The Dilemma of Thatcher's Children

Published: 2008-10-24
Updated: 2008-10-24

Sometimes we just have to sit down and ask ourselves, “What sort of a person am I?“. I recently asked this question of myself on a bus, in the morning, heading to Peebles. I was in a particularly antisocial mood; this was mainly due to the time of day and the distance walked to catch the bus and, anyway, it seemed like a good opportunity to do some much needed reading far from anything that was breathing.

The book is “The Great Shark Hunt” by Hunter Thompson. I enjoy reading Hunter although you wouldn’t think it given how long it’s taken me to read this book (not that I’m finished) but, to be honest, stuff that gets my mind moving just isn’t relaxing at bed time. Anyway, I digress. The particular article I was reading referred to the ‘nonstudent left’, and their role in student demonstrations in the seventies. A militant student? As if! But why aren’t we still politically active as students?

I present myself as the perfect candidate for this examination of the missing sentiment of the “educated classes”. I was born 145 days after Margaret Thatcher came to power (at least I can say I was conceived before she came to power – in fact December 1978 is a really exciting month in history which I’m glad to add to the history of) and have since known two governments: one Tory, one New Labour. Luckily, also the communications revolution blossomed during that time and I can now reach out to the few who wish to subject themselves to my ramblings. Yet, things are much different in my generation than compared to my mother’s.

In 1979 the peoples of Britain chose a Tory doctrine that resembled the core of the American dream in order to repair the economic damage of the seventies. Margaret Thatcher would set the individual and business free to accumulate wealth as best they saw fit. She would deconstruct social ownership of utilities and she would empower the new businesses by protecting them from the unions that had crippled British industry for the past decade. And thus Britain grew rich. Rich? To quote wikipedia,

“The term was originally an adjective to describe the possession of great qualities.”.

Are we rich? This may seem a mute point in the face of the financial crisis, but I think it’s still fair to say that monetarily average Joe and a few more are better off now than in the late 70s. Business runs like clockwork: we don’t complain too much and the lights rarely go out. But surely any educated person can see that the social experiment has been an utter failure? The gap between rich and poor stands farther now than ever since the war, the deregulation of markets has caused death (network rail), poverty (the banking system) and could see us face ecological disaster (referring to the difficulties of building green energy technologies to to the grid market). Yet, the amazing thing is that we don’t see it or want to do anything about it.

In the 1960s and 70s, in American and British Universities, it was the student that were the greatest enemy of the Government. The heartbeat of change rang from the halls of learning and it put fear in many an American administration. Even my Mum spent a day throwing rocks at an American embassy. They called it then “the moral revolution of the young”. In this country the unions wielded massive power, crippling the country in the famous “Winter of discontent”, a key driver in Margaret Thatchers vision for Britain. Now there are but whispers from the halls of learning and the unions have little impact on the government’s policy. So what’s changed?

The subtle effect on the minds of the young of growing up in an economically driven society can now be seen to it’s full extent. Where once the educated would campaign against the ills of government and the for the rights of the individual, the university system is built as a conveyor of flesh to the corporate management mincer. Why rock the system that will soon be writing your pay cheque? Why risk your Porsche? More shocking still, mass demonstration has no influence on policy anymore. For instance, the Gulf War demonstrations showed that not even 750,000 people could waiver Tony Blair’s conviction to go to war and the worse part is that at the time I didn’t blame him.

You see, I see it in me that somewhere along the line we lost the conviction to question the government or even to care. We have been taught to harbour the belief that to look after number one is best and that the problems of others are not for us to deal with personally. I give money to charity, but I don’t wish to see the faces of the people the money helps, my time is better spent on facebook. I was willing to believe all of the government’s rhetoric without question yet in theory I’m supposed to be in the top ten percent of intelligent people. I didn’t believe I was supposed to question it.

Disconnecting with the socialist side of our lives has led to other problems in society. For one thing, voting. For every election I have voted in, the majority has been won by those who didn’t vote, by a huge margin. The paradox is that the people that choose not to vote tend mainly to be those that are worse served by the government; the poorest people left behind by the growing riches. So if those that are disaffectedly by your policies are those that choose not to vote why, as a government, would you be worried about the response of the electorate? Maybe the simple answer is that politics is no longer afraid of the people it represents because we don’t care enough to change it?

Thatcher’s Children, where have we come from the moral revolution of the young? Have we let it all go? Does anyone care for what we have to say? Are our parents better people than we will ever be? I hope that soon we can open our eyes and change ourselves in order to embrace the social values that our parents were willing to fight for. We may have missed the moral revolution of the the young, but if we can catch the moral revolution of the middle ages maybe we can make our leaders respect us again. And then maybe we can make a country that is truely rich, in the best sense of the word.