house but close to the public midheaven, here is some clue at least as to why this person would become such a mirror to a popular characteristic, and give it both its tabloid philosophy and its image. There lay her perverse glamour, which could only hook into a certain kind of mass psychology. Square to Venus in Sagittarius in the 1st house, it would never look happy, expansive or adventurous, but then the part of the “national character” that she was reflecting wasn’t either.
She was a highly destructive figure in British politics, and was bound to be a divisive one, for there was no choice of neutrality offered in Thatcher’s regime. You were part of her brave new sold off world, or you were part of what she was going to destroy. And those who plugged into the pseudo-Victorian and pseudo-Imperial glamour were suckered by themselves, taken hook, line and sinker. Those who didn’t plug in seemed to be sharing our lives increasingly with a grey twilight zone.
She played the part of the evil queen, but the role was called up by a people one would have to characterize as not entirely well.
It really wasn’t her. It was a civil war in a troubled mass psyche. Not that I’m saying she was without responsibility, but she didn’t create the mentality that she mirrored, which is actually more disturbing. And we still live with the remnants of that, which managed to give us the likes of the present government sponsored war on the disabled and the sick, and the encroaching dismantling of universal healthcare in the UK.
Already there are plans for some kind of massive, publicly funded funeral, as if the pretense needs to be recreated. You have to ask who are these people, these pretend courtiers of a pretend empress of a pretend empire?
But I don’t want to be drawn into any of this. The 80s was enough to live through thanks. Let her die, privately and quietly. She was the mirror no one had to look into, of a post-imperial Britain that was more messed up than any of us dreamed it could be in the 1960s and early 70s, as the Queen in her plain suits and silly hats waved at the “Commonwealth”, all those “grateful” brown faces, whose futures we had of course just been taking care of, until they were old enough, like less fortunate adopted children. From our heart of darkness, to yours. Still, a world that actually saw wars and suffered them, and came back and got treated like crap, and then let my generation grow up thankfully oblivious to such horrors. Rather than the world that sent soldiers off in boats to the South Atlantic, and plowed it all into PR (though the soldiers still suffered). A world that before, someone like DH Lawrence emerged from, to have the police called and his books burned. A world that jailed Oscar Wilde. OK, it was always messed up. It just didn’t seem that we were.
The worrying thing was not so much that Thatcher was at war with the people, but that she was so characteristically of the people, at least that part which hated each other and seemed to have love for little that couldn’t be summed up by an accountant. For someone who was said to represent a kind of individualism, she really was not that individual. Though her philosophy claimed there was no such thing as society, it lauded the shadow of that very thing.
It should be high time to look into the real mirror, and break the spell. What the hell went wrong, that it was even ever thinkable? What had we become? Are we collectively becoming something different now? Or have we just learnt to use smaller, less ostentatious, fake mirrors?
Who’s the prettiest of them all?